Revisiting the 24 TV Pilot: “2:00 am – 1:00 am”
24 changed the landscape of television, and it helped to change viewers. Suddenly audiences knew that we should expect more from a show. The pilot episode, “12:00 am – 1:00 am,” took off like a shot.
Kiefer Sutherland, in what would become a role of the lifetime, played Jack Bauer, a wholly imperfect man whose trying to save a marriage that’s already pretty much broken, who cheated on his wife with a co-worker, and can barely control his teenage daughter, and also happens to be in charge of protecting the world from evil. “12:00 am – 1:00” opens on Super Tuesday with five concurrent storylines. Jack’s just reunited with his estranged wife Teri and his rebellious daughter, Kim, sneaks out of the house to meet with her friend, Janet, and two guys.
Jack is called to the Counter Terrorist Unit by his co-worker Nina Myers. Richard Walsh informs them that David Palmer, the first African-American presidential candidate, is a possible target for assassination. In what would become a running theme on 24, Walsh pulls Jack aside and tells him that there is a mole inside of CTU, only adding to his problems.
Teri leaves to meet with the father of Janet, and they go to look for the two girls. Kim grows uncomfortable with the two boys after they refuse to drop her off at home. It becomes clear that the two men want to kidnap them. David Palmer learns that a journalist is planning to publish a story about his son and attempts to stop her.
The final storyline follows a young woman named Mandy, who seduces a photographer while onboard a 747 flying towards Los Angeles. We watch as she methodically sets up a bomb and straps on a parachute. Seconds after she blows open the plane door, it explodes in the sky.
Sutherland once called 24 “a show of consequences.” The first episode demonstrates this perfectly. As the minutes tick by, the tension and dread climb to an almost unbearable level. It’s a common thread that each season had. That ticking clock wasn’t a gimmick; it was just another way to notch up that absolute and unmistakable tension 24 would become known for.
Kiefer Sutherland would go on to win two Emmys and a Golden Globe for his role, and the pilot showed an extremely gifted actor taking on a role that he was meant for. In the often crazier, outlandish moment of 24, Sutherland would hold down the show and become the unlikely character audience members could relate to.
“12:00 am- 1:00 am” is one of the most effective, powerful, and completely enthralling pilots ever produced. It’s essential viewing that draws you in from the first tick of that clock to the last.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.