Pop Culture at its Best

Greatest TV Pilots: 24, A powerful series opener


“12:00 am – 1:00 am”

Written by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Original airdate November 6, 2001 on FOX

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, 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’s 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 becoming 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 on board 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.

24 pilot two

Sutherland once called 24 “a show of consequences”. The first episode demonstrates this perfectly. As the minutes tick by the tension and dread climbs 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 Emmy’s 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.

Tressa Eckermann

This article is part of our month long theme dedicated to the greatest TV pilots.  

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