24 hours flat on Disney + STAR: the real-time thriller that revolutionized action series – news series on tv

A few weeks after its arrival on Netflix, “24 heures chrono” is also available on STAR, the new universe of Disney +. As she celebrates her 20th birthday this year, look back at this series and the revolution it sparked.

It is one of the most iconic series of the twenty-first century, which marked a whole generation of viewers even in its sound design. We do not count the number of people who have put the famous telephone ringtone that rings in the offices of the Anti-Terrorist Cell on their cellphones. Or that little music, unforgettable and stressful at the same time, which accompanied the scrolling of seconds for nine seasons. But the influence of 24 hours flat goes much further, since we are dealing with one of those titles which quite simply revolutionized the medium at the dawn of the 2000s. The enthusiasm generated by its publication on Netflix even proved to us that its impact was still just as strong, and its arrival on STAR, a new universe of Disney +, should confirm this trend.

Before the arrival of Jack Bauer on the small screen, the vast majority of network series (free channels from the United States) revolved around 22 episodes on average per season, with some variations. 24 heures chrono will, from its beginnings, rise to 24. No more, no less. And for good reason: each plot, in which an agent must save the United States (and by extension the world) takes place over an entire day, in real time. An episode is then equivalent to one hour, which is materialized by the dial which appears regularly. Especially before and after the advertising breaks, perfectly integrated into the narration and the editing, and which make it possible to energize the action with more or less important cliffhangers, which come to keep us in suspense at regular intervals and prevent, theoretically, from zapping.

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From the second season, the suspension of disbelief is necessary to accept that the same man can live several such crazy days in his life, and the format will sometimes prove to be a handicap for the writers forced, in the end, to furnish , even if it means multiplying the surreal twists and the big strings. But we have to admit that we do not get bored in front of 24 hours flat and its breathless pace. So much so that it’s easy to get hooked and hard to quit, which must have made the weekly broadcast particularly frustrating. Especially during the first three seasons, which started in the fall and ended in May in the US and required a few breaks. From the 4, FOX even changes strategy and pushes back the season premiere to January so that the broadcast will be uninterrupted, while CANAL + offers a marathon each year after broadcasting the new episodes in the traditional way.


If 24 heures chrono did not invent binge watching, which already existed during the 90s, the baby of Joel Nickow and Robert Cochran was clearly one of the major players in its popularization, with a record as the key. Upon its release in 2002, the season 1 DVD set rose to the top of sales in several countries and even managed to dethrone another phenomenon, The Lord of the Rings, becoming the first television show to take precedence over a film in the bins, a sign of a desire to devour everything at once. Two decades later, as series increasingly dominate over feature films, this is hardly surprising. It was however a small feat at the time and the validation of an addictive concept, conceived as an exquisite corpse in which the writers wrote two episodes before passing the baton to the following ones, who had carte blanche to make be born as a result and could kill anyone. Jack Bauer understood.

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Which never happened, of course. But this explains in particular these 180-degree turns, these deaths of the one we were presented as the big bad from mid-season and these twists that would have been difficult to imagine at the start of the course, for the simple and good reason that the writers themselves had not yet thought about it. Which brings us back, again, to the big strings mentioned above, especially when the viewer begins to understand the mechanics of the series and becomes able to anticipate certain twists thanks to the “Previously” which make, as if by magic, return a character absent from the plot for a while.

But the series, in keeping with the sense of urgency that inhabits it, has never ceased to renew itself and never arise, each problem solved by revealing another, and so on. Carried by a hero who barely has time to eat, and even less to sleep, 24 heures chrono has become the embodiment of this culture of the moment, fostered by social networks such as Twitter, which have encouraged the proliferation of information and speeding up its transmission, just like non-stop news channels.

24 hours flat on disney + star: the real-time thriller that revolutionized action series - news series on tv


Split screen and time display: two of the major elements of “24 heures chrono” grammar

Then again, the show didn’t make it up, and there had even been a Fox News Channel since 1996 when it debuted. But there are aesthetic similarities, with these split-screens which allow you to follow several characters at the same time, to switch from one to another and to multiply the possibilities of sub-plot, as when the same event is covered by several correspondents. Popularized a few years later by Paul Greengrass and his opuses from the Jason Bourne saga, this way of filming, camera in hand, takes up the codes of documentary and reportage. An approach that gives us the impression that the images were taken on the spot, and supports the sense of urgency as well as the desired realism, while placing the viewer at the heart of the action. The effect is even particularly impressive during spectacular events, and in particular attacks, because the show then refers to the media coverage of September 11, to which he found himself involuntarily linked.

Centered on the threat of assassination hanging over a candidate for the American presidential election, 24 heures chrono was to be launched on FOX in September 2001. But the attacks committed at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon pushed back its first steps in the month of November, and a scene of the pilot had to be changed so that the explosion of a plane she was supposed to show us became implied. One example among others which proves to us that the series has not only revolutionized the way of conceiving the action on small screen or of developing a plot, in real time and with a refusal of the flashback: it has also become the mirror of his time. And Jack Bauer the embodiment of an America still standing despite challenges, a sacrificial hero capable of literally resurrecting and a follower of the motto “The end justifies the means”.


A little too much, because if he will stop at nothing to carry out his mission, his taste more and more pronounced for torture is certainly in phase with the scandals related to the prison of Guantanamo and the image returned by the interventionist policy of the United States in the world, but it poses some concerns. In the army in particular, which asks that the series lifts the foot on these practices, because too many young recruits see in Jack Bauer a model to follow. Symbol of how mentalities have evolved across the Atlantic, season 7 will see him forced to justify himself for his actions and his deviations from the Constitution. Difficult, however, not to take up the cause for him and tremble at his side, while each new season breaks him a little more, physically and morally. Become an icon of the small screen over the years, he is also, with Tony Soprano, one of the leaders of these anti-heroes who have emerged on American television in series that did not hide anything from them. shadow: The Shield’s corrupt cop, Dexter’s serial killer and Breaking Bad’s drugmaker.

Jack is nevertheless distinguished by being embodied by an actor known above all for his roles in the cinema, at a time when it was still frowned upon to go from the big to the small screen, except for cameos (Julia Roberts in Friends) or mini prestigious series like Angels in America. Like Martin Sheen in A la Maison Blanche, Kiefer Sutherland was one of the first to take the plunge, to breathe new life into a declining career. A risk paying off in every sense of the word, since it allowed him to become the highest paid actor on American television in 2009, with $ 550,000 per episode, as well as to set an example, to colleagues as Glenn Close, star of Damages for five seasons, between 2007 and 2012.

24 hours flat on disney + star: the real-time thriller that revolutionized action series - news series on tv


So it’s not just formally that the series has been a trailblazer, anticipating some of the changes in society, the media, or the entertainment industry. Without forgetting the American political landscape. Not content with having referred to the situation of various foreign countries according to the intrigues (starting with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in season 2 or the intervention in Kosovo in season 1), 24 heures chrono is also famous for to have staged a black President. In this case David Palmer (David Haysbert). As in Deep Impact, released in 1998 and where Morgan Freeman occupied the Oval Office. Except that we were facing a disaster film, whose events were science fiction, where the show wanted to be more realistic and anchored in the news. And helped make the possibility of a head of state of color concrete for the American public. And therefore the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

The following year, 24 heures chrono installed a woman, Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), in the White House, but Hillary Clinton’s failure to face Donald Trump in 2016 prevented her from re-enacting the pioneers. And this while she is preparing herself to miss her return with the spin-off Legacy, canceled after twelve episodes. As much as Live Another Day, season 9 shortened which benefited from the return of Kiefer Sutherland where this new version was carried by Corey Hawkins. This allows us to ask the question of the heritage of the series. Two decades after its launch, it still remains a monument of television that has outdated its predecessors. Certain elements have aged, of course, but its intrinsic qualities (management of the action, the tension, the real time) allow its effectiveness to remain intact, as confirmed by the fans who have joined the long list of addicts since its creation. arrival on French SVOD platforms, particularly suited to its addictive format.


Often copied, never equaled, one would be tempted to say. Because no series has really managed to take up the torch. With the exception, perhaps, of Homeland, which has some similarities (starting with its producer and screenwriter Howard Gordon) but quickly embarks on another, more international path. There are also works that have taken hold of his ability to align cliffhangers with metronomic regularity, like Prison Break, La Casa de Papel or even Designated Survivor with… Kiefer Sutherland becoming president. With the cancellation of its spin-off, 24 heures chrono has not succeeded in succeeding itself either, after having been at the origin of a small revolution by seizing some codes of its time. and foreshadowing others. At a time when screens are multiplying and information circulates ever faster, while binge watching has become commonplace, the possibility of once again seizing real time exists on the small screen. It remains to find the title that will cause the same explosion. And give birth to our new ringtone.

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