The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does just what it's supposed to: All dialogue is clear and properly centered, while background noise and effects - such as Jack rummaging around a plane's luggage compartment and a stewardess's intercom announcement in Episode 20 - are supportive and nonintrusive. I do kinda wish some of the action sequences were a bit more gut-busting, though.
Extras are bountiful and informative. There's a thrilling new bridging sequence between Seasons 5 and 6 (a bearded, beaten-down Jack under duress in China!), featurettes on the show's camera operators and the vital role of Sean Callery's music, 23 deleted or extended scenes, and commentaries on a dozen of the episodes. Gregory Itzin, a revelation this season as the ultimately corrupt President Charles Logan, participates in two excellent ones. One, for Episode 10, is done with his onscreen First Lady, Martha Logan (Jean Smart); their rapport is genuine, and their telling comments are playful, funny, and even catty(!). Both offer lots of insights into their acting choices, with Itzin revealing that his portrayal of Logan was in fact taking cues from John Kennedy - not Richard Nixon, as everyone had assumed. The disclosures go even deeper on the Episode 24 commentary he shares with cowriter/coexecutive producer Robert Cochran. Here the actor shares the tragic back story he and Smart created for the Logans, which informs the President's gravitas and the range of emotions he goes through during this fateful hour: "The first question I ask of any character I play is, 'Where's the wound?'"
Tellingly, Itzin refers to 24 not once but twice as a "movie," and he's right - during Season 5, the show is as cinematically impressive as it gets. Hour after hour, 24 continues to set the benchmark for series television. [NR] English, Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish, Dolby Digital Stereo; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen, seven dual-layer discs.
Postscript: The day after Episodes 3 and 4 of Season 6 aired, Fox rushed out a DVD of the season's first four episodes (along with the first act of Episode 5). The single-disc package is called Season 6 Premiere, and if you can't wait until the next full-season box set, it's worth the 10 bucks. You won't get any extras, but you'll get Dolby Digital 5.1, the 1.78:1 widescreen picture, one not-really-that-shocking cast-member death, and (of course) a few choice terrorist attacks (with the requisite explosions). Hey, 1/6th of a full 24 fix ain't so bad. . . .
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