…the success of “24.” In order for us, the viewers, to get onboard with the real-time conceit, writers apparently believed that every moment of every hour of Jack Bauer’s extraordinarily bad day would have to be packed with brutal violence and daring escapes, all in the service of a story with just about the highest stakes imaginable: an assassination plot against a presidential candidate. And those stakes were nothing compared with those of the second season, in which Los Angeles was threatened with a nuclear bomb. Or the third, when Bauer had to thwart a biological attack while suffering from acute heroin withdrawal. Along the way there were also rapes by terrorists, cougar attacks, limbs amputated after catastrophic car crashes, kidnappings, amnesia and a bewildering number of moles.
“24” trained viewers to expect that any character could have any allegiance — that is, any character other than Jack Bauer — and that anything could happen. In the 1980s, a prime-time soap would aim for a couple of shocking moments in a season, but “24” was just a series of “whoas” strung together.
The success of “24” was just one innovation of the ‘00s that helped change the TV landscape into what we’re living with today.
Tara Ariano, “Lost in Bonkers”, The New York Times Magazine (27 July 2014), 44.