Fans have been waiting almost a year for the return of 24, one of television's most addictive dramas (or is it?). On Sunday, November 23, the wait will be over as FOX presents a special two-hour prequel event.

In the meantime, do you think "24" is the most addicting show on television? Two Starpulse writers weigh in on whether the fast-paced Fox drama is truly habit forming or merely a passing enjoyment.

'24' Is Like Crack

I follow a ridiculous amount of television shows, so much in fact that my roommates and I had to get a second DVR box to accommodate all the shows we watch, since you can only record so many at one given time. Arguing about what show is the most "addictive' may be futile since there are so many great ones, but "24" definitely makes its case for being a very strong form of crack, only it comes in the form of digital video disks.

First, the creation of the groundbreaking show was designed to be addictive. No other show in history had been constructed in real-time. Each episode is an hour, and an entire season makes up a day. Early on, Kiefer Sutherland commented that "24" was like "Dynasty on crack," and to some extent he was accurate.

Most shows have cliffhangers a few times a season, especially during the season finales. "24" seems to create one at the end of every episode, which keeps you glued in and more than likely make you feel like you HAVE TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. This can lead to watching 3, 6, 8, and even 10 episodes in a row. Many people who have decided to check the show out on DVD fly through the episodes. "24" was designed to hit that nerve that just makes you want more and more and more.

Arbitrary things like waiting in traffic or taking an elevator up to the 30th floor become nail biting with the "24" formula because every second counts. When you watch a show in real-time, everything is exemplified and everything matters more than your normal contemporary drama. "24" is a season-long action flick with car chases, gun battles, torture scenes, and more twists and shocking moments than most shows can hope to match in their entire run.

Double agents, secret moles, traitors, and power hungry directors - they all help make "24" easy to eat up. At the center of it all is Jack Bauer, an incorruptible patriot and unstoppable force who will do whatever it takes to protect his family as well as the red white and blue. We love him because he is the definition of bad ass, and he lives for the soul purpose of putting terrorist six feet under and sometimes behind bars. The cast of characters are realistic, the action is gritty, and the drama is endless. Who doesn't love good drama?

The action and story is also often shown in multiple boxes on screen. So you can have 3 or 4 things going on in different sections, showing different perspectives, which heightens the action and stress to an exponential level. A terrorist holding a hostage. Jack Bauer trying to find a way in. The President holding a press conference and his family being duct tape and tied down. They are all happening at the same time on screen, and it is almost overwhelming. You want to watch each subplot at the same time. The writers make you care about everything, so the intensity and pacing never lets up.

Another aspect that keeps your coming back for more every season is the setup. Each episode is expertly crafted so that they all fit some sort of puzzle that the viewer may not see right away. For example, in season one, the main focus early on was the assassination attempt of the first African-American candidate for president, David Palmer. That leads to the distraction of Jack Bauer, where his family is kidnapped. He then becomes a tool in the plot against the president, which leads to a shocking reveal about Bauer's past, which may or may not have caused all these events. But since you only see one piece at a time, it is very difficult to predict where things are going and how incredibly important everything really is. This keeps things fresh, exciting, and extremely unpredictable. The unexpected is one of the great things about this show and is why so many people feel they are addicted and want to see more and more of the story, one episode at a time.

The stories stretch in various directions. You are left trying to guess where it will go next, who can you trust, and how the heck Bauer is
going to get out of this mess? The musical score composed by Sean Callery acts as that character you never see, the one that is making you grab your Lazy-Boy armchair so tightly, the one that is making you stand up with your hands on your head in the midst of an action scene or the anticipation of the story's climax.

The creators did their homework with "24" and injected everything needed to make viewers come back time and time again to see what will happen next. In essence, it is a ticking clock, one which stresses you out as you watch it, but when it stops, you feel like you have to keep it going to find out what happens next.

Point by Anthony Liccardello
Starpulse contributing writer

The “24” Addiction Has Been Reduced To An Ambivalent Craving

There’s no doubt that “24” is a good show with the ability to be great and even occasionally phenomenal. Due to this, it would be absurd to make the claim that this show doesn’t have an addicting quality to it.

Is it the most addicting show on television, however? No. Not at all, in fact.

For a show to be addicting it must not only be a great program, but consistently great. While “24” can be grand, it is certainly not consistent high quality entertainment. This burden falls mostly on the writers, who no doubt have the unenviable task of crafting a show that takes place over the course of one hectic day. Nevertheless, “24” has been plagued by seasons that involved stretches of episodes that were uneven, poorly thought out, and sometimes downright ridiculous. Remember Teri’s amnesia in season one? What about Kim’s hapless adventures around the radiation filled city in season two? How about the season four concept in which terrorists kidnapped the secretary of defense, shot down air force one, and attempted to nuke a major American city — all within 24 hours? Let’s not even discuss the train wreck that was season six.

Addicting television is more than visceral excitement. It’s more than the mere thrill of the “Jack Bauer Power Hour.” Take FX’s “The Shield,” the gritty police drama that returns to the network on September 2nd for its seventh and final season. Though the program has been on the air since 2001, there hasn’t been a single poorly crafted season. “The Shield” is the very definition of addictive — a series that perfectly blends suspense, drama, emotion, and action into a tightly written hour. Season five in particular was appointment television, as Forest Whitaker’s obsessive Lieutenant Jon Kavanaugh devoted his waking hours to taking down law breaking Detective Vic Mackey. This showdown, which came to an explosive conclusion, was undeniably addicting.

What “24” lacked last season, among other things, was a quality cast of characters. What made “24” great television in seasons past was characters that you both loved and loved to hate. President Palmer. Nina Myers. Sherry Palmer. Ryan Chappelle. George Mason. All of these characters have one thing in common — they’re dead. It’s no surprise that “24” has a penchant for killing compelling characters in a effort to shock its audience and propel its story. Sometimes it works, such as season five being jump started by the assassination of President Palmer.

Sometimes, like in season six, it doesn’t work. With no great, recognizable faces left on the program, the excitement level waned. Audiences weren’t as emotionally invested. Viewership was down. The “24” addiction had been reduced to an ambivalent craving.

ABC’s “Lost” doesn’t operate this way, as Jack, Kate, and a handful of others are still traipsing around the island. HBO’s “The Sopranos,” despite the fact that the show centered on the Mafia, didn’t operate this way, either. While blood was certainly shed towards the conclusion of the series, the ensemble cast, for the most part, stayed intact throughout the series run. Both shows are better for it, too. “Lost” still has the ability to thrill audiences, and “The Sopranos” was so addicting and impactful that people are still upset at the way the series cut to black more than 14 months ago.

Even reality television is arguably more addicting than “24.” With real people playing out semi-real drama in front of our eyes, it’s easy to get swept up in the crumbling alliances, eliminations, and live finales every week. Whether it’s curiosity as to who will get evicted on “Big Brother” to contestants degrading themselves in hopes to work for P. Diddy, even reality television has become consistently good in being consistently shameless.

This fall, “24” will return with a two hour movie on FOX that will be a prequel to the seventh season airing in January 2009. With such a long hiatus due to the writers’ strike, “24” has had the perfect opportunity to plan out their entire season and come up with a compelling story devoid of gimmicky plot twists. If the series can get back on track, it just might be able to become the most addicting show on television. Until that happens, better stick with Vic Mackey and Jeff Probst to feed your television habit.

Counterpoint by Michael Langston Moore
Starpulse contributing writer