Real time is a style of visual storytelling where events depicted in the story occur over exactly the same amount of time required to view it. Each episode of 24 unfolds in real time and is accompanied by multiple showings of a digital clock, either at the bottom of the screen, without sound, or roughly in the middle, at the start of an ad-break. After an ad-break, the clock re-appears, with split screen boxes placed around it, accompanied by the now-iconic ticking sound.
In order to keep the show moving when characters are simply waiting for something to happen (for instance, driving from one place to another), the series juggles several plotlines, cutting from one to another to maximize suspense and drama. Over the course of a season, the writers typically show events from the point of view of Counter Terrorist Unit, the White House, the terrorists, and one or more civilian families connected to the day's events. Unlike traditional dramas, which use one set of characters for an "A plot" and another for a "B plot," 24 usually updates all its running plotlines in each episode.
Since television broadcast series are usually interrupted by commercials, 24 shows a ticking clock noting the time, and a split screen showing what a handful of characters are doing, at the beginning of every break. Although there is technically nothing going on during the commercial breaks, credits, and recaps, the viewer is meant to assume that the characters have been going about their lives.
To date, 24 has purportedly taken place exclusively in real-time, with a few minor exceptions. During the closing minutes of "Day 1: 11:00pm-12:00am," scenes from "Day 1: 12:00am-1:00am" were shown in a splitscreen "flashback" window alongside the continuing real-time events of the episode. 24: Redemption has a prologue showing a group of children being drafted into Juma's army the previous day, followed by the traditional 24 title and opening narration.
"Events occur in real time" title card Edit
The "Events occur in real time" title card is a line of text that appeared after the opening sequence in some episodes of 24. It was used at the start of the earlier seasons to introduce the concept of the show, but was phased out before returning as the series drew to its close. Episodes it was used in were:
- "Day 1: 12:00am-1:00am"
- "Day 1: 1:00am-2:00am"
- "Day 1: 2:00am-3:00am"
- "Day 2: 8:00am-9:00am"
- "Day 3: 1:00pm-2:00pm"
- 24: Redemption
- "Day 7: 8:00am-9:00am"
- "Day 8: 4:00pm-5:00pm"
- "Day 8: 2:00pm-3:00pm"
- "Day 8: 3:00pm-4:00pm"
- "Day 9: 11:00am-12:00pm"
Spin-off materials such as 24: The Game, Conspiracy, Countdown, The Rookie and Day Zero do not run in real-time. However, Conspiracy did occur concurrently with Season 4, and The Game was scripted to cover a twenty-four hour period.
Background information and notes Edit
- Joel Surnow originally came up with the idea of creating a real time show, and after presenting it to Robert Cochran they went ahead with the idea.
- Producers considered dropping the real-time idea for the second season, but writer Virgil Williams says that "one of our characters is the clock... It would be like killing Tony Soprano".
- Real time has been historically used in a wide selection of media, dating back to the 1948 Hitchcock film Rope.