Television: The Time Of Their Lives

24, an old-fashioned thriller with up-to-the-minute innovations, is this season's most exciting debut

Robert Cochran knows a great idea when he hears one. So when his production partner Joel Surnow called him with a brainstorm--"a show, 24 episodes, the whole season takes place in one day, each episode is an hour of real time"--Cochran responded as many a seasoned producer might have. "I said, 'That's brilliant. But it's impossible,'" he recalls. "'I don't want to think about it. Don't ever say that to me again.'"

Surnow did bring it up again, and finally the two (who teamed up for USA's La Femme Nikita) worked backward to write a story that would justify the gimmick....

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