‘Today is going to be the longest day of my life’: A Narratological Analysis of 24

  • Elisabeth Birk
  • Hanne Birk


TV series are almost as old as the medium television itself and have often been held to be particularly conservative in content and simple in form. Recent years have, however, seen an emergence of formally innovative US productions, which toy with the conventions of the genre and recycle some of the more creative storytelling devices in cinematic history. 24 (2001-), created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran for the Fox Entertainment Group, is an example of this development. One of the many novel narrative devices is the time structure: in this espionage thriller about a US federal agent who tries to prevent a terrorist assassination attempt, ‘events occur in real time’, as the show’s leitmotif has it. The 24 one-hour episodes are supposed to add up to one very long day in the life of the characters. An analysis of 24 from the point of view of narratology, as it is pursued in this chapter, has to draw on the categories developed by film narratology while also taking into consideration the specific constraints of TV productions. Particular attention will be paid to those features of 24 that exploit media-specific possibilities of representation. Regarding the narrative devices employed in 24, we focus on the correlated workings of seriality and time structure, and narrating agencies and split screens.


Authentification Strategy Time Structure Time Caption Digital Clock Split Screen 
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© Elisabeth Birk and Hanne Birk 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Birk
  • Hanne Birk

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