Kiefersutherland2_24_s6_240I haven’t been on every set in TV-dom, but I still feel confident in this statement: 24 must have the most comfortable chairs in the industry. They’re ergonomically calibrated sitting masterpieces in a matching purple that was designed specially for the show, a color that normal people like you and I can’t purchase.

In general, in fact, the 24 set is a wonder. Every high-tech gizmo you see on TV, from the top-line computers to the flat-panel screens, actually works, albeit without the specificity and power that Chloe O’Brian takes for granted. The cement walls — more form than function since CTU has been regularly infiltrated and bombed to bits over the seasons — may seem more at home in a skate park than a government installation, but they’re still intimidating. The steely desk furniture and red amoeba-shaped overhead lights are details that usually aren’t accentuated on-screen.

The set visit offered a good chance to get answers for a few of my lingering questions from the 24 season premiere, questions like how on earth did D.B. Woodside’s Wayne Palmer become president?

"In our heads, it was RFK," says executive producer Evan Katz. "Logan obviously was going to have resigned in a cloud of suspicion and with his martyred brother, I believe a Wayne Palmer could have been elected."

Another question, one that gets only fuzzy answers, is what year we’re up to now in the 24 universe. Seasons have routinely jumped multiple years beyond the finales of the previous year. In fact, the fully operational phones on the CTU set claim that the date is Jan. 23, 2012.

"They’re technically correct, but they’re emotionally and narratively incorrect, so they get to argue by putting it on the phone," executive producer Howard Gordon says, referring to the show’s chronologically obsessed set designers.

Katz adds, "At a certain point we’d added up the years that spanned the series, but we’re not really doing a show in the future. We’re in the perpetual now."

The last word on the subject comes from the show’s Emmy-winning director/producer Jon Cassar, who points out, "We avoid dates. You’ll never see a date on our show ever."

According to Gordon, Cassar may also be responsible for the slew of cryptic clues littering the set on Tuesday (Jan. 16). Simply put, if you know you’re having dozens of critics wandering around your stage for several hours, you don’t leave call sheets, script pages and detailed files sitting out if you don’t want that mysterious information leaking out. Was the available evidence meant to whet appetites for the rest of the season or was it misdirection aimed at creating false rumors on the Internet?

I don’t know, but here are a few tidbits:

[Do I honestly need to emphasize that the following bullet points contain a variety of spoilers and you really should look away if you aren’t curious?]

  • The call sheet for the actively shooting episode (I don’t want to spoil everything, but they’re already into the season’s second half) includes Emmy nominees Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart, as well as fan favorite Glenn Morshower (Agent Pierce).
  • A large number of Russian names pop up on various documents, as do references to at least one more character seemingly in possession of a nuke.
  • It has been widely reported that James Cromwell will appear later in the season as Jack Bauer’s estranged father Phillip Bauer, but who is "Graem Bauer" and what did he have to do with President Palmer’s assassination?
  • And who’s the guy in surveillance images who looks a lot like Luis Guzman, but probably isn’t?

    I’d hate to spoil any more than that… 24 fans love to be surprised.