In the hit series 24 on FOX, counter terrorist special agent Jack Bauer played by Kiefer Sutherland took down bad guys, foiled nefarious plots and sometimes got to kiss the girl – all in 24 hours. Each season was separated into episodes that represented one hour of the day and Jack Bauer was awake for all of them. As each season progressed to its exciting climax, the toll of sleep deprivation was apparent on Bauer’s face and audiences couldn’t help but sympathize. Now fans of 24 are testing their own endurances by trying to stay awake, watching the entire eight-season DVD box set in the middle of the Hollywood and Highland center in Los Angeles, Calif. The last alert contestant walks away with a cool $10000.
FOX chose one hundred diehard fans for the marathon challenge from across the country and some flew in from as far as New York to participate. While the promise of winning $10000 is alluring, there’s also fame at stake. Contestants are vying for the new Guiness World Record for length of time spent continuously watching television, which is currently 86 hours. In order to qualify for the record and win the challenge, contestants cannot look away from the televisions or distract anyone else competing. For every completed hour of television watching contests accrue five minutes of break time that can be used during allotted periods where they can do as they please – even sleep if they dare. Three square meals are provided by the Hard Rock Café.
Proceeds for the challenge benefit My Hope for Children and several celebrities came out to support the great cause and be part of the spectacle. Jayson Blair and Jareb Dauplaise made an appearance, mingling with the crowd, drinking Kona Deep Water and snacking on hors d’oeuvres. Unfortunately, they couldn’t stay long due to early call times the next morning. Lou Diamond Phillips, who appeared on the show in several episodes, arrived with his wife and child. While Phillips graciously took pictures with fans he was also very excited to reunite with 24 series producer John Cassar who was enjoying the attention of the cameras. Cassar was very proud of the cast and crew of the show and took a little credit for their post 24 success, stating that it was his “molding ways” that led them to stardom.
The 24 Marathon Challenge began on December 2 at 9 p.m. when 100 fans were sequestered inside a custom home theater built in the courtyard of the Hollywood and Highland center. The theater is encased in tinted plexiglass and plush leather seats were set up in rows, facing a multi-monitor wall that created one giant display. When the marathon began, foot traffic was already thin due to the later hour, but it’s easy to imagine how distracting a midday crowd will be. It’s also understandable how sleep-inducing the entire environment will be during the predawn hours as tired bodies sink into too-comfortable seats after eating a catered meal. The marathon-watchers definitely have their work cut out for them. One contestant reportedly requested their chair be replaced by a wooden bench.
Dan Milano, a contestant from Los Angeles and a fan of the show since day one said that he wasn’t just there for the money since he believed that many contestants would last until the end and therefore have to split the winnings. “You can’t do it all for the money,” he said, “I think that getting a world record…being in the Guiness Book of World Records is pretty cool too.” Milano went on to describe his preparation, which included getting as much sleep as possible.
Conversely, Steven Wong who was convinced by his girlfriend Jennifer Mihalyi to join the marathon with her did nothing to prepare. “You know what my preparation was…I’ve only seen two seasons,” Wong said, “So it’s all new to me and I think that’ll help a lot.”
“And we bought a lot of 5-hour energy drinks,” Mihalyi added.
Neither of them believe that they will have to last the entire grueling 86 hours since they think none of the other contestants will be awake past the first couple of days. They aren’t interested in the record, just the prize. Furthermore, Mihalyi has to be back at school before the marathon completes anyway.
For fans that weren’t selected to participate in the challenge, those in Los Angeles could still come down to the Hollywood and Highland center to be part of the experience and view authentic props from the show, including a CTU vehicle parked right next to the outdoor theater. As a special treat, a handful of the cast and crew visited the challenge, like actor Carlos Bernard who played Tony Almeida. He glad-handed the contestants and got them pumped for the marathon. Actor Gregory Itzin, who played President Charles Logan, delivered an opening introduction to the crowd, sharing his thoughts on the show before finally directing everyone’s attention to the monitors for a personal message from Kiefer Sutherland.
Finally, the contestants were ushered inside the theater and, after a few primal roars, sat back to endure the slow grind of time. While none of the contestants are doing anything as lofty as defusing nuclear bombs or preventing a presidential assassination, the task ahead of them is not an enviable one. Jack Bauer would be proud.
Look for the eight-season DVD box set of 24 on store shelves on December 14.
The 24 Marathon Challenge is currently ongoing until December 6, 12 p.m. Stop by and check it out!