Throughout all the years that 24 was on the air, viewers watched Jack Bauer and the rest of CTU do all kinds of things, especially extremely dangerous things, in their constant efforts to keep the world safe from terrorists. But one thing you never really saw was people eating, and it turns out there’s a fantastic reason for this that doesn’t involve everyone on the show being robots who don’t need nutrition. According to frequent episode director Jon Cassar:
I made a real effort to show people eating in my first episode and Joel Surnow the show creator hated it. He had a theory that became law on 24, and that was if you have time put food in your mouth and chew then thats seconds being wasted on a day that seconds can't be wasted. So none ate on camera, we always assumed characters ate and went to the bathroom when we were showing a storyline they weren't in.
Cassar knocked this Reddit AMA answer out of the park. Not to dismiss his initial choice to try and make the show lean towards food-related realism, but there is something so genius about the reasoning behind this decision that’s specific to this show. If Modern Family doesn’t show its characters eating to not step on a joke, or Chicago Med doesn’t want to show people eating because they’re in a hospital environment, those make sense for those shows. The entire conceit behind 24 is that everything is happening real time, and with all the commercial breaks, there is basically no time to waste on chow or taking leaks. Not with all the time-related exposition that needs to be shared.
It was probably easier for these characters to sneak bites when the cameras weren’t on them for the limited return 24: Live Another Day, considering the episode count was cut in half. Still no long leisurely lunches, as there is domestic terrorism afoot, but getting takeout delivered could happen. Yeah, I know there’s a different between characters and actors.
Imagine if Jack wouldn’t have been able to get out a solid ”Dammit , Chloe!” because his mouth was full of peanut butter and crackers. Or if President Logan wouldn’t have been able to say something stupid because he was choking on a peanut. Actually, now that I think about it, I’d like to see an entire season of 24 where every character is always eating, which would make for some serious tension-deflating exchanges between the good guys and the bad guys. Whoever gets cotton candy has it the easiest.
It’s a strange area of fascination to think about the eating and bathroom habits of fictional characters, but it definitely exists, and the creative minds out there know it. That’s how we’ve gotten bathroom insight into such popular properties as Harry Potter and The Flash. Someone needs to write a book about this, one that can be read in the bathroom, for instance.
We’ll soon be getting another season of high octane action on Fox with 24: Legacy, where we can look forward to not watching the new lead character eating breakfast.