I think that I had heard about how awesome the Kiefer 24 was that I had a totally different idea of what the show 'was'. It really is nothing more than a bang em up, blow em up show. Which is fine. Just not sure how this 'lore' about 24 got so big when that's all it is.
Season 1 debuted in November 2001. It was scheduled to debut earlier, but Fox pushed it back a month or two due to 9/11. So you have a major terrorist attack on the US, and then a TV show featuring a character that can almost single-handedly combat terrorism premiers on TV.
It was big on real-time, where a character would say "I'll be there in 10 minutes," and when ten minutes passes on the clock on the wall in your house, the character shows up where they're supposed to be. Every episode had some serious tension filled moments and cliffhangers leaving you dying for next week. So there were serious hooks and novelty - 24 episodes, one for each hour of the day, in real time.
Even then, the show had to fill 24 hours of content (Keifer said in a recent interview, it's the equivalent of an actor filming 12 movies in a year) so each season had it's ups and downs, various subplots, and strining goofy things along to fill time. Season 2 featured Jack Bauer's daughter trapped in the desert and being threatened by a mountain lion for 2 hours.
It truly does require you to suspend belief and just enjoy the action, tension and thrills. Real counter-terrorism would never work like it does on the show, and each season features the same plot twists (a mole! CTU on lockdown! Torture the bad guys for info!) but when you're a nation reeling from the deadliest terrorist attack in history, the show hits all the right nerves and you love seeing a character take it to the bad guys with zero mercy.