The first episode of “Sleeper Cell,” which follows an underground Los Angeles terrorist cell on the verge of attack, starts slowly, which is troubling given the “Better than 24” quote splashed on the front of the box. But then, about 35 minutes in, “Cell” starts cooking and gives us our first real payoff. By the time the credits roll nearly 20 minutes later, the kitchen is on fire, and few moments in this Showtime miniseries are wasted from this point on.

No, it’s not better than “24.” But “Cell” easily belongs in the same breath and is a must-see for all who count Jack Bauer among their personal saviors. Shame it’s only a miniseries and not simply a first season. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Michael Ealy, Oded Fehr, Blake Shields, Alex Nesic, Henri Lubatti, James LeGros, Alex Nesic and Melissa Sagemiller star. Includes nine episodes (including a two-hour finale; commentary on two episodes), plus a behind-the-scenes feature, deleted scenes (with commentary) and a finale production diary.

Grade: A