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You don’t know Jack? A newbie’s guide to TV’s 24

This image released by Fox shows Kiefer Sutherland in a scene from "24: Live Another Day," premiering Monday, May 5 at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox.

Daniel Smith/AP

Jack Bauer is back, dammit. Four years after getting off the grid (and our TV sets) to avoid being targeted by Russia and the United States as a terrorist, Special Agent Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) resurfaces in London to prevent an assassination attempt on (now-)President Heller (William Devane). The method of attack – U.S. drones commandeered by computer hacking – touches on a hot topic in the news. But the show has always had a fairly tight interplay with the real world, especially when it sparked a debate about the ethics and efficacy of torture. Here's a recap of the twists and turns of the first eight seasons.

DAY 1 (2001-02)

Bad guys: Vengeful Balkan terrorists

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Target: Aspiring presidential candidate

Weapon: Forcing Special Agent Bauer to kill the candidate

Like real life: USA Patriot Act passed weeks before the show's premiere

Other countries involved: Kosovo

DAY 2 (2002-2003)

Bad guys: Middle Eastern terrorists

Weapon: Nuclear weapon

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Target: City of Los Angeles

Like real life: London's Finsbury Park mosque is mentioned in the show; in January, 2003, British police arrest several people and seize several weapons in the mosque

Other countries involved: Three unnamed Middle Eastern countries

DAY 3 (2003-04)

Bad guy: Former government agent

Weapon: Deadly virus

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Targets: 11 locations around the United States

Like real life: President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) prefigures Barack Obama as the first African-American president

Other countries involved: Mexico

DAY 4 (2005)

Bad guy: Middle Eastern terrorist

Weapons: Device to control nuclear power plants; stolen stealth fighter; commandeered nuclear missile

Targets: U.S. Secretary of Defense; U.S. nuclear power plants; Air Force One; City of Los Angeles

Like real life: Torture comes to the fore (in wake of Abu Ghraib scandal); power-hungry U.S. vice-president

Other countries involved: China

DAY 5 (2006)

Bad guys: Russian separatists, U.S. president

Weapons: nerve gas, Russian missiles (non-nuclear)

Targets: Suburban U.S. shopping mall, Russia

(Maybe) like real life: U.S. president acts aggressively to protect overseas oil interests

Other countries involved: Russia, China

DAY 6 (2007)

Bad guys: Jack Bauer's estranged father, Islamic terrorists

Weapon: Suicide bombings, drones equipped with suitcase nukes

Targets: Los Angeles bus; Baltimore mall; Chicago hotel; suburban areas of U.S.

(Too much) like real life: U.S. military asks 24 producers to stop depicting torture in a good light

Other countries involved: Russia

DAY 7 (2009)

Bad guys: African warlord; mercenaries employed by a U.S. defense contractor; former colleague of Jack

Weapon: Biological weapons

Targets: U.S. President, major U.S. cities, Jack Bauer

(Maybe) like real life: Jack questioned by Congress over his use of torture; U.S. president is a woman. (Does it prefigure Hillary in 2016?)

Other countries involved: Sangala (fictional)

DAY 8 (2010)

Bad guys: Terrorists from (fictional) Kamistan; Russian mafia; Russian government, former U.S. president

Weapon: Dirty bomb fuelled by Russian nuclear rods

Targets: Kamistani president, Jack Bauer

Like real life: Enemies are everywhere

Other countries involved: Islamic Republic of Kamistan (fictional), Russia

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More


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