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24 to get a prequel before season seven

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24

Story by Jack Foley

JACK Bauer is to return in the autumn for a two-hour prequel to real-time thriller 24 that will bridge the two year gap between seasons six and seven.

Twentieth Century Fox, the producers of the popular series, felt that the prequel was the best way forward after ditching a proposal to show the seventh season in two halves, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

24 became one of the biggest casualties of the recent Hollywood writers’ strike owing to its real-time format and the secrecy surrounding the plot. Eight episodes of the new season had been produced prior to the writers walk-out on November 5 last year (2007), but nothing has been filmed since.

Although exact plot details of the latest season of the Emmy-winning series remain guarded, the writers were set to ring the changes after the sixth season suffered a critical backlash.

Jack Bauer’s latest day will now be set in Washington instead of Los Angeles and features the first female US president, played by Cherry Jones (are they pre-empting current events?). Kiefer Sutherland reprises his role as Jack Bauer.

Rather than splitting the season into two, however, Fox has confirmed that the show’s scheduling pattern would remain intact with a January 2009 launch – although the prequel would be aired in the Fall in order to whet fans’ appetites for the latest adventure.

The writing team is now back at work with production on the remaining episodes of season seven due to begin in April.

However, in another blow for the creative team, series co-creator/executive producer Joel Surnow has not returned since the end of the strike. So far, there has been no official comment as to why…