The Insane History of U.S. Presidents on 24

SPOILER ALERT: If you are not caught up watching the current season of “24: Live Another Day”, you should probably go ahead and skip this post until you are. If caught up, enjoy!

OK, folks. I realize no one watches the show “24” for its realism and, if you do, I’m sorry. I am an unabashed huge fan of the Kiefer Sutherland program. When the show returned for an abbreviated season after four years off the air, I was highly skeptical. However, I’ll be damned if “Live Another Day” doesn’t incorporate everything great about the show and I’ve had a blast viewing it.

Events that took place in the latest episode struck me and it led me on a research mission of the show’s history. My suspicions were confirmed through my findings. On this TV program, being the President of the United States is pretty much the Worst. Job. Ever.

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine the evidence. If you look into the amount of time that has lapsed between the day that occurred in Season 1 and the day that’s currently happening this season, it spans a time period of 17 1/2 years. In real life time, that takes us back to the beginning of 1997 and a grand total of three U.S. Presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama.

On “24”? There have been eleven (yes, ELEVEN) POTUS’s in that same time frame. That means the average President on the show serves less than two years in a real life era where we’ve had four of our last five commander-in-chiefs serve the full eight years.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

It’s important to remember that in Season 1 of “24”, eventual POTUS David Palmer was running for President. We are never informed as an audience who the current POTUS is at that time, but that unnamed individual constitutes the program’s first President.

Of course, when we arrive at the events of Season 2, Democrat David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is the President and that continues through Season 3. At the end of that season, Palmer’s reelection bid is thwarted and he decides against seeking a second term. Palmer is POTUS #2.

When we get to the fourth season, his Republican opponent John Keeler (Geoff Pierson) is POTUS #3. He spends the season not being seen much as he’s traveling on Air Force One. That is until the plane is shot down leaving President Keeler in critical condition.

This leads to Vice President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) becoming the show’s #4 POTUS. It is never revealed whether President Keeler died or not, but clearly he was unfit to resume office.

President Logan continues serving when Season 5 arrives. While President David Palmer represented the nobility of the office, President Logan is a corrupt monster who had a hand in the assassination of ex-President Palmer, which occurs moments into Season 5’s opening. A series of events leads to President Logan being arrested and resigning, therefore paving the way for Vice President Hal Gardner (Ray Wise) to become POTUS #5.

When Season 6 debuted, President Gardner is no longer around and it’s David Palmer’s brother Wayne (D.B. Woodside) in office as POTUS #6. It is assumed that President Palmer likely defeated President Gardner. During this season, a bomb explosion critically injures him and this paves the way for his VP Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe) to become POTUS #7. It was never said on the show, but press materials later revealed President Palmer died of his injuries.

In between seasons six and seven, the show came out with a movie “Redemption”. In that film, Daniels is still POTUS serving the last hours of his term as Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is set to take office. She is POTUS #8.

Seasons seven and eight feature President Taylor in office. And yet circumstances in that eighth (and final traditional) season force her to resign. Though we never see it take place, we can only assume her VP Mitchell Hayworth (Cameron Daddo) became POTUS #9 in the show’s universe.

We now arrive at “24: Live Another Day” where James Heller (William Devane) is the current POTUS and the show’s #10. We first saw his character in Season 4 as President Keeler’s Secretary of Defense. For these keeping count, the tally of Presidents by party would be 6 Republicans (Keeler, Logan, Gardner, Taylor, Hayworth, Heller) and 3 Democrats (Palmer, Palmer, Daniels). The party affiliation of outgoing POTUS in Season 1 is unknown.

“24” also has made history in the world of Presidents. Of course, President David Palmer was the first African-American POTUS and this happened six years before President Obama in the real world. President Allison Taylor is the first female POTUS and we haven’t had one in real life… yet. And in “Live Another Day”, actor Devane’s real age is 76 – so any way you cut it, he’d be the oldest elected POTUS.

Of course, for anyone who saw Monday’s episode, President Heller’s term ended in spectacular fashion when he willingly allowed himself to be the victim of a drone attack in Wembley Stadium. And that, naturally, means his currently unnamed Vice President is “24”‘s #11 commander-in-chief.

So the bottom line is… why on Earth would anyone wish to run for the highest office in the land in the world of “24”??? To put this into proper context, 11 Presidents ago in reality was Dwight D. Eisenhower over 50 years ago.

Let’s just do a final recap on what being President on “24” is like:

POTUS #1: Unnamed (he’s the lucky one)

POTUS #2: David Palmer. Can’t run for second term due to controversies. Later assassinated.

POTUS #3: John Keeler. Shot down in Air Force One. He either dies or is unable to resume duties.

POTUS #4: Charles Logan. Forced to resign. In later appearances on show during Season 8, ex-POTUS Logan attempts suicide but survives. It’s revealed he will suffer permanent brain damage.

POTUS #5: Hal Gardner. It’s assumed he’s defeated by Wayne Palmer after filling out remainder of President Logan’s term.

POTUS #6: Wayne Palmer. Killed in bomb explosion.

POTUS #7: Noah Daniels. Defeated in general election by Allison Taylor after filling out remainder of President Palmer’s term.

POTUS #8: Allison Taylor. Forced to resign.

POTUS #9: Mitchell Hayworth. Ascends to Presidency after Taylor quits, it’s assumed. Nothing is really known about his Presidency.

POTUS #10: James Heller. Killed by a drone.


BLOGGER’S NOTE UPDATE (06/23/14): Well, “24”, you pulled a fast one on us like only you can do. For anyone who saw tonight’s episode – you will know that President Heller is, in fact, not dead. Therefore there has not been a completely unreasonable 11 POTUS’s in the history of the show, but a completely reasonable 10!!

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