In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, Fox UK. Starts February 14th
When 24 first aired, it was a revolutionary series in many ways. The conceit that the show played out in real-time over a full 24-hour day in 24, one-hour episodes was original to say the least and took serialised storytelling to the logical limit. It also featured convention-breaking direction, rescuing split-screen shots from their 70s cemetery.
More importantly, it was notionally a Conservative TV show. Airing just a few weeks after 9/11, 24 could have horribly misjudged the public mood. But a daring tale of how honourable family man Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), a former special forces soldier turned counter-terrorist agent, was able to fight back against the terrorists and win proved to be the tonic the American people needed at the time and was immensely popular. True, his tendency towards extreme ruthlessness and even torture, which creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochrane had piloted even more extremely on La Femme Nikita, caused liberal apoplexy now it was on network TV, but it was something the audience didn’t really care about.
The show changed with the times. It adapted to the Obama years’ move away from waterboarding et al and was even able to fudge the shift of network TV away from 24-episode runs of shows to 12/13-episode runs through the simple use of a 12-hour delayed epilogue. However, its tendency to shock viewers by killing off much-loved cast members at regular intervals grew predictable and ultimately led to there being no much-loved cast members left except Kiefer Sutherland several seasons before the end.
Which must have posed a bit of a quandary for the producers when they were planning a new season of 24, because Kiefer – he no want to do 24 no more. He doing Designated Survivor. He happy to produce but he no happy to act.
Hence 24: Legacy, which copies format and general attitude and has some links to the original, but absolutely no Jack Bauer. Instead, we have Eric Carter (The Walking Dead‘s Corey Hawkins), a retired US army ranger, whose unit killed a terrorist leader. Despite his having a new job and new identity, the terrorists have found him and the rest of his unit, and want them all dead – although not before whichever one of them has a very important McGuffin reveals where it is.
Hawkins has to find out what it is, where it is and evade and stop the terrorists, with only the help of Mirando Otto – the former Counter Terrorist Unit chief and potential next First Lady to potential President Jimmy Smits. Because being 24 there’s a mole. Shocker, hey?
Indeed, despite the entirely new cast, the new show revisits many of the original’s traits. There’s snarking between computer technicians (including the cousin of one of 24‘s most famous techies). There’s also all manner of insane – and insanely stupid – twists and ideas, such as Carter asking a violent gang member who hates him to look after his wife.
One new innovation that builds on the previous show is that rather than having Middle Eastern terrorists in the even numbered seasons, European terrorists in odd-numbered seasons, there are both Middle Eastern and European terrorists to deal with this time round. Yes, everyone – double bubble!
Problem here is that the European terrorists are from Chechnya, so are inevitably going to be Muslims, just like their Middle Eastern counterparts. The question is, coming as it does on the heels of President Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’, has 24: Legacy guessed the Zeitgeist with its Islamophobia as accurately as 24 did with its first season, or is it marching out of step with its potentially horrified viewers?
Time will have to tell on that one, I guess. But purely on a kinetic level, the show does at least manage to maintain the levels of adrenaline that its predecessor did, giving us action scenes aplenty shot by directors who know what they’re doing. Eric Carter is no Jack Bauer, but even Jack Bauer wasn’t really Jack Bauer until season two, and character development was never 24‘s strong point – all that really mattered was what Bauer was prepared to do and why. It’s actually surprisingly easy to slot someone completely different into the same role and for everything to still carry on exactly the same as before.
24: Legacy‘s plot is outright bobbins, with so many holes in it you could use it as a string vest. Characters are thinly drawn and exist only to perform specific plot functions. Its understanding of technology is laughable. Its unpredicatability is predictable. Its attitudes are borderline racist or maybe even just flat out racist.
But my gosh is it exciting. Still.