As cynical and sick of franchises, reboots, revivals, and remakes as we are or pretend to be in the comments section (everyone seemed pretty damn stoked about Rogue One), audiences are smart enough to know that Hollywood won’t budge on this trend anytime soon. They’ll shake every last dollar they can get out of the Revival Era as long as we keep our sticky fingers on our smartphones, tablets, and remotes.
Harp on about the quality of shows coming back after long absences, but when you see The X-Files, Fuller House, and Gilmore Girls all reconnect with their fan bases in a meaningful way, it’s clear that certain shows are built for this, and should continue on. And it will in 2017, with Twin Peaks coming to Showtime for a long overdue third season, a new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the works at Netflix, and Fox following up Mulder and Scully with the return of Prison Break (April) and a new take on the 24 franchise with 24: Legacy.
24 is the outlier in the Revival Era, mostly because it felt like this show never went away. Nine seasons, a TV movie, video games, and the first TV revival, 2014’s 24: Live Another Day, have truly made 24 television’s never say die franchise. Talk of a film was ongoing even after LAD, but they never secured the necessary budget or found the right story to greenlight the project.
When star Kiefer Sutherland finally had enough of Jack Bauer and moved on to be President in Designated Survivor, the minds behind 24 retooled the series for 2017, giving us a military hero at the heart of what is ostensibly the same framework we’ve seen all along.
24: Legacy, which Fox tapped to premiere after the Super Bowl in television’s most coveted timeslot, rarely breaks from the franchise’s battle-tested formula, but it’s safe in the hands of lead Corey Hawkins.
The 24 braintrust of Manny Coto, Evan Katz, Howard Gordon, Brian Grazer, Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, could be cryogenically frozen, wake up in the year 2056, and still drum up a captivating story to fit the series’ heartracing, real-time format.
The pilot opens with the clock ticking upwards to 24, but there’s no branding of “Legacy” to be seen. There is nothing inherently 2017 about 24: Legacy, a slight disappointment to those wanting to see the series move beyond 24: LAD, the Bush-era relic that limped to the finish line. We do get an entirely new angle, and smartphones that apparently have a USB slot, so who’s to complain?
The story as it unfolds in the pilot has minimal ties to the greater 24 universe other than a trip back to CTU and a few name drops. We meet former U.S. Army ranger Eric Carter, who we know led a successful mission to take out terrorist leader Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid and has discharged for civilian life. Carter, now in witness protection and employed as a bodyguard for the 1 percent, finds himself the target of retaliation as a group of terrorists execute Carter’s squadron and their families one by one.
Almost immediately, 24: Legacy begins setting up the usual trappings of the Jack Bauer Era: family drama, awkward alliances, rogue CTU guy, terrorist impaled with blunt objects. One thing I was interested to see was how the series addresses islamophobia and modern counter-terrorism tactics. The pilot sidesteps any meaningful commentary in that regard with a plot twist, but we’ll get deeper into that in our spoiler-filled review after the premiere airs.
The opening hour does manage to avoid the pratfalls of the dismal first six episodes of 24: LAD, which took puzzling liberties even for 24. Even though they needed to introduce an entirely new cast, this incarnation of 24 is far more confident from the jump, sparing us the character exposition mistakes often found in new pilots.
The franchise at this point is a machine that needs to replace its parts every few thousand miles. LAD benefited from Jack having a new sidekick in Kate Morgan. Here, substituting a gifted young actor in Hawkins for Sutherland and surrounding him with the stability and poise of actors Jimmy Smits and Miranda Otto is going to ensure that 24 lives to kick more ass.
Hawkins and his cool-headed character help keep the episode grounded in reality as they touch on plots worth developing: PTSD and a soldier’s place on the homefront. We come back to 24 for the action, though, and the pilot makes good with two key scenes, one culminating in an impressive standoff on a construction site, that are well worth your time.
Quality-wise, we just about know what we’re going to get out of 24: Legacy. Maybe they’ll really surprise us. Maybe it’s just an enjoyable new cast up to the same old tricks. Either way, this season is a test of whether you can plug in a new cast, a new premise, or location, and maintain the heartbeat of a series that never runs out of time.