When we last saw stalwart 24 anti-hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), he had selflessly traded himself for tech wiz and his only friend left in the world Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and was being taken in a helicopter to Moscow where he most definitely didn’t have a dinner date with Vladimir Putin. This was in the last incarnation of the series known as 24: Live Another Day.
Now FOX, in announcing its prime time lineup for the 2016-2017 season, reveals that there will indeed be another pressure filled 24 hours for fans of the series, but it will not include Bauer. Sutherland, along with other 24 vets Howard Gordon, Manny Coto, and Evan Katz, will all serve as Executive Producers of the series, so we can be assured that the pedigree that we have come to know and love will be intact.
This series will cover the 24 hours in 12 episodes, just as Live Another Day did, meaning each week two hours will elapse within one hour instead of having 24 one-hour episodes as in the original series. This “real time” format is one of the elements that made 24 groundbreaking in the beginning, as well as the sometimes complex – and at other times rather annoying – plots and subplots that could seem to take forever (even though it was ostensibly 24 hours) to resolve.
The fact that Bauer and his CTU counterparts were fighting terrorists in the aftermath of 9-11 was compelling and timely, and each season Jack’s human nature eroded a little more, especially as he kept losing friends and loved ones. By the time Jack got to Live Another Day, he had become a killing machine and his humanity – whatever shards that were left – surfaces occasionally, as when he sacrifices himself for Chloe.
In the new series we get a new hero in Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins of Straight Outta Compton) as a war hero who returns home with more baggage than a 747. Like Bauer in the early episodes, Carter has a wife whom he loves and wants to protect. The trailer provided by FOX makes it clear that this is not going to be easy, and if the series follows the format previously established, Carter’s wife and any subsequent paramours won’t be around too long.
Since this is 24 there will be the behind the scenes machinations with politicians as well as putting Carter in imminent and constant danger in the field as he tries to stop yet another terrorist threat. Carter will also be involved with a new version of CTU, the counter-terrorist organization that Bauer once led and that eventually hunted him as if he were as bad (or worse) as the terrorists.
Credit FOX with casting Hawkins (for diversity as well as someone as different as possible than Sutherland’s Jack) in the lead role and for going with any entirely new cast. It is a brave and necessary and compelling choice, for any remnants of the old gang would hamper the potential success of the proceedings.
My one gripe is that they held on to the “real time” format. No matter how iconic that old clicking down clock was on 24, it also became a hindrance in later seasons and prevented the story from going in different directions that it could have if not locked into the 24-hour format. Jack couldn’t board a trans-Atlantic flight, go cross country, or even have time to grab a snack or go to the bathroom. It seems likely Carter will be in the same restrictive and cumbersome position this time around.
As a fan of the series I am happy to get any version of 24 back, though I am sure the purists are going to be crying about Jack Bauer’s absence. The thing is that Bauer’s ghost is going to be hovering over every second of this series and, as Hawkins establishes himself as the next 24 hero, he will either be able to shake off the Bauer sawdust and sing, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” or the poor guy will be haunted by a specter that keeps saying “Damn it!”
FOX has positioned the premiere episode to debut directly after the Super Bowl in February 2017, and after that the show will move into the usual 24 Monday time slot. Hopefully that will be the kind of kick-off Hawkins and company will need to get 24: Legacy all the way down field for a touchdown the series’ fans want and need.
Until then, I will sign off as I always did when reviewing all those episodes from 2001-2010 seasons and 2014’s 24: Live Another Day – Klaatu Barada Nikto!
Photo credits: FOX