Superbowl Sunday saw the premiere of 24: Legacy, a new spin-off of the widely successful 24 that aired from 2001 to 2010. Television seems increasingly interested in reviving past shows, echoing the trend of reboots and sequels that is currently dominating Hollywood.
24: Legacy marks the third instalment of the 24 franchise, the first revival came in 2014. 24: Live Another Day tried to revamp the format by relocating the action to London but was ultimately disappointing. The original show starred Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, an agent for the Los Angeles Counter Terrorism Unit (known as CTU). 24: Legacy’s protagonist is CTU agent Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins), who has a special ops background similar to Bauer’s and seems similarly drawn to danger. Legacy adopts the unique format of its predecessor, events occur in real time with each episode taking place over the course of one hour. The iconic digital clock and split screen returns, allowing the show to remain as fast paced as ever.
As usual the action is primarily divided between CTU and the Washington political sphere. 24: Legacy manages to replicate 24’s juxtaposition of explosive action with sly bureaucratic backstabbing, in which a phone call can be as tense as a shootout. The characters are painfully familiar to fans of 24, from the genius data analyst who can track anyone and hack into anywhere, to the angst-ridden teenager out to cause trouble. Pretty much everything is the same, right down to the font in the opening credits, the message is clear: we know what works.
The theme of P.T.S.D. is also present in both iterations of the show, as is the inevitable threat to the protagonist’s family from whatever bad guys are around. 24 was criticised for its portrayals of Islam and representing torture as an effective means of interrogation, the show even entered the discourse surrounding U.S. military policy during Bill Clinton’s administration.
Unfortunately the reboot seems unable to overcome these issues so far, but hopefully they will be addressed at some point in the series. On the other hand, Legacy has made a few interesting changes, for example the introduction of an African-American lead sees the issue of profiling and police brutality raised by the second episode. The cast is, as a whole, more diverse than in Kiefer Sutherland’s time, reflecting the overall shift towards diversity television has made in the last decade. Legacy has also been adapted to reflect technological changes by incorporating drones and image rendering software. Yet such changes are not so obvious, since the format already relied upon society’s increasing use of mobile phones.
Despite these differences 24: Legacy has none of the innovation that excited critics about 24. Clearly the creators have opted to stick to a recognisable, yet heavily exhausted formula. 24: Legacy is pointless for viewers who haven’t seen the highly superior original series. But the show does indeed satisfy the craving for action shared by both Hawkins and Bauer, and by 24’s ever loyal viewer.