New 24: Legacy – exactly the same as the old 24.
Seriously, I could leave it there and make this a candidate for the shortest review on the site. The only surprising thing about the new 12-part mini-series spin-off is how little difference losing its iconic star Kiefer Sutherland has made to the franchise. Honestly, you’re more likely to notice that the on-screen ticking clock has gone from red and orange to a cool blue, or that the end credit music has been changed, than you are to notice that Jack Bauer is sitting this one out. And who can blame him?
It turns out that the lack of any returning characters really doesn’t make any difference, because the show is still packed with exactly the same archetypes as it always has been. The name tags might have changed, and the actors might be different this time around, but they’re going through exactly the same motions and spouting the same interchangeably homogeneous, bullet-point dialogue so it really doesn’t make any difference. You could just as easily be watching a rerun as a brand new show.
This revival hasn’t just rewound the clock back to the most recent London-set Live Another Day outing in 2014, it’s pretty much reset all the way back to the tone of 24′s first couple of seasons in 2001 and 2002. In the process it essentially ignores any and all changes to the socio-geopolitical context that have occurred in the intervening period. Eight years of Obama as president simply don’t appear to have made a single mark. The one piece of modern commentary that strikes home in the first two episodes occurs when the show’s new lead (Corey Hawkins, playing war hero Eric Carter) demonstrates how easy it is in a modern US city for a black man walking down the street to get himself arrested and assaulted by the police for nothing more than glancing at a patrol car in the wrong way.
It’s a rare moment of believable realism in a show that puts its foot to the floor within seconds of the opening credits, and forty minutes in has already gone so far over the top that a Tom and Jerry cartoon has a better sense of authentic realism. The number of mind-numbingly stupid decisions taken by supposedly professional military and intelligence personnel quickly becomes ridiculous; it’s as if Donald Trump is personally calling every play. It wouldn’t matter so much if all this actually managed to achieve the level of pulse-racing excitement it’s aiming for, but oddly it succeeds only in becoming crushingly dull. That’s really sad: the original 24 was a trailblazer in putting high-octane excitement on the small screen, and pretty much single-handedly started the trend for DVD boxset binge watching because viewers couldn’t wait a whole week to see how one episode’s cliffhanger could possibly be resolved. Sadly in the case of 24: Legacy, I could barely wait for the end credits to roll simply so that I could find something better to watch instead.
Small crumbs of credit where they’re due: the cast (which as well as Hawkins includes Jimmy Smits, Miranda Otto, Teddy Sears, Dan Bucatinsky, Gerald McRaney and Veronica Cartwright) gamely do their best to inject some life into characters that were otherwise dead on arrival on the script page. And the production certainly knows how to pull off a decent action sequence once the bullets start flying around, although even here it looks like the show is having to skimp and save on the pennies these days.
But that’s about it. What 24: Legacy really appears to demonstrate is that a show that burns as hot and bright as the original 24 did can’t sustain itself for long before ending up cold and dead, forgotten and discarded for good reason. At which point, you’re left with a husk like 24: Legacy as a memento of the olden, golden days long since past.
Rating: ★ ★
24: Legacy airs in the UK on Fox on Wednesdays at 9pm.