It’s no secret that 24 helped to define the counter-terrorism genre in the 21st century. While the most recent incarnation (Live Another Day) went off the air about three years ago, Fox recently announced that a spin-off series will premiere after the Super Bowl in February. Going by the title of 24: Legacy, this new take on the “real-time” drama promises another half day that is supposedly based off of the raid that took out Osama Bin Laden.
Since the show is fast approaching, it seems like a good time to critically examine 24 and find out what could keep it from gaining steam. Let’s do it!
1. Another WMD Plot.
This is perhaps the biggest reason why 24 started to lose people in its’ initial run. While Day 1 and Live Another Day dealt with assassinations and drone warfare, trouble began to mount in the middle. Every even-numbered season dealt with a nuclear threat, whereas every odd-numbered season dealt with a biological or chemical one. That’s a shame because the format of the show could and should go in many different directions.
This arguably came from the thought that every season has to ratchet up the stakes, but it ignores the possibilities that have been explored by properties like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. To give out some examples, that series initially explored the threat of information warfare and later played with the idea of EMPs. Of course, no one wants to be a copycat, but it does show that the genre is not really lacking ways for bad guys to do bad guy things.
2. Another Mole In CTU.
This was a big staple of the show, but it became so expected that even hardcore fans might have to look up a time when there wasn’t one in the mix (Day 3). The trouble with repeatedly using double agents in any form of entertainment is that it stretches credibility and makes the protagonists look incompetent. You’d think that two major security breaches in the first season would be enough to force the protagonists to vet their agents better, but it kept happening again and again and again.
Why? Because the plot said so!
One of the initial selling points of 24 was that it was at least somewhat plausible (until we got to the cougar), so it may be time for the show to save the inside men (or women) for some other time.
3. Overusing Legacy Characters.
The trouble with a spin-off show is that there has to be a balance between using fan favorite characters and establishing a new identity. In the case of 24, the only three characters that could plausibly return and mean anything to the fans would be Jack Bauer, Tony Almeida, and Chloe O’Brian. However, does it make logical sense to use anyone other than Tony in the new series?
Live Another Day ended with Jack’s imprisonment, which is a problem that cannot be easily solved by simply shoving it into the new show. If one of them shows up alone, fans and newcomers are going to start asking about what happened in the intervening years. If they show up together for some reason, everyone is going to wonder how they got to Washington D.C. without any benefactors inside the government.
In short, it would distract from Eric Carter’s story and make us wonder why we aren’t watching another TV movie with Kiefer Sutherland instead. And besides, there’s no reason why the writing staff couldn’t write a stand-alone film script (a la Redemption) about Jack and Chloe to permanently close out their storylines.
4. Suddenly Killing The Protagonist’s Wife/Girlfriend/Lover.
If the writing team wants to make Eric Carter a different person, they need to avoid this old franchise staple.
A part of the problem with the original 24 is that it was very difficult to get emotionally involved in Jack’s relationships. After all, they usually ended up getting killed off because of plot. Many people cared about Teri, Audrey, and Renee, but there was a certain point where viewers could see the deaths of the latter two coming.
Remember, this is 24. Jack can’t have a girlfriend for more than five seconds or the Earth will explode.
If Carter is going to be a different agent, it might be a good idea to keep his wife around for several years, if not the entire run. He’ll still be able to keep her safe from afar, so it’d be very compelling to see what else the writers can pull out of their hat to keep Eric in the game.
It’s not like they’re going to pull an awful love triangle out of their asses, are they?
While it is important to reserve judgement on 24: Legacy until it premieres, it is equally necessary to consider what long-running franchises do right and wrong with each passing installment. Creative ideas have to be shaken up every now and again to keep entertainment fresh and exciting. Otherwise, fans and newcomers are going to start predicting the surprises of a story before they happen. And since thrillers try to deliver the unexpected, what good will it do if 24: Legacy just spoonfeeds us a story that seems all too similar to those in years past?
No, the audience demands more than that.
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24 and 24: Legacy © Fox.