24 Plus 24: Legacy Still Equals 24

Sidewalk Stories' legendary writer-director-star Charles Lane takes stock of the reboot of one of his favorite recent TV shows.

For the next 48 hours, I’m going to put forth a few thoughts about 24 and 24: Legacy. You see what I did there with the “48 hours” business? OK, OK, let’s begin.

24 first exploded onto the scene in 2001. Focusing on the exploits of Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent Jack Bauer – whose mission was to protect the United States (and, in later seasons, the world) from terrorist plots – over the course of a single day, it was fresh, new, unprecedented. Nothing short of a phenom! But more importantly, it premiered November 6. Just two months after Americans were given the devastating eye-opener that terrorism does not exclusively exist “over there.” Though a commercial entertainment first, 24 exposed us to the inner workings and devoted extremist mindset of the maniacs who want nothing more than to see all us “infidels” perish.

24: Legacy is a spinoff of the original 24 series. Gone is Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer. Instead we have as the show’s lead Corey Hawkins, a fine young actor, playing Eric Carter, an Army Ranger working with CTU. 24: Legacy takes an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. While the characters have changed, virtually everything has remained the same – the timeframe, the split-screens, the digital clock countdown, terrorist attacks on the homeland, assassination plots, cyber attacks and supremely nasty weapons of mass destruction. I’ve only seen the first five episodes of this new show at this writing. And, if I’m to be completely objective, I have seen most of this before but, good Lord, how marvelously joyful and heart-thumpingly entertaining 24: Legacy truly is!

To me, 24 was nothing less than a masterful action thrill-ride made for the small screen. Although it’s not a “small” screen if you’re among the fortunates with a TV measuring 50 inches or better, since much of it plays like a fast-paced movie on steroids! Herein lies some of the formulaic ingredients which comprise all that is 24 and 24: Legacy: a plethora of high-octane energy; a fair share of techno-speak; a generous presentation of multi-dimensional characters; with variations, an inclusion of current affairs; a penchant for unpredictable plot advancement; and yes, an occasional, much welcome sense of humor.

24: Legacy has retained the “just in the nick of time” rescue technique, placing characters in perilous doomsday situations and suspensefully stretching them out to the very last nanosecond. The formula still works “big league!”

Alfred Hitchcock used to talk about those dreaded “plausibles” and one of the hallmarks of 24 was that it frequently pushed the limits of credibility. Below are some of the aspects or moments of the show that have stuck in my mind:

– In Season 8 of 24, Jack Bauer provides a one-man siege on the motorcade containing the President of the United States and his more than 25 Secret Service protectors. As Bauer (whose automatic assault weapon never runs out of ammo) trades unfriendly fire with the army of agents protecting the Prez, he easily outguns them, getting the upper-hand and kidnapping the President of the United States. And, lest I forget, I must not fail to mention that Jack Bauer also single-handedly kidnapped the very same President Logan in the Season 5 finale. (Did I just hear a thought-bubble: “Donald Trump”?)

– The time it takes for various characters to travel from one point to another (especially longer distances via air or ground) has always plagued the series given its “Events Occur in Real Time” constraints. For example, if a character needs to take an emergency flight from Washington, D.C. to Boston (which, at best, will take 90 minutes), they will go through TSA security and then somehow arrive in Boston 15 minutes after they left D.C. A blow for plausibility.

– In the Season 2 episode where evil mastermind Peter Kingsley (Tobin Bell) tries to kill Sherry Palmer, President David Palmer’s wife, Bauer saves her moments before he and Sherry come under fire. A CTU helicopter turns up and kills Kingsley, and in the interest of surprise and shock value, the program’s creators chose to render the helicopter’s sneaky approach mute and silent. Once the characters see the flying craft, its rotors and engines become instantly loud and audible on the soundtrack. This choice was so wrong! I live yards away and above the East 34th Street Heliport by FDR Drive. And let me tell you, helicopters are nothing if not ear-shatteringly loud!!!

So far on 24: Legacy, the plausibility-challenged moments that have stood out to me are:

– Former CTU director Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto) has a stun gun at the ready at the top of her open purse when she spontaneously decides to use the weapon on Keith Mullins (Teddy Sears), the new CTU director.

– When Amira Dubayev (Kathryn Prescott) kills Drew Phelps (Zayne Emory), she goes to his hospital room and injects a substance into his bloodstream, causing him to flatline. And then shows no urgency to escape. We know that whenever a patient flatlines, medics on any given hospital floor charge in like the cavalry! Not in this case. Amira takes her sweet time to exit the room onto a seemingly abandoned hospital corridor …

– When Eric is in pursuit of some terrorists, he gets body-slammed by a fast-moving car. He rolls over its hood, top and trunk, and crashes to the street beneath. He rises unimpaired, looks right, looks left, and the pursuit continues …

As of this writing I’ve only seen five episodes of 24: Legacy, but it seems to be off to a good start. The months to come will tell the tale. As a spin-off, 24: Legacy has its formidable predecessor by which to be measured. This may not seem quite fair, but given our consumer voraciousness in a world of sequels, remakes and franchises – dem bees da breaks!

An award-winning filmmaker who has worked for both Hollywood and in the indie world, Charles Lane has made feature films in several genres. His debut feature film, Sidewalk Stories won 13 International awards and has become a global darling, and is still playing in indie theaters throughout Europe. His leaning, it appears, has been in comedy. He is currently crowdfunding his latest project, the web series PleaseDateMeNow.com, on Kickstarter.