By Frazier Moore
AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — It’s no secret that TV has a habit of recycling past hits. (“Fuller House”?! Really?!)
This has always been the case with television. And now, among the nearly 500 scripted series overwhelming the viewer, TV reboots aren’t going away. (More “Fuller House”?! Ah, c’mon!)
A natural response to this TV echo chamber is to treat each rehashed series as another sign of creative bankruptcy. (Item: “Fuller House.”)
But not always.
Fox is clocking in with “24: Legacy,” which premieres Sunday at 10:30 p.m. EST right after the Super Bowl, followed by a second hour in the series’ regular slot Monday at 8 p.m. EST. Surprise! “24: Legacy” is a blast! Judging from the first three episodes, it’s at least as good as the series that inspired it.
The original “24,” which premiered in the fall of 2001 with Kiefer Sutherland as its star, tracked counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer through eight seasons of 24 hour-long episodes that spanned a full day in real-time storytelling as he literally saved the day while sloughing off physical abuse that would’ve put Superman in intensive care.
Now it’s Sgt. Eric Carter who’s having a horrible, no good, very bad day. Or actually, HALF-day: This “24” spans a dozen episodes stretching 12 continuous hours.
Played by Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton”), Carter is the new indefatigable hero. He’s joined by an all-new group of characters including Rebecca Ingram (played by Miranda Otto), a brilliant intelligence officer who has just stepped down from her post as National Director of the Counter-Terrorism Unit to devote her full energies to the presidential campaign of her husband, Sen. John Donovan (the always-solid Jimmy Smits), whose longtime campaign director may or may not threaten his candidacy — and the nation.
The trouble started six months ago in Yemen, where Carter led an elite squad of U.S. Army Rangers to kill terrorist leader Sheik Bin-Khalid. After that, Bin-Khalid’s followers struck back with a fatwah against Carter, his squad and their families, which forced them all into federal witness protection. But in the premiere (covering noon-1 p.m.), Carter, living with his wife in peaceful, boring secrecy, learns to his horror that his team’s new whereabouts have all been compromised. Payback against them and multiple attacks against the U.S. are in the works.
Bottom line: Between now and the stroke of midnight, Carter’s got his work cut out for him.
It may be hard to recall, but “24” was an enormously innovative and ambitious series when it launched. There’s a real ship-in-a-bottle challenge to crafting a complex, action-packed thriller sufficiently contained in time and space that it can unfold coherently, minute-by-ticking-minute, while it keeps its leading man in the center of the fray.
By the time Jack Bauer wheezed through one final 12-hour round of derring-do in 2014, it would have been reasonable to conclude that this once-groundbreaking format had, like Bauer, run its course — and also reasonable to think that Jack Bauer was essential to the “24” franchise.
Wrong on both counts. The sturdy format of “24” proves here to be surprisingly resilient. Replenished with new faces, the original formula is back not just intact but in full force.
The digital minute-and-hour readout with the pounding beat? Check.
Lots of violence, lots of high-tech wizardry? Check.
Lots of racing down city streets while talking on a cellphone (isn’t that illegal?).
And lots of trust issues! Part of the fun of “24” has always been the presto-chango identities of certain key characters, with good guys abruptly unmasked as arch-villains, and vice versa. From moment to moment, you can’t be sure of anything.
“Right now, I’m the only one I can trust,” Carter wails to his wife. You feel his pain.
This “24” also seems to stay true to its inherent absurdity. If memory serves, never in the Sutherland era did Jack Bauer ever have the chance to catch a few winks, wolf down a PowerBar or take a bathroom break. In the first hours of his own crisis du jour, Sgt. Carter is in the same frantic rush. He’s got zero “me time.”
But such real-life concerns don’t matter this go-around any more than they ever did. In the highly capable hands of Hawkins-as-Carter and his fellow cast of characters, “24: Legacy” outpaces pesky reason. It’s a fresh burst of adrenaline, a breathless whiz-bang romp that guarantees you’ll be on high alert until the clock strikes 12.