Jun 2, 2015

24 to Continue With Younger Lead?

Last year's limited series revival, 24: Live Another Day, was a creative and commercial success. Since then 24 fans have been hoping for another 12-hour limited series event. Sadly we're not getting one this summer. But the beauty of the limited series format as opposed to an ongoing TV series is that there doesn't have to be a season every year. Fox can produce them as the cast and crew are available. The rarer they are, in fact, the more of an "event" they become. A schedule like that also helps keep the series from getting stale. Especially if each season is set in a different city around the world, as Live Another Day took place in London. In my opinion, the 12-hour length served the real-time series so much better than a full 24-episode season, or 24-hour day. Many a season of the original series got bogged down halfway through only to rebound in the end. Live Another Day simply cut out that sagging middle, and gave us twelve propulsive, action-packed hours. So personally I've been hoping that we see Jack Bauer return again in a couple of years for a 12-episode (or even fewer) limited series set in Moscow or someplace. But, sadly, it doesn't look like Jack will necessarily be part of the equation in the next 24 event series. When Keifer Sutherland first indicated that he wasn't ready to commit again to any sort of regular TV schedule, we heard rumblings starting in January that Fox might be looking for ways to continue the show without him. Now it appears that they've found one.

Series producer Howard Gordon (Homeland) has confirmed to TV Line (via Dark Horizons) that the current plan involves Jack Bauer passing the torch to "a new, twenty-something male terrorist hunter." According to the site, "While there are no current plans for Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack to appear, it’s entirely possible his iconic character could pop in and out on a guest-star basis. The project would find the new male antihero working alongside an older, more seasoned female agent (not Yvonne Strahovski’s Kate Morgan [from Live Another Day], although she also may also appear)." The spinoff would begin as a limited series in the vein of Live Another Day, but should it prove successful might turn into an ongoing drama.

Hm. I have mixed reactions to this news. While I do think the 24 format could easily focus on new agents and new threats, a lot will depend on how those agents are written and the actors who play them. Because for me, the main appeal of 24 as a series is not its patented real-time format. (By its final seasons on the regular Fox schedule, that format felt like it had become more of a hindrance to the writers than an asset.) It's the character of Jack Bauer, one of the best TV spies of all time. Specifically, it's Keifer Sutherland in that role. Personally, I would be far more likely to follow Jack Bauer into a different format (like a feature film, as was in the works for several years before being scrapped in favor of the miniseries) than watch a new agent chained to the same real-time format. But as long as they stick with shorter seasons and don't try to fill in every hour of a whole day, I think the format can survive. I just think Sutherland's shoes are awfully big ones for someone to have to fill.

If a new CTU agent does take over, however, I hope we see some of Jack's support staff return—particularly Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub, who appeared in Live Another Day) and Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard, who turned up in a short that appeared on the Live Another Day DVD). I'd also like to see Chuck star Strahovski's CIA agent Kate Morgan return, and I'm kind of disappointed that they aren't considering her as a potential lead for this 24 spinoff series. But I like the series, and I really liked Live Another Day, so I'm sure I'll end up tuning in for whatever they come up with. And a limited series with another star doesn't man Jack won't still return down the line, when Sutherland's good and ready. It would be kind of cool if we end up with a new agent leading an ongoing 24 TV series with occasional appearances from Jack Bauer, and a simultaneous, James Bond-like series of theatrical features (ideally not beholden to the real-time gimmick) starring Sutherland as Bauer!

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