Wednesday, October 11, 2017

24 Legacy

I'm fairly late to the party, but I finally got around to watching the 'new' series of "24" over the weekend. It was interesting, but very flawed.

The big problem, I think, is that "24" basically became its own genre of TV. By which I mean that there are a number of things that have to be in a series of "24", without which the viewer would feel cheated, and the plot largely exists to move the story from one of these things to the next. So, there has to be a mole somewhere in CTU, there has to be at least one section where the main character goes off-book, there have to be political shenanigans. And so on and so forth.

What that means is that "24 Legacy" was pretty much just "24 by numbers" - do the one thing, then the next thing, then the next, and we're done. Add to that the pressure of having to introduce an all-new cast of characters and a reduction from 24 episodes to 12, and you've got problems.

But it's probably also worth noting that what made "24" so compelling, especially in the early years, was that it gave us something genuinely new, at least in TV terms - it was the show that would go to places that other shows just wouldn't. As the series progressed, and it became more and more self-referential, it also lost that edge. And a remake that does "24 by numbers" lacks the edge and, I'm almost shocked to say, becomes actually quite boring in places - you know that this has happened and we're at that part of the story, so what happens next must be...

Anyway, if you're a fan of "24" and liked "Live Another Day", you'll probably like "24 Legacy". If you're a fan of "24" who didn't like "Live Another Day", you probably won't. If you didn't like "24", you probably won't like this. And if you haven't seen "24" but like action series, you probably would like this... but would be better seeking out the original instead.

Given that "24 Legacy" has been cancelled, of course, much of this is moot. But since they're apparently working on a new form for the show, some further thoughts:

  • I don't agree with the argument that "24" needs Jack Bauer. Jack was a great character, but other great characters are possible, and there's no reason the format needs him.
  • However, "24" does need two core elements in order to work: it absolutely must keep the real-time aspect (and, for goodness sake, don't cheat - if it takes 20 minutes to drive from A to B in the real world, it should take 20 minutes in the show, no matter how inconvenient that is); it is absolutely must have the full 24 episodes. If you can't commit to both of those, don't bother.
  • If you're doing a reboot, do a reboot. Name-checking Edgar and having Tony re-appear was quite cool, but it also meant that "24 Legacy" was inviting comparison with a vastly-superior original.
  • When constructing any new series, the first thing to do is throw away the playbook. As I noted above, the great joy of "24" was that it showed us something we hadn't seen before, so do that... and that means showing us things that "24" hasn't shown us before as well. So subvert those expectations.
  • Everyone should be expendable. And by 'everyone', I mean everyone. By series six or so of the old show, Jack and Chloe had achieved plot immunity, which meant that the peril they faced in the course of their adventures was inherently lessened. The moment that happens, and a character's life becomes safe, that character absolutely must be killed off. Then deal with the fallout.

That's what I think, anyway.

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