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'24: Legacy' brings fresh faces to old formula

'24: Legacy' brings fresh faces to old formula
Corey Hawkins is an ex-Army Ranger fighting terrorists on American soil in the Fox series "24: Legacy." (Ray Mickshaw / Fox)

Since nearly everything that happens after the first few minutes of Fox's "24: Legacy" amounts to a spoiler, even the red herrings and blind alleys — it doesn't ease you in slow — this review will be short on plot.

People go this way. They go that way; no, they can't go that way, so they go the other way. They get trapped, get free. Run! Shoot! Type!

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If you have seen the original "24" with Kiefer Sutherland as hang-tough counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer, you likely already have a good idea whether you'll like "Legacy," which is very much its child in form and content. Suspenseful even when it's silly (when it's trying to be serious), the series premieres Sunday after the Super Bowl, when viewers are conveniently pumped up and adrenalized and ready to go. (I assume this happens — I don't know.) Monday it takes up its regular time slot.

Possibly, you will like it more than you liked "24" after eight seasons of the same dude saving America from catastrophic cataclysm in a day, in similar ways, from similar people with similar secrets and agendas.

I should admit that I got off this Jack Bauer train relatively early in its run, less because of the similarity than with its love affair with torture — "24: Legacy" throws in just a dab right at the top, like a bloody amuse-bouche — and its obsession with terrorism. (Which, call me un-American, I find dramatically tedious.) That's not a comment on the show's execution, necessarily, and certainly not on its popularity; "24" got along without me very well.

The "real time" aspect of the original series – 24 episodes each representing an hour in a single day – was ingenious fun. (In practice, of course, it was a 24-hour story over half a year, not such real time after all.) Like the 2014 iteration "24: Live Another Day," a reunion series that brought the show and Sutherland back after four years away, "24: Legacy" will cover that ground in just 12 episodes, supposedly by jumping ahead in between episodes. Perhaps the characters will all just clock out at midnight and get a good night's sleep before getting up to destroy or preserve the United States.

Miranda Otto plays the retiring head of an intelligence agency and Dan Bucatinsky her computer friendly associate in Fox's "24: Legacy."
Miranda Otto plays the retiring head of an intelligence agency and Dan Bucatinsky her computer friendly associate in Fox's "24: Legacy." (Tina Rowden / Fox)

While maintaining signature formal elements — split-screen effects, a digital clock that counts the time at the beginning and end of each commercial break, the back and forth between the field and the command center — and its air of clenched-jaw action, the new show begins mostly from scratch.

Corey Hawkins ("Straight Outta Compton") plays former Army Ranger Sgt. Eric Carter, living incognito near Washington, D.C., after assassinating a major terrorist in Yemen. (The premise was reportedly inspired by real-life troops who killed Osama Bin Laden and then went into witness protection.)

Now his cover is blown; as the series opens, most of Carter's old squad has already been murdered — all but Ben Grimes (Charlie Hofheimer), a homeless junkie who manages to warn Carter that danger is imminent.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Donovan (Jimmy Smits) is running for president; wife Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto) is the former head of the show's own fictional intelligence agency, the Counter Terrorism Unit, retiring to help in her husband's campaign. She is also the person who guided Carter in that assassination in Yemen we were talking about a couple paragraphs ago. Keep up!

Also involved, among others, are Eric's wife (Anna Diop); a high school girl from Chechnya (Kathryn Prescott) and her ex-boyfriend (Drew Phelps); a struggling drug lord (Ashley Thomas) who is also Eric's older brother; dueling computer jockeys (Dan Bucatinsky, Coral Peña); Rebecca's new-broom replacement (Teddy Sears); Donovan's dad (Gerald McRaney) and his Muslim campaign manager (Sheila Vand). As in the mother series, nobody is who they seem, unless they are, and there is some care taken to make sure to show that evil is an equal opportunity employer — otherwise these stories can look racist pretty fast.

The original "24" debuted just after 9/11. (It was in production well before.) Its heir also arrives at a brutal, delicate international moment, with Donald Trump's own first counter-terrorism operation — also in Yemen, coincidentally — still lingering uncomfortably in the air, and the country divided over a travel ban that isn't about Muslims but also isn't about anyone who isn't. I suppose some viewers will take "24: Legacy" virtually as a documentary, a catalog of real dangers, a pill to boost their paranoia. Others will see it as pulp with a topical gloss ("There may be an attack, baby – I need to do this … because right now I'm the only one I can trust"). And they will be right.

'24: Legacy'

Where: Fox

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language and violence)

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Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd

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