Almost fittingly debuting not long after 9/11 - considering the often terrorism-based subject matter - 24 was one of FOX's biggest hits of the 2000s, sitting near the top of the ratings charts for the majority of its eight season run. Unfortunately, the 2014 revival season 24: Live Another Day proved to not be the smash success FOX was hoping for, and the franchise was seemingly once again retired. That was until this year's announcement of spinoff 24: Legacy, a 12-episode series set in the 24 universe and retaining its signature "real time" concept.
24: Legacy stars Straight Outta Compton's Corey Hawkins as war hero Eric Carter, who is forced to seek the CTU's help in stopping a terrorist attack on the homeland. The spinoff has up until now been promoted as a clean break from the established characters and storylines of the original show, although statements made by franchise executive producer (and co-creator) Howard Gordon during a recent appearance at the ATX TV Festival have now cast doubt on whether that will still be the case.
As Deadline reported, when asked about the possibility of Keifer Sutherland's Jack Bauer making a return to 24 during Legacy, Gordon gave the following answer:
"I do think the character has life in him, whether it’s a movie or if he intersects with this new iteration of 24. I sure would love to see him at some point on the show, and I don’t think he’s ruled it out, either."
For his part, Sutherland also serves as an executive producer on 24: Legacy, although he's not currently under an on-camera contract, and just how involved he actually is with the show's creative process is unknown. The actor's next big TV gig comes this fall, as the leading man of high-profile new ABC drama Designated Survivor, in which a low-ranking member of the administration suddenly becomes U.S. President after a terrorist attack takes out everyone above him on the government totem pole in one fell swoop. Unlike trained operative Jack Bauer though, Tom Kirkman (Sutherland) is a fairly normal guy forced into heroism by circumstances beyond his control.
Of course, even if Sutherland did end up coming back to the franchise he'll seemingly forever be tied to, one wonders how Gordon and the 24: Legacy writing staff will solve Jack Bauer's dangling story threads from the end of Live Another Day.
As fans will recall, Bauer ended that season by surrendering himself to the Russians in exchange for the safety of those he loves, and was presumably set to either endure years of off-screen torture back in Moscow or - as some have speculated - go down fighting on the way there. According to Gordon though, "we didn’t question or consider this being Jack’s last moment, Jack’s end. We couldn’t bring ourselves [to kill him]." So, if Bauer is indeed in the cards for 24: Legacy, it seems likely he escaped Russian custody somehow during the last two years.
With the fan reaction to the idea of 24 continuing on without Jack Bauer having been decidedly mixed, one wonders whether Gordon's backtracking on his previous insistence that Legacy would move on from the iconic character is motivated by a desire to reassure diehards that if they tune in they might get to see Jack after all. Unfortunately, with a young, still up-and-coming actor playing Legacy's new lead, producers run the risk of bringing back Sutherland, only to see the veteran overshadow his replacement. The last thing FOX wants viewers to be thinking during episodes of 24: Legacy is, "this show would be so much better if this Carter guy went away and Jack Bauer was on every week."
24: Legacy premieres on Sunday, February 5th, 2017, right after Super Bowl LI.