Happiness is a Warm TV

‘24’ is back on TV after the Super Bowl. And that’s good and bad

The cast of ‘24: Legacy,’ from left, Ashley Thomas, Sheila Vand, Dan Bucatinsky, Miranda Otto, Jimmy Smits, Corey Hawkins, Charlie Hofheimer, Anna Diop, Teddy Sears and Coral Pena. It premieres Sunday after the Super Bowl on Fox.
The cast of ‘24: Legacy,’ from left, Ashley Thomas, Sheila Vand, Dan Bucatinsky, Miranda Otto, Jimmy Smits, Corey Hawkins, Charlie Hofheimer, Anna Diop, Teddy Sears and Coral Pena. It premieres Sunday after the Super Bowl on Fox. FOX

Start the clock – again.

“24” – the venerable show in which Jack Bauer repeatedly saved the world, one day at a time – is back. The reboot, called “24: Legacy,” premieres in the coveted post-Super Bowl spot Sunday night on Fox. (Probably sometime in the 10 to 11 p.m. hour.)

Jack isn’t back, of course. Original star Keifer Sutherland has been promoted to president over on ABC’s “Designated Survivor.” In fact, Bauer isn’t even mentioned on “24: Legacy.” Instead, we get a whole new story and characters centered around Eric Carter, a former Army Ranger in hiding who is being hunted by the Middle Eastern terrorists that he and his team famously raided a few months earlier.

The casting of Corey Hawkins (of “Straight Outta Compton” fame) as Carter is one of the things the new “24” gets right. Truth be told, producers had exhausted every story possible with Bauer – and then some. So, it’s good to start fresh, and there are several plot threads with the Carter character that leave you intrigued: his possible PTSD from his time in the Rangers; his odd back story with a fellow vet (played by Charlie Hofheimer), who is likely mentally ill; and Carter’s strained relationship with his wife, Nicole (Anna Diop).

Then there’s Carter’s brother, Isaac (Ashley Thomas, who you’ll recognize from HBO’s “The Night Of”). He’s apparently some kind of Washington D.C. crime lord – and he once dated Nicole before brother Eric stole her away. Tell us more ...

The real-time format, which occasionally creates tension, is often just silly. (Yes, characters still can drive from one spot in D.C. to another in about 5 minutes with no traffic or stoplights.)

There also are the slick action sequences and moments of suspense we’ve come to expect from “24,” along with a couple of other narratives worth keeping an eye on – secretive senator and presidential hopeful John Donovan (Jimmy Smits of “NYPD Blue” and “L.A. Law”) and high school student Nilaa (Sheila Vand), who may be a Chechen terrorist plotting mayhem with a teacher.

Beloved character actor Gerald McRaney (so great on “This Is Us”) will join the cast later. And he makes everything he’s in better.

So what’s not to like? The same things that always drove you crazy about “24” before. The real-time format, which occasionally creates tension, is often just silly. (Yes, characters still can drive from one spot in D.C. to another in about 5 minutes with no traffic or stoplights.)

There’s also no levity. Sure, these people are saving us all from the bad guys, but could we get just a little humor? A wink at the audience every now and then that the producers know this is all ridiculous?

And then there’s the beleaguered Counter Terrorist Unit office. In all these years, CTU hasn’t figured out how to keep out moles, double agents and former CTU leaders (in this case, Miranda Otto’s Rebecca Ingram) coming back and secretly working directly against the orders of current CTU leaders (Teddy Sears, here, as new head Keith Mullins). It’s predictable and, worse, boring. Please, leave CTU and this high-tech gadgetry and get back to one of the other plots. (And if you can, save actor Dan Bucatinsky, late of “Scandal.” He’s wasted here as a lower-level CTU lackey.)

Watching “24: Legacy,” you can’t help wondering whether it has been surpassed by so much better stuff in this era of peak TV. The aforementioned “Scandal” does over-the-top political skullduggery better than “24” ever did. “Homeland” offers a terrorist thrill ride with a flawed hero that is more compelling. And “Game of Thrones” is much more advanced at crafting the kind of surprises (and major character deaths) that set social media on fire.

“24” has returned. But really, has its ... um ... time passed?

After Sunday night’s premiere, “24: Legacy” moves to its regular spot at 8 p.m. Monday on Fox.

Thad Ogburn: 919-829-8987, @thadogburn

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