LOS ANGELES • The Fox network is going for remakes in a big way for its prime-time TV schedule, with plans for reboots of Lethal Weapon, Prison Break, The Exorcist and the thriller 24.
Lethal Weapon is a sequel of the 1980s film franchise and The Exorcist is based on the 1973 horror film. Fox is also remaking its own shows, with a limited return of Prison Break and a revamped 12-episode season of thriller 24, with a new cast.
Remakes usually materialise because dusting off old hits carries less risk than trying to introduce new ones.
But a few rare reboots do put storytelling concerns ahead of business needs, or at least beside them, and the reimagined 24, which Fox unveiled to advertisers last Monday, appears to be one of them. Built by the same team of producers who turned the original series into a cultural touchstone - in many ways, 24 ushered in the era of binge viewing - 24: Legacy will arrive early next year, with a debut after the Super Bowl.
"We understand the scepticism, but there was no corporate mandate here," said Howard Gordon, a returning executive producer. "If anything, it was the opposite. When we started discussing ideas a year and a half ago, the message was to be slow and careful, to only proceed if the creative team felt it had something that fans would love."
An early 24: Legacy video reveals a lavish action series that is both the same (the ticking clock, the split screens, the against-all-odds heroism) and new: Instead of following the secret agent Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, the new show focuses on a young, tormented army ranger who is being hunted by terrorists.
The new protagonist's name is Eric Carter. Corey Hawkins, a Juilliard- trained actor best known for his portrayal of Dr Dre in Straight Outta Compton (2015), plays the part.
"The fact that he is an African- American hero is not irrelevant," said producer Brian Grazer, who has helped shepherd the 24 franchise from its start. "As a series, 24 was prescient about what was going on in the culture. We want to do that again."
Gordon added: "Against the backdrop of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, here is a character who has fought for a country that has in some ways abandoned him. He's squaring a question for himself: Is this place even worth defending?"
The 24: Legacy team drew inspiration from Seal Team 6, best known for killing Osama bin Laden. In the new series, six army rangers, having successfully led a bin Laden-style raid overseas, are now living anonymously in witness protection. One by one, however, they are being located, tortured and killed by associates of the dead terrorist. As it turns out, one of the rangers took something home from the raid as a trophy. He does not know its meaning, but the terrorists do - and they need it back as they plan a new attack on the United States.
For a remake to work, said Peter Rice, chairman of the Fox Networks Group, "there has to be a narrative engine that is not purely character- based. The series was groundbreaking in its character storytelling, but it's also a propulsive thriller with constant cliffhangers".
24: Legacy also stars Miranda Otto - recently known for Homeland - as a former counter terrorism unit chief and married to a senator with presidential ambitions (Jimmy Smits), and is dragged back into her old job.
Sutherland, who will serve as an executive producer, may well appear as Jack Bauer as the series continues, at least in a cameo fashion. "Was I not supposed to reveal that?" Grazer said in an interview. "Oh, well. I just did."
The first 24 ran from 2001 to 2010, with a miniseries, Live Another Day, unspooling in 2014. Fox knows that bringing back 24 without Sutherland in the central role is risky. It is a bit like making a Bourne movie without Jason Bourne, as Universal Pictures did in 2012 with The Bourne Legacy. When the network announced last January that it was working on 24: Legacy, some fans snarled.
"24 without Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer is like vodka without alcohol in it. NO THANK YOU," comedian Sarah Colonna wrote on Twitter.
Complicating matters, Sutherland will return to television in a new thriller on a rival network. He will play the lead in ABC's Designated Survivor, about a low-level Cabinet member who becomes president after a catastrophic attack on the Capitol.
Ms Dana Walden, a Fox Television Group chairman and chief executive, thinks that the ideas behind 24: Legacy and their execution will win over reluctant fans.
Still, she said: "The original 24 didn't have the burden of facing up to something that was already established and beloved," she said. "That just meant we had to work harder."
NEW YORK TIMES