Can ‘24’ Spinoff Work Without Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer?

Fox’s hit show 24 is as American as it gets. While the series may have been conceived in 2000 or early 2001, it was definitely born in a post-9/11 world. In the wake of the tragic event, 24 was the kind of show America wanted. A show that addressed the paranoia Americans were feeling—the paranoia that the next big terrorist attack was just around the corner. 24 was the perfect kind of flag-waving panacea the country needed in one of its most difficult times. What’s more, 24 was also one of the first modern shows to break the typical episodic mold and break into the world of serialized television, which has become all the rage these days with shows like Game of Thrones, Daredevil, True Detective, and House of Cards.

After concluding its eighth season, 24 went off the air for a couple years, only to return last year with 24: Live Another Day. Now, according to TVLine, Fox is developing a 24 spinoff that would bag the tried-and-true Jack Bauer as the lead in favor of a new twenty-something “terrorist hunter.” This news apparently comes via one of 24’s executive producers, Howard Gordon. It’s important to re-emphasize that although this will be a spinoff with its own name, it’ll retain the real-time gimmick established by 24 back in 2001.

24 is a series that has faced a history of ups and downs, but through it all, it’s survived through the sheer enthusiasm of its leading man, Kiefer Sutherland. In each of its over-the-top scenarios, Sutherland could have easily phoned in his performance on several occasions. But despite the occasional lapses in logic the series had, the seasoned actor has always brought his A-game to the franchise, creating perhaps one of the more nuanced and interesting characters in television history. So iconic is Jack Bauer, that he’s managed to rank up there with the likes of Jason Bourne and James Bond (apparently the initials J.B. are a big deal in the agent world).

With all that in mind, does the new 24 spinoff series stand a chance of surviving without its trademark lead? It’s a tall order, for sure, and replacing a lead is nothing new in the world of franchises. The Bourne series tried the same thing with The Bourne Legacy, focusing instead on Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross, rather than its namesake, Jason Bourne. The result was a film that grossed about half of what The Bourne Ultimatum made. Not a complete flop, but not a total success by any stretch of the imagination.

What’s clear among all this is that without Jack Bauer to reel fans in, the glaring flaws in the series could become more apparent than ever. Without the love of the character to keep fans locked in place, love for the show may evaporate altogether. The seas are always changing in the world of television, and if there’s a series that needs change more than anything, it’s 24. Perhaps a new lead will give the filmmakers the opportunity to bring a much-needed overhaul to the long-running franchise. At least that’d be the hope. Sure, the new series’s success hinges on who they choose as the new lead, but at the end of the day, it’ll be equally as important that the creators inject a whole new feel to the franchise, because as much as we love 24, it remains quite the time capsule of its era.

So can a new 24 spinoff work without Jack Bauer at the forefront? It can, but not unless creators are willing to make a series that is more in-line with modern sensibilities.