When 24 Original Flavor™ premiered back in November 2001, its format was utterly revolutionary. An entire season of television playing out in real time had never been attempted before, and it necessitated a full 24-episode season, two more than the network standard 22. But how many episodes is 24: Legacy? While fans might assume they're in for another sprint through an entire day's worth of terrorist plots and government conspiracies and moles and traitors and shoot-outs… well, those fans would sadly be mistaken. 24: Legacy will only be 12 episodes long, cutting the action that longtime viewers are used to in half.
"Why even call it 24, then?" some people are probably wondering. "Isn't that false advertising?" Well, yes and no. Although the shortened season is likely to catch some viewers by surprise, it's not like FOX is ditching everything about the show's unique format. The real-time element will still be in place, with the familiar ticking clock amping up our anxiety with the relentlessness of a timer on a nuclear warhead about to detonate in downtown Los Angeles.
And it's not like this is the first time that 24 fans are faced with a version of the show containing fewer than the titular number of hours. Back in 2008, viewers were treated to 24: Redemption, a two-hour TV movie that helped bridge the 19-month gap between Seasons 6 and 7 left by the 2007-'08 Hollywood writers strike. Despite Redemption's brief running time, the majority of the action (following a brief prologue) still occurred in real time.
24 reverted back to its full 24-episode format for Seasons 7 and 8 before signing off the air in May of 2010. But when the show returned to TV four years later for the limited series event 24: Live Another Day, it was once again to a briefer running time — 12 episodes, just like the upcoming Legacy. Like Redemption, this shortened version of 24 still played out in real time, with one exception: the final episode had a coda that took place after a 12-hour time jump, allowing the half-season to still technically encapsulate a full 24 hours… even though we'd skipped half of them.
It's possible that Legacy will do something similar, flashing forward past 12 hours at some point in order to fit a whole day's worth of action into one 12-episode season. However they handle the structure, the team behind Legacy seems to have it all planned very carefully. Creator Evan Katz revealed to RottenTomatoes that they mapped out the season so that it would end in the nighttime hours, teasing that the darkness would somehow be "integral to the final hours of the story."
Although some fans may be bummed that we're not getting a full 24-episode season like we used to in the franchise's heyday, we should probably just thank our lucky stars that we're getting any more 24 at all. At this point, the show has returned from apparent death not just once but twice. It turns out that 24 itself is just as resilient as its hero, Jack Bauer.