The future of the Corey Hawkins-led Fox drama remains on the bubble after last night’s season finale episode, which drew a matching season low of 3.3 million total viewers and a 0.8 rating.
Leading up to the series’ premiere after this year’s Super Bowl game, a key concern that fans of the original “24” series (which starred Kiefer Sutherland and ran for 9 seasons) had about its spin-off, “24: Legacy” (which features a new face in the lead, played by Corey Hawkins), was whether they would still appreciate the action-drama without their beloved Jack Bauer (Sutherland) running the show. And as we pointed out on this blog about mid-way through the season, the answer was decidedly in the negative; the overhaul of the real-time thriller without its original lead Jack Bauer wasn’t quite the success that Fox hoped it would be.
Using viewership numbers for “24: Legacy” since it premiered, it’s very clear that audiences continued to lose interest in it from week to week, which was unfortunate for all those involved in its production, both in front of and behind the camera.
Its post-Super Bowl premiere drew a strong 17.5 million viewers, holding onto some of the eyeballs that stuck around after the big game to check out the series’ first episode. That number wasn’t expected to hold over successive episodes; unless it had a major lead-in like the Super Bowl every week, which it didn’t. Following its second episode, it lost up to 1 million viewers for every episode that followed; episode 2 drew 6.2 million viewers; episode 3 drew 5.1 million viewers; 4.4 million tuned in for episode 4; and 3.9 watched episode 5, and so on, finally bottoming out around 3.2 million live viewers for episode 10. These are all live numbers, so one can make the argument that there are those who watched the series after it aired, via DVR, Hulu, etc. But the live numbers are ultimately what still count when it comes to ad revenue, and even if you consider that there are some who didn’t watch the series live, they still wouldn’t make up for the sharp slippage that its live viewership saw every week since its premiere.
In short, it didn’t deliver, and Fox TV chiefs knew this rather quickly, and previously expressed concerned.
“I’m a little sad because I feel like it’s a really good show,” Fox TV CEO Dana Walden told Deadline on March 7, 2017. “It’s not terrible [but] we had really high hopes for the show… I’m feeling mixed. I feel very proud of the show and extremely grateful to the creators and the great actors who have done a really wonderful job… I would love nothing more than to bring it back because I thought it was great… But we’re just going to have to see how our pilots come in, how it continues to perform and weigh all of the information we have in May.”
None of that sounded very encouraging at the time if you were a fan of the series, or you were employed because of it. The consensus was that, with 6 episodes left to go of its 12-episode season, unless its viewership suddenly saw a significant uptick, it was probably unlikely that the series would be renewed for another season. Some even considered the possibility that Fox would yank it from its schedule before the season ended. That thankfully didn’t happen.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter today, series creator Manny Coto was asked about the likelihood of a renewal. His response: “I’m sure Fox would have wanted the ratings to be higher, but the fan reactions have been greatly gratifying. My guess is it’s a decision that will come some time in May [when all the bubble shows are evaluated], in concert with Fox’s decisions on their overall programming for next season. But I’m hopeful! I think the show is really good and I think Fox loves the show, so we’ll see.”
Coto already has ideas for a second season, stating that the team knows exactly where they want to take the show should it be renewed: “I could say pretty confidently that it would probably be Eric as a CTU agent, and my guess is it would be in a place that’s not necessarily the U.S. As a young agent, he’s stuck somewhere. He’s not getting the choicest assignments. It might be fun [to focus on] someone in some backwater CTU station who ends up stumbling on a larger plot that could bring down the country. My feeling for next season would be something where the country is at stake in a large way. It involves Jimmy Smits and the country and his presidency. It would hopefully go big, and be more along the lines of ‘Live Another Day,’ and be larger than life and still explore relationships, like Eric and his wife. Are they still together? Are they not? ”
Obviously it means Corey Hawkins would return to star; unless he’s replaced, which I doubt, but anything is possible. He hasn’t quite been a fan favorite as die-hard 24 fanboys and girls long to have Jack Bauer back; but Jack’s starring in another series (ABC’s “Designated Survivor”), which has been a strong performer, so I doubt Kiefer Sutherland will jump ship. Why would he? As I said early in the season of “24: Legacy,” a question that first should’ve been answered definitively is whether there was enough audience interest in a “24” reboot/spin-off to begin with, or whether the 9-season original series had run its course with Sutherland, and shouldn’t have been revisited at all. The last season with Sutherland, which was a limited series titled “24: Live Another Day” (2014) wasn’t as big a hit as the previous seasons of “24” (although reasons can be debated), drawing 5 to 6 million live viewers compared to the 9 to 12 million the season before it. Much has obviously changed in the last 5 years in terms of how we watch television, so some of the drop-off can be explained by that evolution. But a strong argument could be made that no matter who the series lead was (everything else – the writing, supporting cast, etc – exactly the same), audience interest may not have really been there as it was for Jack Bauer.
Fox also thought a reboot of “The X-Files” was a good idea, but critics and fans thought otherwise; and despite a strong start, it continued and went away rather unenthusiastically, ending with less than half the viewership it started with, and declining critical reviews over the course of the season. And the stars of the original series returned, so it wasn’t a case of a rebooted “X-Files” with new leads, as is the case with “24: Legacy.”
So now all fans can do is wait with fingers and toes crossed. We should know whether it’s returning within the next month.