Just when Jack Bauer thinks he's out, they pull him back in. The two-night, four-hour premiere of the eighth season of 24 begins with retired Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) attempting to lead a normal life with his daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) and granddaughter in New York. But their plans are quickly thrown by the wayside when a former informant shows up.

Just when Jack Bauer thinks he's out, they pull him back in.

The two-night, four-hour premiere of the eighth season of 24 begins with retired Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) attempting to lead a normal life with his daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) and granddaughter in New York. But their plans are quickly thrown by the wayside when a former informant shows up.

He's been shot and has inside intelligence about an assassination plot on Middle Eastern leader Omar Hassan, who's negotiating a monumental peace agreement with President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones).

These crises are nothing new to 24, where America is constantly minutes away from midnight on the Doomsday Clock. It's the same formula every season - bad guys want to blow up America and a government insider is pulling the strings.

Even actors new to the series play archetypes - a dreadful Freddie Prinze Jr. is Bauer's replacement in the Counter Terrorism Unit, and Mykelti Williamson plays his clueless director.

The unexpected comes only in bizarre twists and haphazard carnage - never predicted I'd see a fire axe visibly protruding from someone's chest on prime-time.

In spite of its cookie-cutter setup, 24 must do something right to garner such avid fandom. Indeed, Sutherland has got the terrorist-eradicating badass down pat, and the action sequences are second to none among network shows.

Plus, rumors that dastardly Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) will return later in the season to battle wits with Jones' Emmy-winning President Taylor are (hooray!) true.