Four things become clear in the opening seconds of 24 (and when you're talking "real time," every second counts).

One: Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has become very bitter and dangerous.

Two: His wife really is dead.

Three: This show is so good it should be "48" so we get at least another day out of it.

Four: Julia Roberts is insane (but I'll get to that later, if I remember.)

Poor Jack. A whole year has passed since the traumatic offing of his poor wife Teri (Leslie Hope). It is also very clear that it has been a very bad, very slow 8,760 hours for him.

For one thing, he hates everyone he used to work with, operative words here being "used to." He's given up the work (he formerly headed up the L.A. branch of the Counter Terrorist Unit) and now mostly sits around contemplating how not to live another day.

For another, the past year has taken its toll on his beloved daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), as well. She's grown up, and grown apart from her dad. In fact, she's working as a nanny and refuses to even talk to him. She is still devastated by her mom's horrible death and can't get past it -- and can't get past blaming her dad.

Knowing in his heart that his life really does stink up the joint, and wondering why the hell he ruined his family for his country when his country clearly goes on fine without him, Jack gets a call from now President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert).

Last season Bauer basically gave it all up to save Palmer's life, and now Palmer has the nerve to call him up again, begging him to come back. If he doesn't come back, there might not be any coming back again -- for anyone. Ever again.

Sorry, I really can't be anymore specific than that.

But you'll be happy to know that your old faves like Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) and George Mason (Xander Berkeley) are back again this season -- and the clock is ticking again!

If it's possible, the show is even better this year than last. The acting is 100 percent, the writing is terrific, and the action is paced (if more brutal than you might expect).

Look, this isn't just a stupid spy show, it's a tremendous psychological thriller. Best of all, tonight's season premier will be presented without commercials!

Oh, right. So, why is Julia Roberts insane? Because in real-life she played a runaway bride days before her wedding to Kiefer Sutherland, leaving him almost at the altar. I mean, have you had a look at this guy lately?

And she was so nuts, that instead of marrying him she went on to a series of high profile, dead-end affairs, until marrying Lyle Lovett, dumping him, having more dead-end affairs, and then marrying a cameraman she stole from his hard working wife.

Now, who would you rather be married to? Jack Bauer, a singing cowboy, or somebody else's husband? Tell me I'm wrong here.