Kiefer Sutherland, <I>24</i> Kiefer Sutherland, 24

"Don't expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because, sir, the truth is I don't."

So growls former CTU agent Jack Bauer to a Senate committee, as he is asked to defend the "extreme" measures he has gone to in the name of saving the United States (if not in some cases the free world) from peril a half-dozen times over some 12 on-screen years.

At the time that preview scene first made the rounds — well over a year ago, before 24's seventh season got sidelined by the WGA strike — the big question concerned the reveal that the "late" Tony Almeida was the new baddie. But with the Fox series having been off the air since May 2007, the larger issue now is: Will Season 7 be worth the wait?

Is Jack's next very bad day better than his previous one? Can 24 bounce back from its widely dissed Season 6?

With CTU now disbanded, Jack "on trial" for his sins and Tony back in the mix, the new season starts off with much promise. Almost immediately, Jack is yanked away from his showdown with the Senate to consult on a terror threat spearheaded by his former colleague. The FBI wants Jack's help in tracking down Almeida, but only if Bauer can dial down his hardcore approach to "interviewing" suspects.

Right there, you have the foundation for an interesting twist on the 24 formula — Jack as a "hands-off" superspy. Too soon, however, Jack's new "partner," FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), reluctantly agrees to look away as he employs a pen in procuring crucial intel from a goon.

Similarly, the "absence" of CTU is barely felt, since the FBI's crack team of analysts and socket monkeys is at Bauer's disposal. Wersching makes for a credible Fed, while Jeffrey Nordling plays her by-the-book superior. (Nordling thus also fills the roles of Guy Who Will Be Wrong Every Step of the Way and Suspected Terrorist Mole No. 1.) Also new to the crime-fighting scene are Janeane Garafolo (as the FBI's reasonable facsimile of Chloe) and Rhys Coiro (who, with both his hair and voice toned down, is nearly unrecognizable from his run as Entourage's obnoxious Billy Walsh).

Of course, when there's terror on U.S. soil, you have a White House in panic. Populating 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. this season are Cherry Jones (as Allison Taylor, the commanding new POTUS), Colm Feore (as a First Gentleman thoroughly distracted by a family death/mystery/B-story) and Ethan Kanin (as the Chief of Staff). Barely 100 days into her first term, President Taylor is faced with a dire dilemma — squelch an African genocide being led by General Juma (Tony Todd, first introduced in November's 24: Redemption TV movie) or turn a blind eye in exchange for something the U.S. desperately wants.

All of which brings us back to Tony Almeida. (I'll let the show explain away his "resurrection.") It turns out that the onetime CTU agent grew thoroughly disenchanted with the United States when President Logan was punished with a mere house arrest after, among many treasonous evils, ordering a "hit" that killed Tony's wife, Michelle. As Jack concocts a plan to pull the plug on the sinister scheme being carried out by his old friend, he ultimately will tap into familiar resources — one named Chloe; the other, Bill. Thanks to his rogue tactics, Jack also becomes persona non grata to his government. Yet again.

Based on 24's first four hours, Jack's fresh Washington, D.C., playground is perhaps the only thing that is truly new here. But maybe change isn't always a good thing. And even if it is, perhaps Redemption sated any appetite to see Jack kick ass in a foreign land. Adhering to the belief (irrefutable fact?) that no day can be as plodding as No. 6, I'm more than willing to see where 24's latest one takes us.

The season premiere of Fox's 24 kicks off Sunday, Jan. 11, at 8 pm/ET, then continues Monday, Jan 12, at 8.

Coming Tuesday, Jan. 13: An all-24 Mitovich Mega Minute video previews Kim Bauer's return and more!

Watch's 24 Season 7 videos, featuring Kiefer Sutherland ("Jack Bauer"), Cherry Jones ("President Taylor"), Jon Voight ("Jonas Hodges"), Tony Todd ("Colonel Juma"), Hakeem Kae-Kazim ("Colonel Dubaku"), director Jon Cassar and series executive producer Howard Gordon.