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Top 10 TV Premieres in 2010: 24

24, Kiefer Sutherland Richard Foreman/FOX
Four 4 (Countdown Numbers)

All this week, we're counting down the most anticipated series of the new year and recommending what to watch and what highlights to expect from 2010's top TV. Coming in at No. 4 is that show that does more in an hour than others do all year long...

24 (Fox)

Premieres Jan. 17, 9 p.m.
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Anil Kapoor, Annie Wersching, Mykelti Williamson, Katee Sackhoff, Chris Diamantopoulos, Freddie Prinze Jr., Cherry Jones, David Anders, Elisha Cuthbert, Gregory Itzin, Domenick Lombardozzi, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen Root, Paul Wesley, Jennifer Westfeldt
Status: Returning for season eight

Check out that cast list above. Starbuck from Battlestar Gallactica (Katee Sackhoff), Sark from Alias (David Anders), Stefan from Vampire Diaries (Paul Wesley) and the real Mrs. Don Draper (Jennifer Westfeldt)...Seriously, what more could you want from a season of 24?! Well, we just chatted with Kiefer Sutherland himself, and here's what he tells us exclusively about the new season...

After eight years of doing 24, how do you and the other producers keep it fresh? How do you keep the fans from figuring out the formula and getting bored?
We'll throw a couple things at you that you didn't expect, that you didn't see coming, and we want to keep you guessing. This is a thriller, and we want to make it as thrilling as possible. I think there's some emotional stuff that happens in this season that is new. [Jack] is a character that is constantly reflecting now back on things he's done, and there is an inner kind of pain that comes along with that. There is also now a desire in this character to have a life outside of his obligations to CTU.

We know this season centers around the assassination attempt of a Middle Eastern leader (Slumdog Millionaire's Anil Kapoor) amid the signing of a peace treaty at the United Nations. What else can you tell us?
There are certain things you come to rely on with 24, so it's not gonna be a good day for Jack Bauer. It's gonna be a tough day for him, and we used New York as a backdrop and we shot a little bit there. We've also shot predominantly in Los Angeles, but there's a kind of an energy in New York that suits our show. So we're very excited to have that as part of it. And the show is also grounded this year in a very realistic political potential—the disruption of a potential Middle East peace conference.

What's Jack's state of mind?
At the beginning of this season, he's very positive and very hopeful for the rest of his life. He's become reunited with his daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) and he has a granddaughter, so he sees this opportunity to not only reconnect with his family but to actually have a life for himself—but that gets put into jeopardy over the course of this day. And they pull me back in.

And we hear Freddie Prinze Jr. is sort of the new Jack?
He's been wonderful. He plays a young CTU agent. At the beginning of this season I am not working for CTU, I'm not working by the FBI, I'm not ordered by the president to do anything. I'm simply helping out, and clearly something goes terribly wrong. Freddie is actually the guy who took over what Jack did. He's a little younger than I am, so he has some things to learn.

Mark your calendars: 24 has a two-night, four-hour premiere on back-to-back nights (Jan. 17 and Jan. 18). Although the first two hours are a slow burn (truth told, I dozed off once or twice), you can expect to be fully sucked in by the end of the third hour, thanks to a few twists you won't expect and a truly solid and intriguing storyline from Starbuck herself, Katee Sackhoff. So be patient.

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Check out our winter premiere-dates calendar to find out when your fave series return!

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