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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

‘Heroes’ gets some dull new company on Mondays with ‘Chuck’ and ‘Journeyman’

Next week is the big week, or so the TV networks would like us to believe: a ton of new shows will be debuting, and a ton returning shows will be, well, returning. It feels kinda anticlimactic to me — there’s been a lot of great stuff on the cable nets this summer (Doctor Who, Burn Notice, Saving Grace, Eureka, etc), so it’s not as if we’ve been wandering a quality-free TV landscape since May.

I am completely buzzed for Season Two of Heroes, which premieres Monday, September 24, at 9pm Eastern. But I won’t be making an evening out of NBC’s new Monday lineup, which sandwiches the modern superhero show in between two new series. I had a chance to preview the pilots of Chuck (Mondays at 8pm) and Journeyman (Mondays at 10pm), both debuting on Monday, and it’s hard to see how either show will be hanging around long enough to see Thanksgiving.
Like a blast from the 1990s — or maybe even the late 80s — Chuck is the already tired tale of a slacker twentysomething who works for a Geek Squad at the local Best Buy… I mean, for a Nerd Herd at the local Buy More (which shares acres of parking lot with a LargeMart; King of the Hill’s Mega Lo Mart should sue for satiric trademark infringment). The ringtone on his phone is a Journey song; his bedroom in the apartment he shares with — eww — his ambitious sister and her perfect boyfriend is adorned with a Tron poster; he’s “working on a five-year plan” for himself, but he “just need[s] to choose a font.”

Yup, slacker-hacker jokes are the height of cleverness Chuck reaches, until it stretches for a new kind of disturbingly goofball humor for the era of Homeland Security and da war on terra: Chuck (John Krasinski clone Zachary Levi) accidentally downloads into his brain thousands of government secrets (no, it really doesn’t make any sense to me, either), and now his brain is a top-secret government computer that can predict assassinations and terrorist attacks and the like. So the feds send the world’s hottest CIA agent (Yvonne Strzechowski) to babysit him, lest he post info vital to national security on Star Trek message boards, or something. It’s every dork’s fantasy: he knows all kinds of secret crap, plus a beautiful babe is required to maintain a close physical presence. *gack*

Hacktacular action director McG — that rap-esque moniker also reeks of 1992 — is executive producer and directs the first episode; there’s a big car chase: isn’t that exciting and original? Maybe this really is the perfect dramedy for a nation that elected a moron cowboy preznit. Twice.

On the other side of Heroes comes Journeyman, with a premise blatantly stolen from bestselling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife (soon to be a movie) and Quantum Leap (again with the return of the late 80s/early 90s) that could be used as an insomnia aid, which is surprising considering how totally intriguing the material it chose to ripoff is. San Francisco newspaper journalist Dan Vassar (Scottish actor Kevin McKidd) suddenly finds himself jumping around in time, or at least the past twenty years, encountering a former fiancée who’s dead in the present — he’s now married to someone else, someone who’d been a friend in the past, we learn during a leap to the past. Or maybe the fiancée isn’t dead: this is the faux urgency the pilot wants to impart, that perhaps there’s some grand conspiracy revolving around Dan’s personal life.

Honestly, though, who cares? Former West Wing producer Alex Graves manages to make Dan a complete nonentity, and his life and world impossibly dull. Perhaps that’s why he starts jumping through time: to escape. Fortunately, escape is much easier for us — the TV comes with an Off button.

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