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part of a small rebellion | 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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  • I have mixed feelings on Chuck, but I do want to watch Journeyman. McKidd is a terrific actor; perhaps he’ll make some derivative material better.

  • Maybe this really is the perfect dramedy for a nation that elected a moron cowboy preznit. Twice

    He wasn’t elected by the nation the first time.

  • Moe
  • Sad that Journeyman sounds so snooze-making. Guess I’ll have to content myself with watching “Rome” repeatedly. Is it me, or do a lot of this season’s offerings sound like SF lite? Like, we’d like to do something time-travel, but why don’t we sort of just back away from the fantastic and make it a Serious Drama, since SciFi is too silly!”

  • MaryAnn

    Exactly. Labeling anything “sci-fi’ is the kiss of death, or so everyone on the production and marketing end of any kind of entertainment — movies, books, TV, etc — seems to think. Funny how it sells so well, though, when it’s any good…

  • Again with the late-80s/early-90s? Let’s see, which generation is it that’s fixated on that period?

    Face it, you Gen-Xers are now where the Boomers were in the 80s in terms of cultural influence, which means it’s your tired cultural stereotypes getting inflicted on us young-uns now.

  • It’s official. Gen-Xers are the new Boomers.

    Jill Cozzi has been vindicated.;-)

  • MaryAnn

    Perhaps, but another quality of Xers is that we hate each other. And I’m sick and damn tired of my peers’ nostalgia. Move on, already, slackers. :->

  • Shane

    Journeyman looks like a far more labored show than Heroes and it has much of the same style and atmosphere so that’ll help it retain a healthy lead in.

    Chuck reminded me of Pamela Anderson’s old show, V.I.P. which had an awful kind of charm to it. Even going against Dancing with the Stars it could do well since K-ville is dead on arrival and I doubt the Heroes audience is watching How I Met Your Mother and Everybody Hates Chris at 8 o’clock. But the show has cursed Adam Baldwin whose last two shows haven’t made it passed season 1 (Firefly, Day Break). Journeyman on the other hand has the McKidd factor, so most of my fellow young male audience will watch it just to scream “13!” at inappropriate moments.

  • MaryAnn

    Why will you scream “13”?

  • Shane

    The cultish significance of the “13!” cheer comes from a scene near the end of the first season of Rome. Titus Pullo has resigned to death and defeat by way of a gladiatorial execution but then the executioners make the mistake of insulting his legion, the 13th, recently disbanded afters Ceaser’s victory and the only real thing he’s ever lived for. He fights until his last breath and when he’s brought to his knees by the last man left standing, his comrade in arms and heterosexual life partner Vorenus (McKidd) comes to his aid. They shout 13, the spectators reciprocate in chant, and men everywhere hold back a dam of tears.


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