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TV Fall ‘07 Season Blitz, Day 3: NBC’s Nerd Dream Team

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 25, 2007

Tired of using technology-oh

Chuck

(Monday, 8-9 PM, NBC)

Starring: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Adam Baldwin

Premise: Mild-mannered retail employee Chuck (Levi), an anti-social member with a go-nowhere job at the Nerd Herd of megastore Buy More (spoiler alert: show not a big fan of subtlety), who is all of a sudden thrust into the world of international intrigue when his superspy ex-best friend semi-accidentally sends him an e-mail containing all the nation’s intelligence secrets, which he unknowingly reads. He’s stalked by a couple CIA and NSA spooks (Strahovski and Baldwin, respectively) as well as some genuine bad dudes, before deciding to use his powers for good, as the government’s very very secret weapon.

Thoughts: In a world of nothing sitcoms and boring family dramas, it’s nice to see a show this genuinely high-concept (read: totally ridiculous) get some airtime, and like last week’s Gossip Girl, this has the hand of O.C. mastermind Josh Schwartz pulling the strings, so some good times will undoubtedly be had. And the show’s undoubtedly got promise–any series that begins with its protagonist attempting to escape his own birthday party can’t be all bad, and one with Adam “Animal Mother Jayne Cobb” Baldwin can’t even be mostly bad.

Still, there are definite issues here, even aside from the fact that the show’s set up makes little to no sense (why is the CIA hacking into its own secrets, exactly?) Mostly it’s got to do with the characters–aside from the always reliable Baldwin, the support looks kind of lacking so far, with mysterious female lead Strahovski and midget best friend Gomez (the kind of super-extroverted nerd that seems to exist only in television) striking out almost completely. To an extent their characters have to be sort of preposterous, but a little likeability wouldn’t be killing anyone here.

But that wouldn’t matter so much if Levi was a stronger lead (or Chuck a stronger protagonist), and despite inevitable Seth Cohen comparisons, his character kind of irked me. Chuck has no idea how to talk to women at the beginning of the episode, but by the time of his faux-date with Strahovski, he’s perfectly charming–sorry, no one develops romantic self-confidence that quickly. Plus, how many nerds do you know–I mean genuine nerds, dudes in their late 20s that still play enough Call of Duty to require band-aids for their callouses–that have Levi’s shaggy, Jim Halpert-esque adorable good looks? C’mon, we’re living in the post-Jonah Hill era–let’s see some actual dirty, unshaven fatties in there, huh?

Hit Potential: Could be. Being part of the NBC Monday Night line-up won’t hurt, and with the Schwartz-McG combo in effect they’ve got the same nerd/jock push-and-pull that made The O.C. such a crowd-pleaser. Plus, seems like just about everyone loves geeks these days, right? Might get stuck a bit in the cult show trap, but I think the odds of it being a modest, if not runaway, hit are pretty solid.

Worth Watching?: Worth giving another week or two, at least. Seems like most of the pilot’s kinks could be ironed out in the next few weeks, and there’s enough potential here to give it the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Levi’s gonna have to prove himself as both likeable and (somewhat) believable as Chuck before I can give it an unequivocal rec, though.

Heroes (2nd Season)

(Monday Night, 9-10 PM, NBC)

New Cast Members: Dania Ramirez, Stephen “BING!” Tobolowsky, Nick D’Agosto

Where We’re At Now: The Bennetts move to a new life in California, where Claire and HRG attempt to blend in as ordinaries. Hiro travels back to feudal Japan, where he meets the guy whose sword he stole, who turns out to be kind of a scoundrel. Peter is gone, Nathan is a boozer, and Mamma Petrelli turns out to be part of some shady elder tribunal with Poppa Nakamura, who has just received a coded death threat. Mohinder and Parkman are looking after Hero locator Molly, whose prophetic nightmares portend that Sylar is still on the loose. Meanwhile, brother-and-sister Mexican illegal immigrants attempt to sneak across the border, while Sis can’t seem to stop accidentally killing people.

Thoughts: Count me among the many who felt let down by the first season Heroes finale, but I gotta say, they did a pretty decent job here in sucking me back in. It might’ve just been an absence making the heart grow more tolerant of preachiness and ludicrous plot contrivances thing, but it was great for me to see the old gang again, with a good amount of new faces to keep things fresh. Best is classic That Guy Stephen Tobolowsky, who has undoubtedly been in at least three of your 100 favorite movies, most notably as Needlenose Ned Ryerson in the immortal Groundhog Day, as this season’s obligatory morally ambiguous business dude, whose Midas Touch power might be my favorite yet.

Still Hot / Worth Sticking With?: Yeah, this was definitely a solid premiere, the right balance of reminding audiences of past glories while introducing plenty of new threads of potential interest. And with the hotly anticipated return of CW refugee Kristen Bell on the horizon, how could you not hang on just a little longer?

Journeyman

(Monday Night, 10-11 PM, NBC)

Starring: Kevin McKidd, Gretchen Egolf, Moon Bloodgood, Reed Diamond

Premise: Dan Vasser’s (McKidd) idyllic existence is disrupted when he wakes up one morning to find that time is no longer marching straight forward and is instead sending him wherever it damn well pleases. Wife Katie (Egolf) and cop brother Jack (Diamond) find this more than a little implausible, chalking his lost time up to alcohol relapsing, but Vasser senses his time travel has a purpose, especially when he starts running into his ex-fiancee (Bloodgood), who died in an accident a decade earlier.

Thoughts?: Well…kind of hard to judge. If nothing else, you’ve got a big draw in the character actor cast, including Tommy from Trainspotting (an unrecognizable, at least from that, McKidd), Mike Kellerman from Homicide (Diamond) and the chick from Daybreak with the weird name and the weirder fiancee (Bloodgood, currently betrothed to 24’s Eric Balfour, who must be getting tired of her TV boyfriends constantly getting stuck in time loops). And from a technical standpoint at least, the show’s top notch–plot structuring, editing, period music are all grade-A shit, so to an extent, I’m definitely digging this.

The plot, though, has some big obstacles to overcome. Namely, two of them. First, it has to start making a little more sense–admittedly, I was busy in an imbroglio over the new possible Meg White sex tape while watching, so that might have distracted somewhat, but the pilot seemed to leave a whole lot of mysteries and lapses in logic, so there’s some definite explaining to be done. And second, it has to escape the shadow of Dr. Samuel Beckett, that other unwilling time traveller preoccupied with setting right what once went wrong. Can we get Dean Stockwell for a little cameo arc this season, please?

Hit Potential?: Not much. Confusing plot, absence of marquee names, no aliens, nudity or nude aliens–the only thing this show really has going for it is the time slot, and the hopes that people willing to stick with Heroes might be patient with Journeyman as well. Really, though, that at most buys a season of good will, and after that, the best the show can hope for is a cult following and maybe a resurrection on the Sci-Fi channel, where it probably belonged the whole time.

Worth Watching?: Maybe. I dunno, you might just have to see for yourself on this one. Once you’re done with the Meg White tape, that is.

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3 Responses to “TV Fall ‘07 Season Blitz, Day 3: NBC’s Nerd Dream Team”

  1. I think you owe us your take on whether or not it’s authentic, quite frankly.

  2. Brent said

    I thought your main issue with Chuck would be the frequent use of “Cobrastyle” in the pilot

  3. Andrew Unterberger said

    THREE FUCKING TIMES

    yeah I dunno how I failed to mention that

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