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Television Reviews: Chuck, Heroes, Journeyman, The Big Bang Theory (mild spoilers, probably)

Those of us who enjoy serial storytelling in the science fiction/fantasy genre apparently have a lot to look forward to this season. The networks announced a larger proportion of shows within the genre than usual, and it would appear that our current golden age of television is continuing.

Last night, there were four shows on that Nomi and I were interested in: Chuck, Heroes, Journeyman, The Big Bang Theory. Sadly, The Big Bang Theory and Chuck are on against each other, but we managed to catch a preview of The Big Bang Theory on our TiVo previously, so we didn't have to play TiVo-VCR games to catch it last night. (We also could have watched the pilots of Chuck and Journeyman that had been released over the Internet, but we never got around to it.) Technically, TBBT is not a genre show, but it's about Physics graduate students, so there's a certain possible genre interest attached.

The short version: NBC has put together a very well constructed Monday night of television.

The long version: See below.

Chuck:


The premise of this show is that Chuck, a technically proficient but socially awkward fellow who works tech support at a chain store, has a database of government secrets downloaded into his brain. He ends up working undercover for a CIA agent and an NSA agent, and wacky hijinks ensue (as they say).

Chuck is a nerd, but he's definitely our kind of nerd. I won't go so far as to say that I'm like him, but I know many people who are, and they're the coolest nerds around. His social awkwardness is come by honestly, given his bad breakup story, and his good heart comes through as well. Probably the most important quality for a TV character is audience engagement, and Chuck has that.

The show was well-written and well-plotted, with perfect set-ups that paid off in the end. The characters seemed very fleshed out and realistic; even "Captain Awesome," for the few seconds of screen time he had, came through as more than just a stereotype. We're very much looking forward to enjoying more of this show.

Heroes:


This show just continues to be fun to watch. There's too much for me to go into details at the moment, but I will say two things. First of all, I am intrigued by the new mysteries that they began presenting in this episode.

Secondly, and best of all, is that my favorite character actor, Stephen Tobolowsky, appeared on the show as a representative of the mysterious company. Tobolowsky is an acting genuis; if you don't recognize his name, take a look at his IMDB page (which I linked to) because you've surely seen him in something. Seeing him spar with Mohinder in the way only Tobolowsky could do was terrific.

Journeyman:


Being the time travel fanatic that I am, I was already predisposed to enjoy this show. However, some early reviews suggested that it was mediocre, or weak at best. So I guess I went into it with low expectations, which turned out to be a good thing, because I ended up liking the show more than I probably would have.

The premise is that Dan Vasser finds himself uncontrollably traveling into the past, apparently to make changes that will improve the future. Sort of like Quantum Leap, but without the help of a home base to tell him what he's supposed to. And Vasser always travels back and forth with whatever he's wearing and carrying on his person at the time.

The biggest problem I almost had with the show was the question of why was this happening to him. In some cases (such as Early Edition), I'm willing to accept that we may not have the answer; but given the extremely dangerous consequences of Vasser's time trips (such as his disappearing from a moving car that subsequently plows into other cars), I needed more explanation as to why this was happening.

And although the show didn't provide that explanation, it did provide a clue that something is going on to cause all this. The clue was significant enough to make me want to watch more.

But I did have one problem with suspension of disbelief. People tend to change their appearance rather significantly over a ten or twenty year period. I found it hard to believe that Vasser could pass himself off in 1997 to his friends as the contemporary model.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS):


I first heard of this show from an article in New York magazine. They had screened the pilot for a group of graduate students in Physics at Columbia and asked their opinions. Most of their opinions were lukewarm, at best. I felt the same way. The two main characters are ridiculously nerdy, and the sitcom setup was very cliched. (I rolled my eyes when Kelly Cuoco's character said her shower was broken, because it was obvious what was coming next). Frankly, the only line I laughed at was when one of the graduate students complained to the other that his theory requires 26 dimensions in order to work out correctly. There was no laughtrack attached, implying that the writers didn't realize what a great line it was.

I will admit that I'm mildly curious to see where the show goes, so I may tape a few more episodes. But in the grand scheme of things, I won't feel disappointed if I miss them.

Comments

I have mixed feelings about Journeyman, but like McKidd enough (he was in Rome and Topsy Turvy) that I have to give it more of a break.

Men's appearances change less than women's. He looked tireder as the "future guy" in 1997, but the bigger issue should have been why he changed his clothes so quickly.

McKidd has to work on his American accent a little more - a Kenneth Branagh, he's not.
IIRC, he didn't actually change clothes quickly. He was wearing the exact same shirt, and he just took off his jacket. Which is one of those things that is a little convenient.

And tired does not necessarily equal old, which is why that part didn't ring true for me.
I agree with you totally on Chuck; I thought it was enjoyable and the characters were appealing, especially Chuck himself. I'll definitely be sticking with it.

I watched only the first half of Journeyman; it didn't grab me. Interesting concept, but it's not different enough to hold my attention. Something I'd watch if I had nothing better to do, but I won't get invested in it.

I'm enjoying Heroes, but I think it has the potential to be much more. I'd like to learn more of the big story, as well as all the individual stories.
Re Heroes: the comic book stories that were all online are being published as a book...for $30.
Hoo boy, I think I'll look for it in the library! ;)
I didn't watch Heroes first season, but got caught in the tsunami of buzz about it and have been catching up via Netflix. I Tivo'd last night's and haven't seen it yet, but did see a rather disturbing post earlier on the product-placement front which, in hindsight, was also in play last year:

Sortakindaspoiler
You know, I have to admit that I wasn't as bothered by this product placement, because it was in character and it fit the plot. What I mind is when the placement is too shoehorned in. Of course, YMMV.
Out of curiosity, how do you know that? I've heard a variety of stories of what was supposed to happen in the sixth season of QL, and never heard verification on any of them.
What you describe sounds logical, but I never heard Bellisario describe any specific plans for the sixth season. And when there were rumors of a QL movie a while back, I seem to recall that both Bakula and Stockwell were attached to the project.

If they had gone the route you mention, I think it would have been a poorer show. One of the delights of the show was the interplay between Sam Beckett and Edward St. John Al Calavicci.
I definitely enjoyed Heroes, and Journeyman and Chuck are on my DVR so I'll watch them later.

The Big Bang Theory was a bust, though. I only made it about half through before deleting it from my to-be-recorded list and changing the channel. It was painfully over-the-top in its nerdiness. Ugh.
I will probably give Big Bang Theory one more episode, just to see if there's something in it I like. (And one friend of mine liked it a lot, so there's a point in its favor.) But having been a graduate student in Physics myself, it felt too unrealistic. It's like seeing TV shows about schools and teachers; they rarely get things right. (The most realistic portrayal of teaching as a profession I recall was on Something So Right, and that wasn't the focus of the show, so they had more leeway to get it right.)
How does Chuck compare to Jake 2.0? Because that's immediately what I thought of when I first read about it.
I'm chagrined to say that I never managed to catch any episodes of Jake 2.0, so I can't really answer your question. (And yes, I meant to watch it.)
When you get near the end of watching the first episode of Bionic Woman you are going to be screaming abuse at your screen and trying to decide whether the producers of that show or Chuck stole each others storyline!

You'll know when you watch it!
I'll keep this in mind when we watch it on our TiVo on Saturday night...

Big Bang Theory

I caught the 1st ep. and gotta admit that I was pleasantly surprised. It's interesting to see Galecki in this role...and I'll definitely be on-board for a few more eps., myself.

Looking forward to seeing how they fit Sarah Gilbert in the mix, as well...

Re: Big Bang Theory

Sarah Gilbert is going to be on this show? OK, I'm a little more interested.

I do feel the show has the potential to be good; but the pilot just didn't impress me.
Why do you think a line about 26 dimensions is so funny?
Just curious....
One character was teasing another that his theory required 26 dimensions just to get the math to work out. Given the recent debates as to the nature of the universe and whether or not string theory has any actual applications, I saw this line as a realistic tease, a microcosm of a real debate going on today.

In short, the line was perfect Physics trash talk.
I found it hard to believe that Vasser could pass himself off in 1997 to his friends as the contemporary model.

Once the 2007 version of myself spent a shabbos afternoon at your place. You didn't notice. But you did wonder when I let it slip that Vince Foster's suicide didn't hurt Hillary Clinton's election as senator.
You know, I had completely forgotten about that comment. But in your case, you've managed to maintain a very similar appearance over the past ten years. Vasser's features don't appear to lend themselves to the same sort of ability.
I have six grey hairs, but no one notices them. I am also three inches taller. Otherwise I look the same.

They should have gotten Scott Bakula to play the role. Other than the hair, he looks the same as 1989.




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