NBC’s Fall Line-up Brings Nerdiness Into the Mainstream
The new fall season of TV is upon us, and it’s ripe with lots of promise and lots of disappointment. But I’m usually up for trying to find a new TV addiction to take Lost’s place between seasons, so I decided to give some of these new shows a shot. However something’s changed since the last time I decided to do that, and I began to notice a pattern as I flipped through the channel guide last week. Among the new detective shows, sitcoms, and courtroom dramas I’ve come to expect from the major networks, a certain theme began to show up on NBC’s line-up: nerdiness. From the looks of things, NBC is hoping to recreate the success of Heroes by tapping into a similar crowd. The majority of their new shows either have nerds as main characters or deal with topics typically preferred by nerds, science fiction in particular. Besides that, most of these shows sounded like they might actually be pretty good. So I packed my DVR with all the nerd-centered shows I could find and set to watching them. For the most part, I was not disappointed. You can check out a breakdown for each show after the jump.
Time: Monday 8/7c
Premise: A regular guy accidentally gets tons of classified info from a government super-computer downloaded into his brain, which he uses to prevent terrorist plots.
Review: This is my favorite of the new shows, and I thought I was going to hate it, based on the premise and the stupid look on the main character’s face over on the right. The setup gets even more ridiculous when you find out that the titular character gained all this knowledge through an e-mail containing a series of pictures encoded with all this classified data. To add to the insanity, all this data was sent to him from a PDA. That’s right: all the secret information from the CIA and the NSA can be contained on one portable device. Luckily, all that is put into the first 15 minutes, allowing the rest of the show to to just take off from there.
Since I’m going with a nerdiness theme, I should state that Chuck is a realistic and likable dork. He plays online video games (Gears of War makes an appearance), is only mildly awkard in social situations, and works for the “Nerd Herd” — essentially a take-off on the “Geek Squad.” What’s great is he’s not a completely socially inept tard like most stereotypical TV nerd (see my impressions of The Big Bang Theory below). He reminds me of a lot of people I know, myself included, and that makes him a good character to watch get into these insane situations. Chuck eventually gets mixed up with agents from the NSA and the CIA to help stop a terrorist bombing. One of the agents is played by Firefly’s Adam Baldwin, to add to the nerd factor; the other is played by a hot girl I’ve never seen before, but who does a good job playing the seductive assassin.
If you ignore some of the more ridiculous parts and just enjoy it, this is a very entertaining show. The writing is top-notch, the acting is solid, and the characters — from the protagonist to even his sister’s boyfriend — all have some depth to them. These characters are what’s going to keep me tuning in for the next few weeks. Oh, but my favorite bit about the pilot? Porn saves the day.
Time: Monday 9/8c
Premise: A drama where people around the world develop super powers.
Review: Do I even need to discuss this one? This show rules, and it most likely paved the way for all these other shows to get the green light. The characters are intriguing, the special effects are superb, and the story just grips you from episode to episode. If you plan to start watching this one though, just make sure to check out Season 1, or you may be more than a little lost. And if you liked the first season of Heroes, the second season isn’t likely to disappoint.
Time: Monday 10/9c
Premise: A man inexplicably begins jumping backwards and forwards through time, helping change people’s lives along the way, while trying to manage his own.
Review: I love time travel stories, so I knew I had to check this one out. That and I found out the show co-starred Moon Bloodgood, who did an excellent job in the cancelled-way-too-soon Daybreak and, well, just look at that picture below:
Anyway, if you read the premise and thought “Quantum Leap,” you aren’t alone. In that sense, this show might appeal to the fans of that one; but the one thing that this shows lacks in comparison to Quantum Leap is an explanation as to why the protagonist, Dan, keeps time traveling. The pilot hinted that an explanation may come later in the season, but they might lose some viewers if they don’t start offering some big clues soon.
Another big difference from Quantum Leap is that the main character keeps jumping back and forth through several points in a timeframe until he fixes whatever he’s supposed to fix. This means he ends up seeing several different outcomes for the people he tries to help before he gets it right. These jumps happen randomly and have consequences on his present-day life, as he goes missing for several days each time.
This show apparently lost a lot of viewers when the pilot aired, most likely due to a poor time slot following Heroes. Personally, I may give this one a couple more episodes before I decide whether to keep watching it or not. It’s an interesting twist on a tried-and-true formula though, so I’m hoping they manage to keep it interesting.
Time: Wednesday 9/8c
Premise: A woman gets in a car crash and is put back together with bionic implants that give her super-human abilities.
Review: This show appeals on a nerdy level right off the bat, since its a modern remake of a 70′s TV show, which itself was a spinoff of The Six Million Dollar Man — a show referenced today even by people who weren’t alive when it first aired (“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.”). Thankfully though, this new show has much better production values, eliminating the need for slow-motion and odd sound effects to highlight when cool powers are being used. Add Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica playing the villain, and you’ve got one pretty nerd-centric show.
In the pilot, the story and action worked well for the most part, but there were unfortunately a few too many cheesy points in the show, which I mostly blame on the writing. For a large chunk of the program the main character got either horribly depressed or angry, but we barely got enough of the character before to understand why. Of course it could just be my reaction if I were in her situation would probably be something along the lines of, “Superpowers? Awesome!” But it just began to grate my nerves when the show would be in the middle of an interesting moment and then one cheesy line of dialogue or emotional montage would ruin it. Now that they’ve gotten the setup out of the way though, maybe future episodes can focus less on overly dramatic bits and more on cool sci-fi action.
As much as I wasn’t enthralled with the main character though, I thought the villain, the first Bionic Woman, was awesome. During the big showdown between the two super-powered females, I found myself rooting for the villain, just because she had the better lines and was more interesting and mysterious overall. Apparently, viewers of the show are already calling for her to replace the main character at some point in the season. It’s doubtful they’ll do that, but I certainly wouldn’t complain if they did.
Overall though, the premise and the special effects are enough to make me keep watching future episodes, though I don’t know for how long. The action scenes in previews for new episodes are already looking awesome however.
Now that I’ve delved into some decent nerdy shows on NBC, let’s take a look at one absolutely terrible show on CBS:
The Big Bang Theory
Time: CBS, Monday 8/7c
Premise: A sitcom involving two nerds, their two nerd friends, and their hot next door neighbor.
Review: Cute girl. Stupid show. There weren’t really any characters I could relate to or find all that funny. The nerds were way over the top and they’re very existence made almost no sense to me. I mean, aside from the usual quirks typically associated with geeks — obsession with all science fiction TV shows, RPGs, and comics — they’re also scientific geniuses; yet they live in a run-down apartment and don’t seem to have any careers to speak of. You may disagree, but the genuine nerds I’ve met were mostly smart, but not competing-with-Einstein smart. And the girl? She’s a pretty stereotypical dumb blonde. and that’s about as far as her depth goes. Besides which, if you’ve got a show that hinges on a girl being jaw-droppingly hot, then you need an actress that actually is jaw-droppingly hot. I mean, she’s not unattractive by any means, but not hot enough to really stand out in Television Land; plus her attractiveness drop a notch every time she opens her mouth. About the only good thing I can say about the show is that the tall skinny guy had some pretty funny lines. Kind of like Frasier’s brother, but in a T-shirt with The Flash on it.
So essentially, it’s a situation comedy, where the situation makes no sense from any angle, and the comedy just isn’t funny. The whole show is just a big, predictable cliche. I see this one having a very short run. But then again, what do I know? I was pretty sure American Idol wouldn’t last two episodes.