- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

New season begins

This is it: More shows, new and returning, are premiering this week than at any other time this fall.

Tonight’s slate is pretty jampacked. ABC has the season premiere of reality favorites “Dancing with the Stars” (8 p.m.) and “The Bachelor” (9:30 p.m.). Elsewhere, CBS kicks off its comedy block with the returning “How I Met Your Mother” at 8 p.m., followed by the new comedy “The Big Bang Theory.” “Two and a Half Men,” “Rules of Engagement” and “CSI: Miami,” all returning, round out the night (Last week, Fox debuted “K-Ville,” and “Prison Break” returned).

NBC is the only network introducing two new series. “Heroes,” one of last fall’s biggest successes, opens its second season at 9 p.m., sandwiched between two similarly fantasy-inspired pieces that premiere before and after.

“Chuck” is an hourlong action-comedy airing at 8 p.m. But its preposterous premise — along with a few science-fiction elements — puts it squarely in the realm of fantasy. Zachary Levi stars as the title character, a twentysomething guy without a girlfriend who works at the local big-box entertainment retailer as part of the computer help team known as the Nerd Herd. (Why didn’t the creators of Best Buy’s Geek Squad think of that rhyme?)

An old college roommate, who went on to become a CIA agent, sends a rather powerful e-mail message to Chuck. When he opens it, a whole rash of government secrets become lodged in his brain. Now he’s being guarded by rival factions — a male National Security Agency operative and a female CIA agent — while the government tries to figure out how to get its secrets back.

It sounds ridiculous, and it is. Hybrid-genre series often have an uphill battle in making a mishmash work, and “Chuck” is no exception. The comedy side could use some help. The series was co-created by Josh Schwartz, better known for soapy dramas like Fox’s “The O.C.” and the CW’s brand-new “Gossip Girl.” But action junkies will be pleased. It’s not often you see car bombs go off on series television.

“Journeyman,” premiering at 10 p.m., is much more of a straight-up sci-fi series. But that might be its problem. After watching the pilot, you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen this all before.

Kevin McKidd — the Scot who played Lucius Vorenus on HBO’s “Rome” — tries on a convincing American accent to play Dan Vasser. Dan’s life is going pretty well: He has a beautiful wife and happy son, and seems successful in his job as a newspaper reporter. Yet it looks like he could lose it all when he starts disappearing for days on end as he suddenly steps into portals that send him back in time. Running into the same man each time, he realizes he has a mission to fulfill, one that will eventually affect a handful of lives. But in saving others, will he lose himself?

Yes, it sounds a lot like “Quantum Leap.” Unlike Scott Bakula’s time traveler, though, Dan remains himself throughout each leap in time — which leads to problems when he finds himself running into his gorgeous ex-fiancee, who died in a plane crash years ago.

It’s that personal intrigue that saves “Journeyman.” The first two-thirds of tonight’s mostly uninspired pilot are slow-going. However, when Dan’s relationships with his wife and fiancee begin to get tangled, you might find it hard not to tune in next week. It might be that rare show that’s saved, rather than slaughtered, by all that melodrama they put into otherwise male-oriented series to keep women watching. (Lifetime, for example, took all the girly stuff out of the David Mamet-created “The Unit” and turned it into the awful but strangely successful “Army Wives.”)

There’s also “Journeyman’s” other main character, whom it’s impossible not to love: San Francisco.

While Fox’s “K-Ville” has New Orleans, “Journeyman” is set in the City by the Bay. With frequent shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and Dan trekking around on trolley cars, we see a lot of one of America’s most beautiful cities. Dan’s home life might be the most absorbing thing about the show, but with such great vistas, it’s hard not to want to see where he’s sent next.

Also on tap tonight

Speaking of San Francisco, the California city is also highlighted in “Fog City Mavericks,” a documentary premiering on cable’s Starz at 9 p.m. The two-hour doc looks at those filmmakers who have chosen to make the Bay Area their home, including Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman and Chris Columbus.

Starz Cinema also has a documentary premiering at 10 p.m. “Screamers” marries passionate music and passionate politics. The Armenian-American rock-metal band System of a Down, in between concerts, works to raise awareness about the Armenian genocide in Turkey during World War I and its aftermath.

Most of the band’s fans know nothing about these events and Turkey itself challenges the claims. The film opens with Adolf Hitler’s remark that killing European Jews shouldn’t be a problem — given that no one remembered Turkey’s slaughter of Armenians.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from staff reports.

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