CHUCK created by Josh Schwartz, with Zachary Levi, Adam Baldwin, Sarah Lancaster and Julia Ling. Series premieres Monday (September 24), 8 pm, on NBC and Citytv. Rating: NNNN
Chuck is a good show doomed to failure, and it's all Adam Baldwin's fault.
Created by The O.C.'s Josh Schwartz and with a pilot ep directed by McG (Charlie's Angels), the quirky series is a lighthearted action-dramedy about a socially awkward yet adorably charming computer nerd (Adam Brody lookalike Zachary Levi) who accidentally opens some top-secret CIA spam and downloads military intelligence directly into his brain. Pretty soon, hot people with guns and laser scopes are trying to kill him, capture him or date him.
Blending serious spy action with a 20-something slacker sensibility - some might call it geek chic - and just a hint of romance, it's like Alias meets What About Brian? In a good way.
Which brings us to Baldwin, who is unrelated to Alec, Daniel, Stephen or Billy. Also in a good way.
Adam Baldwin is built like a GI Joe action figure, square-jawed, with bulging biceps and a head larger than his flat-topped haircut, an appearance he's put to good use, most memorably as kill-crazy Animal Mother in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (for a bit of an 80s flashback, Baldwin was also the titular bodyguard in My Bodyguard back in the day).
In Chuck, he plays a shoot-first, ask-questions-never federal agent who elicits some big laughs between gunfights thanks to a sardonic grin and raised eyebrow.
Unfortunately, Baldwin has a knack for picking interesting, offbeat projects that fail to find an audience. Last season's Groundhog Day-like crime thriller Day Break, for example, and Joss Whedon's cowboys-and-aliens series, Firefly, in which he played no-nonsense gunslinger Jayne.
Neither series made it past the first season, and given Chuck's oddball nature, it faces an equally uphill battle.
BIONIC WOMAN created by David Eick, with Michelle Ryan, Miguel Ferrer, Molly Price and Katee Sackhoff. Series premieres Wednesday (September 26) at 9 pm on NBC. Rating: NN
When I was a kid, I had a Six Million Dollar Man doll - the one with the red track suit and the karate-chopping arm (with a plastic plank that would break in two) and the bionic eye you could actually look through. It was the coolest thing ever (or until the Millennium Falcon came along), and I would spend hours making nuh-nuh-nuh noises while re-enacting the latest episode. Remember the one with Bigfoot? I think it was a robot alien or something.
The reason I bring this up is the new Bionic Woman series, a revamped version of the 70s spinoff about the ultimate extreme makeover.
Unfortunately, BW v 2.0 is nowhere near as fun as playing with that Steve Austin doll.
Created by some of the same talent behind the awesome Battlestar Galactica relaunch and co-starring Starbuck herself, Katee Sackhoff, as a super-sexy bad robot, this BW takes itself far too seriously. The result is Buffy the Vampire Slayer with mechanical parts.
Worst of all, it recasts Jaime Sommers (played by Jekyll's Michelle Ryan) as a college-dropout-turned-bartender with dead parents and an annoying little sister. She's not a tennis pro or a school teacher. She's barely an adult.
And I'm a little tired of heroes and heroines who are stuck somewhere between childhood and adulthood, with their superpower acting as a catalyst/metaphor for growing up.
Lindsay Wagner (the original BW) was a woman. Lynda Carter (the original Wonder Woman) was a woman. The producers should have paid a little more attention to the title of the show. It's called Bionic Woman, not Bionic Babe. They should have cast Molly Price (who plays a psychologist on the series). She's sexy, strong and most definitely a grown-up.
And don't get me started on the fact that there's no Rudy or Oscar Goldman.
I'm not saying toss the Bionic Woman onto the scrap heap, but she needs a bit of retrofitting to truly make it better, stronger, faster.
What to watch this week
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
Survivor: China (Reality) A female wrestler and a Christian talk-radio host are among the contestants trying to survive behind the Great Wall. 8 pm on CBS
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
Heroes (Drama) Time warper Hiro finds himself in feudal Japan as the second season of comic book fun kicks off. 9 pm on NBC
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
House (Drama) The prickish doc starts his fourth season, and it's a safe bet more pills will be popped and people pissed off. 9 pm on Fox
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
Private Practice (Drama) More pretty people play doctor in a much-anticipated Grey's Anatomy spinoff starring McDreamy's ex. 9 pm on ABC