Here's your friendly neighborhood Trivia Geek's rundown of TV shows debuting this fall that should appeal to the sci-fi/fantasy/horror geek audience — now with premiere dates! Links to video previews and IMDB listings abound, so let the bandwidth hogging begin!
- Chuck [Monday, September 24, 8 P.M., NBC] High concept: Hapless tech-support geek accidentally gets reams of uber-secret spy data downloaded into his brain, making him the most coveted walking hard drive on the planet. Hilarity ensues. I'm a little leery of this one, but the preview I saw (and shown above) has some promise, both because Adam Baldwin (Jayne from Firefly) is the evil NSA agent trying to capture or kill the titular Chuck and because the main character works for a Geek Squad-inspired company called The Nerd Herd — and drives an appropriately dorked-out Yaris. Plus, it has the requisite inappropriately attractive female spy sidekick, played by Yvonne Strzechowski.
- Journeyman [Monday, September 24, 10 P.M., NBC] Preview available here. The concept goes something like this: What if Quantum Leap were actually a gritty, depressing, personal family drama? Kevin McKidd, who gloriously portrayed the complex and nuanced Lucius Vorenus on HBO's ludicrously cancelled Rome, is a San Francisco newspaper reporter who gets sent back in time by an unknown power to right wrongs. Sounds familiar, right? The difference is that McKidd is absent from the present for the same amount of time he spends in the past, so if he spends 48 hours in 1987, he misses 48 hours in 2007, which screws up his family life. Also, there's no Deus Ex Machina... er, Dean Stockwell, along to help him, and one of his first missions involves a past girlfriend whom he's tempted to hook up with.
- New Amsterdam [Tuesday, September 25, 8 P.M., FOX] Preview available here. If this show was on any network but FOX, I'd be intrigued because it's a great concept, which means FOX will kill it two episodes in when it doesn't draw House numbers. Premise: John Amsterdam is a NYC homicide detective who just happens to be an immortal from the 17th century who can't resume aging normally until he finds his one true love. In the right hands, this could be genius. On FOX, it could be a disaster. If nothing else, Zuleikha Robinson from Rome and The Lone Gunmen (another high-potential show FOX destroyed) is on board to ease the pain. How they will work around the fact that the lead actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau will age is a mystery, though maybe FOX has already assumed the show won't be on the air long enough for it to matter.
- Reaper [Tuesday, September 25, 9 P.M., CW] Previews here, here, and here. Finally, a genre show on the CW that doesn't take itself too seriously. (Are you listening, Smallville and/or Supernatural?) The basic premise is a teenage Home Depot employee finds out that his parents sold his soul to the Devil for personal gain, and now he's become a Grim Reaper charged with hunting down souls that have escaped from hell. And the pilot is directed by Kevin Smith. Think of it as Dogma meets Brimstone, with emphasis on the funny. The show features Ray Wise as Lucipher, so that alone should make the pilot worth watching (or TiVo-ing).
- Pushing Daisies [Wednesday, October 3, 8 P.M., ABC] Preview available here. This is one of those shows that's so bizarre, it'll either catch fire and be a ratings hit or flame out into what-might-have-been DVD cult fandom. Premise: Professional pie-maker Ned has the ability to resurrect the dead, but with some complications. 1) If he ever touches his reanimations a second time, they die again — and can't be called back. 2) If he keeps his reanimations alive for more that a minute, somebody else nearby has to die to balance the scales. Ned teams up with his buddy Emerson (Boston Public's Chi McBride) to solve crimes, which is all fine and good until Ned's long-lost love Charlotte turns up murdered, and Ned has to decide if bringing her back is worth killing someone else and never touching Charlotte again. Complicated, wacky, and Tim Burton-esque, it's too weird not to try.
- Bionic Woman [Wednesday, September 26, 9 P.M., NBC] Preview and commentary here. In case you missed the last time I fawned all over David Eick's new Bionic Woman, this is a flat-out remake of the 1976 series, with Michelle Ryan filling in for Lindsay Wagner. Eick, the show's producer, was one of the two guys who so magnificently rebooted Battlestar Galactica in 2003, and the same naturalistic grittiness (gray camera filters) and characterization (ambiguously scary good guys and self-destructively strong good girls) are evident, with some real Hong Kong-style action thrown in. If you're only going to adopt one new show this year, I'd go with Bionic Woman.
- Flash Gordon [Friday, August 10, 8 P.M., Sci Fi Channel] Teaser available here. While some may call it sacrilege to do a Flash Gordon project without a Queen soundtrack, Sci Fi aims to try anyway, though this new Flash won't bear much resemblance to the old. First off, no rocketships (stupid TV budget), but we have Stargate-esque wormholes that let our new Flash Gordon (played by Eric Johnson, AKA Whitney from Smallville) jump back and forth from Earth to Planet Mongo, sort of like Adam Strange. Also, Flash is now a marathon runner rather than a football star, and Dale Arden is his ex-girlfriend rather than the damsel in distress. No word yet on whether we'll have any hawkmen or skycycles, but a decidedly non-Asian Ming the Merciless is still here to play villain. Expect a Smallville meets Stargate SG-1 vibe (Gatesville?).
- Moonlight [Friday, September 28, 9 P.M., CBS] Preview available here. The first sign of trouble here is that the show was originally called Twilight, but CBS changed the name so as not to draw Twilight Zone comparisons (better to draw Moonlighting comparisons, I guess). They should have just called it Angel meets Forever Knight, because it features a beneficent vampire who works as a detective to help the innocent. Instead of being ancient, however, our protagonist Mick St. John is from the 1940s — an undead Captain America, if you will — having been turned by his secretly-a-vampire bride 60 years ago. Moonlight is produced by Joel Silver, who gave us The Matrix, and Ron Koslow, who gave us the horrendous Birds of Prey. There's a reason this show earned the Friday 9 P.M. death sentence timeslot. Don't get attached.
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles [Sundays, 9 P.M., FOX] Preview available here. Someone has decided to answer the question, "How exactly did Sarah Connor go from butt-kicking superbabe at the end of Terminator 2 to dead at the beginning of Terminator 3?" with this series. Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo from 300) is on board as the title character, and Summer Glau (River from Firefly) is your requisite good-girl protective Terminator, the pair collectively defending John Connor (played by Thomas Dekker, AKA Claire's friend Zach from Heroes) from wave after wave of deadly cyborgs from the future. Nobody from any of the movies will appear onscreen, but FOX is pulling out all the stops for this one, including the X-Files' old timeslot. Chronicles is also the most high-profile genre show debuting this season, so expect some ratings just based on the buzz factor. No premiere date yet, as this will be a midseason premiere in early 2008 (read: after the Super Bowl).
- True Blood [Sundays, TBA, HBO] This fall's "pedigree" genre show and HBO's hopeful successor to The Sopranos, we give you white trash Southern vampires as a metaphor for minority oppression and Republican politics, courtesy of Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball. It's based on the Southern Vampire novel series by Charlaine Harris and stars Anna Paquin (Rogue from the X-Men movies) as Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress from Louisiana who suffers through a maudlin series of vampire boyfriends in a world where the bloodsuckers have "come out of the coffin" and entered mainstream society (thanks to a medical blood substitute that frees them from nightstalking humans). It's Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Big Love, and I mean that as a compliment on both counts. I actually think this show could have some mainstream appeal — perhaps so much that genre fans won't like it and everyone else will. Better that than another smothered-in-its-sleep Carnivale, I suppose. No preview or timeslot yet available, but Harris' Web site has a running collection of press releases and set photos, and the buzz is that this will be a midseason replacement in early 2008.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.