I don't know about NBC's new show Chuck, but at least with the season two premiere of Heroes and the series premiere of Journeyman they're on the right track. The two shows packed a solid one-two punch of mystery/sci-fi entertainment in their premiere episodes of the 2007 Fall season.
There will be some pretty good spoilers following, so stop reading if you don't want to know.
Heroes began with the familiar voiceover combined with quick scenes from season one intercut with scenes from future episodes, showing us that Sylar is indeed still alive as well as giving us a peek at a few of the new characters. As a matter of fact, by the end of the show we see that everyone who was at the final showdown last season survived. The episode picks up four months after the events of last season's finale.
Nathan Petrelli (flying guy) who was a senator with Presidential aspirations in season one is now about one step away from homeless flying guy. He's sporting a thick beard, drinking heavily, and certainly seems to no longer be a senator. My eyebrow definitely raised when he appeared: How the heck did he survive the explosion from the finale? He took his nuclear overloading brother Peter way up into the sky to explode out of harm's way... not knowing exactly when Peter would explode, I can't see Nathan having let him go in midair to drop while flying away.
We also see that mind reader policeman Matt Parkman is now trying to get into the NYPD, and his marriage finally fell apart and he's now divorced. This bothered me more than a bit considering the fact that his wife was pregnant at the close of last season, and he's now playing father to Maya, the little girl who is the human equivalent of Google Maps for Mutants. Our non-genetically blessed buddy Mohinder Suresh is back in India pitching his ideas much like Daniel Jackson did in the original Stargate movie: to a small and unbelieving audience. I actually think that particular scene was reminiscent of that scene in Stargate on purpose. :-)
Fan favorite Hiro went back in time to Feudal Japan to discover that his hero Kensei, isn't, while his father and Peter's mother have received death threats in the form of a mysterious symbol in red painted on photos of them. Little Maya is seeing the same symbol in nightmares and it is related to the baddie mentioned in the finale who supposedly makes Sylar look like Mr. Rogers.
The funniest bits had to do with Claire and her family. They've relocated to Costa Verde, California from Texas and she has strict instructions to "not stand out" from her father. He's now working at the equivalent of Kinko's and there's a funny scene later in the show between him and his overzealous manager/boss. One thing that I found odd was how they're able to afford to live in a gigantic house in coastal California on the salary of a Kinko's employee...
Minor issues aside, the show has the same feel as last year and was pretty good at sucking in the viewer to see what happens next. It kind of feels like the new 24 as far as cliffhangers that make you want to keep watching.
Journeyman was on right afterwards, and right from the opening scenes I could tell that this was not a schlock TV show cashing in on the current sci-fi/mystery trend. We got a feel for the main characters within minutes with acting and direction that was subdued and not at all cheesy. The lead character is Dan Vasser (played by Kevin McKidd, who's been in the news lately regarding his possible involvement in the Thor movie). He's a newspaper reporter based in San Francisco who despite some rough times, his marriage seems to be on the mend. His deal is that he is randomly transported in back in time and at first has no inkling why and doesn't even really believe it's happening.
Outside of the fantasy of traveling back and forth in time, the show plays it completely straight, including his reaction to this and that of his friends and family (are you on drugs!?). He keeps going back to intersect with a character who at first he saves from committing suicide, and then goes back to convince the guy's girlfriend or fiancee not to abort their baby. At this point Dan thinks he's done, only to discover that although the couple ended up getting married and having the child, the mother and child died ten years later.
The other thing that happened is that in the past he saw his now-dead finacee Livia, who seems to have been killed in an airline crash. At first it was kind of cool seeing the retro look of his environment, complete with ads for old movies (Less Than Zero on a giant billboard) and big brick-sized cell phones. After his third trip back however I started questioning how they could sustain this as a series without it getting repetitive very quickly - but then I remembered the show that probably inspired this one: Quantum Leap.
I also kept thinking "He's a bright guy, he'll find a way to prove to his wife that he's not nuts or on drugs" and of course, by the end of the episode he did come up with a creative way to do just that.
And since we're in 2007, the era in which shows like this must have some mysterious twist, towards the end they did indeed through a curve ball into the episode when he meets the time-traveling version of his dead fiancee alive and well and apparently doing something similar to him in the past. She seems to know what's going on and what he needs to do but does not take the time to explain it in depth.
So, did she die in a plane crash or not? What is the end purpose of their journeys? We'll have to tune in next week to find out...
I'll definitely be watching Heroes this season, and I'll give Journeyman at least a few episodes to see how it develops. Now let's see if NBC can go three for three with the premier of The Bionic Woman on Wednesday.