FLIGHTS OF FANTASY
It feels like the sky is falling lately, and sci-fi and fantasy certainly reflect that. But this year's crop of escapism is not too gratifying.

The Bionic Woman was a fun, if goofy, '70s show in which Jaime Sommers, the survivor of a near-fatal accident, got souped up with bionic enhancements that gave her super strength, reflexes, and speed. She became a champion of justice for the U.S. government. This time out, in NBC's Bionic Woman, Jaime's a bit more ticked that her body was altered without her consent, and her reluctance to make nice with the feds is augmented by the presence of another bionic woman, who has a governmental grudge of her own. Time will tell whether this is top-notch sci-fi or more clichéd schlock.

Chuck (NBC) is the epitome of escapist dreck. An aimless electronics-store clerk accidentally views an e-mailed video file containing thousands of subliminally encoded images related to defense secrets, and now they're implanted in his brain. Naturally, the secret keepers want to get hold of him, as he is unintentionally decoding these seemingly random images. This kind of espionage parody was more fun in the '80s movie Gotcha!.

In Journeyman (NBC), a San Francisco reporter finds himself jumping back in time in the Bay Area, presumably to help rewrite history and change people's lives for the better. He also bumps into his deceased ex-fiancée, whom he still pines for. The fact that his trips cost him a day or two in the present is extremely irritating to his wife and his boss. I know I've already used this joke, but, frankly, I liked this concept better when it was called Quantum Leap.

The immortal cop of New Amsterdam (Fox) has been on earth for 400 years, waiting to find his soul mate, at which time he can become mortal. That's a depressing commentary on modern love. While the protagonist is classy, cultured, and a great puzzle solver, he's also too understated for my taste. I liked this concept better when it was more action oriented and called Highlander. (I can't help myself.)

The vampiric PI of Moonlight (CBS) doesn't want to chomp on people's necks to feed, so he makes sure he requisitions his blood supply in other ways. He also wants to help people who have no one else to turn to, as if he's an undead Equalizer. It's kind of cool when a bloodsucker is on our side, but I liked this concept better when it was more goth-friendly and called Forever Knight. (Seriously, someone stop me.)