Where/when you'll see it: Fox; a two-night premiere starts Jan. 13 at 8 p.m. EST and Jan. 14 and 9 p.m. EST. The series will then run Mondays at 9 p.m.; "Sarah Connor" is said to have completed enough episodes to last through March.
What you'll see: At a time when network TV seems to have less and less to offer, thanks to the writers' strike, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" shows that there's still a reason to keep the medium in mind.
Set right after the end of "Terminator 2," Fox's new addition to the "Terminator" canon starts with a bang. Sarah (played by Lena Headey, fresh from starring in the comic-book-like film "300") is trying to keep her son John Connor (Thomas Dekker) happy in the present and safe from the future, where a massive artificial intelligence known as Skynet tries to wipe out mankind (you'll just have to go along for the ride here if you aren't a fan of the films). Sarah's -- and John's -- trouble is that a menacing group from the future wants John Connor dead, as he is supposed to lead a rebellion against Skynet in the years to come.
What all this means is a Terminator robot enters the show early and is a near-constant threat, trying to track Sarah and John down and, well, terminate them. Viewers will see the robot digging into his leg to pull out a gun to shoot John, among other cool special-effects gore. They will also get to meet Cameron Phillips (Summer Glau), a reprogrammed Terminator robot whose mission it is to protect John at all costs. Mom, son and robot form a powerful trio who try to track down equipment and clues left for them by supporters from the future. They even get to time travel from 1999 to 2007.
"Sarah Connor Chronicles" is much more than your usual bout of sci-fi. The stories are cohesive, the acting is convincing and the special effects look more than plausible. Every futuristic tale of robots and Armageddon requires some degree of suspended disbelief, but fans of action and adventure should find "Terminator" to be worth watching week after week.
If you like "Heroes" and "Lost," but can't stand the overwhelming sense of confusion that hangs over those shows as writers take weeks to resolve tiny plot points, take aim at "Terminator," which seems to prize action over everything else. Now if they can just get Arnold to make a cameo.
What's at stake: Not to be too melodramatic, but Fox is in something of a fix -- just like the other big broadcast networks (although Fox does have ratings juggernaut "American Idol" ready to roll out). Thanks to the writers' strike, there is a dearth of "must-see" programs on the air, and loads of reality programming, which is bound to crimp ratings over time. Fox was going to pair "Sarah Connor Chronicles" with its powerhouse spy drama "24," but has shelved the Kiefer Sutherland adventure series until the strike reaches its conclusion. With its big-bang special effects and big movie property tie-in, "Sarah Connor Chronicles" could prove a natural draw for a sizable audience, which would help Fox get people to sample other series, including "Canterbury's Law," a drama starting Juliana Margulies set to start later in the season.
Your ad here? There's no question that "Sarah Connor" hits the Fox sweet spot -- young men. That would make it a natural draw for movie studios, which can match their high-concept trailers with a sci-fi drama filled with explosions, chase scenes and futuristic gunplay. Telecom marketers would also find this sort of show a good draw (witness Sprint's recent affiliation with "Heroes" on NBC and Verizon Wireless's promotion that draws viewers to previews of ABC's "Lost.")
Media buyer's verdict: Even without all the gun battles, "Sarah Connor" has a shot. "Shows with compelling mythologies wind up getting viewers week after week, because viewers embrace the characters," said Shari Anne Brill, senior VP-director of programming at Carat. "Viewers who were anxious for the fast-paced action of '24' will have something to do in the meantime."