NBC's Chuck, better known as "The Show That Comes On Before Heroes" on Monday nights has just gotten an order for a full season from the network. That is, if the writer's strike ever comes to an end. So what is this show all about? Check out our handy guide to meet the characters and major plot lines, and catch-up with the little science-fiction, CIA-brain-implant show that could.

Besides starring Adam Baldwin of Firefly and Serenity fame, the show features mostly new faces. Here's a crash course that will wrap your brain around Chuck.

  • A Field Guide To Catching Up On ChuckChuck Bartowski: Chuck is the titular character of the show, and he works at Buy More, a sort of take on Best Buy, or your electronics store of choice. He's a member of the "Nerd Herd," which is a take on Best Buy's own "Geek Squad," where he provides tech support to customers. However, his life takes a turn for the bizarre (and the episodic) when someone he knew in college (now turned superspy) emails him a file containing all of the government's secrets (in a series of images), before succumbing to a bullet wound. Chuck opens the email, and zip zap zoom, everything gets imprinted on his brain. His computer is later taken out in a firefight when intelligence agents try to get the information back, meaning that his brain is now the only thing holding all the secrets of the U.S.
  • A Field Guide To Catching Up On ChuckSarah Walker: Sarah is the CIA's top field agent who happens to also be smoking hot. Of course. Are there any ugly top CIA agents out there? Maybe they stick them all in the accounting department, who knows. Sarah is one half of the government vying for the secrets locked in Chuck's brain, and is also the one who inadvertently destroyed his hard drive. She's had to enter into an uneasy alliance with her counterpart at the NSA, John Casey, in an effort to keep a lid on the secrets in Chuck's noggin. She also had to start posing as Chuck's girlfriend in order to thwart any plots or foes he happens to see in his memories, which get triggered when he sees certain subliminal images.
  • A Field Guide To Catching Up On ChuckJohn Casey: John is your typical shoot first, ask questions never kind of agent. Where Sarah is all about cloak and daggers and superspy tech, John is more apt to pop you in the face and shove a gun down your throat. Since the NSA doesn't want the CIA to get an upper hand on state secrets, he has to camp out near Chuck 24/7 in an effort to counter the same things that Sarah does. So, he gets an undercover job working at the Buy More in order to be near his boy. That's right, a head full of state secrets and intrigue, and Chuck decides to keep things on the downlow from his family and work at his same plain jane job. Go figure.
  • A Field Guide To Catching Up On ChuckMorgan Grimes: Chuck's best friend and geek role model. While Chuck has been billed as a show featuring nerds as the main characters, it's really Morgan who fills the shoes of geeky fanboy. He plays video games and shoots off references to obscure science fiction films, and looks the part as well. While Chuck could be considered boyishly handsome, Morgan looks like a nebbish with his George Lucas beard and tucked in shirts. He's the comic relief, the best friend, and the hero to nerds, all rolled into one.
  • So, what does it all boil down to? It's your basic "threat of the week" storyline, which is based on the flimsy concept of this one guy having all these secrets buried in his brain, subliminally. He'll see a packet of sugar, then a volcano on TV, and suddenly he'll remember that there is an assassination attempt on the English Prime Minister set to go off in moments, at which point John and Sarah kick it into high gear in an attempt to foil the plan. It's not really clear why John doesn't just shoot Sarah and bring Chuck in so he could be hooked up to every machine known to man as a bizarre Clockwork Orange kind of lab rat, but that would probably make for some not so family-friendly television on Monday evenings.

    Why should you care? As a science fiction fan, there are marginal references (at best) to science fiction mainstays like Star Wars and Firefly (yes, Adam Baldwin has a self-referential line or two), but this show doesn't fit well as part of the science fiction triumvirate of shows that Chuck, Heroes, and Journeyman were supposed to make up on Monday nights for NBC. It's a little too much Alias meets The Man With One Red Shoe, and we're wishing it had something more science-based to it. Plus, it sounds similar to the plot of the upcoming National Treasure: Book Of Secrets flick that'll be out this holiday season.

    Just tell is that Chuck has a top secret bionic implant, that he's part android, or that the email he received was actually an alien transmission and we're in. But this whole "Oops I saw the secret and now I'm the only one who might remember them" spy routine just isn't for us.