'Chuck' gets a January premiere date

zacharylevi_chuck_290.jpgIt's like TV-geek heaven today: Hours after the return date for "Lost" was announced, NBC has set a debut for the third season of "Chuck."

The show will kick off its third season on Sunday, Jan. 10 with back-to-back episodes before moving to its regular home at 8 p.m. ET Monday, Jan. 11.

NBC also says that "Heroes" will air a two-hour episode on Jan. 4, then slide back to 9 p.m. Mondays the following week. The moves boot "Trauma" off of Monday nights, and although there were reports Wednesday that the network was reconsidering its decision not to pick up the show, there's not much room on the schedule for it to go. The cutback of "Day One's" order will open up some space in the spring, but that's about it.

As for "Chuck," NBC is hoping the Sunday launch -- a day after NBC airs an NFL playoff doubleheader during which it will no doubt be massively promoted -- will expand the show's audience beyond the devoted cult it has now (the series averaged 7.36 million viewers last season). The Jan. 10-11 premiere will also give it a week on the air before "24" begins its new season on FOX.

In addition the already impressive array of guest stars lined up for this season -- Brandon Routh, Angie Harmon, Robert Patrick, Armand Assante, Angie Harmon, Kristin Kreuk, Vinnie Jones and Robert Patrick -- NBC also says former WWE champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin will guest-star as a character named Hugo Panzer, who gets caught up in Chuck's (Zachary Levi) first solo mission.

NBC has ordered 19 episodes of "Chuck" this season. The Jan. 10 premiere date will give the show seven episodes (the premiere counts as two) on the air before the network's Winter Olympics coverage bumps it for two weeks in February. Assuming everything goes as planned, it would return on March 1 and run through mid-May.

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