11.14.2007

Chuck Full of Something

The Angry Young Bostonian takes television-watching very seriously. It provides an escape from the mundaneness of the workday; it keeps the mind off the monotony of running on a treadmill; it gives a frame a reference when reading columns and columns of commentary about TV online.

Most shows that debuted in September have now broadcast over 25% of their episodes and it's time to check in with what works, what doesn't work, what still has a season pass on the DVR and what doesn't deserve disk space.

Some of the shows reviewed are returning series, others are in their freshman year. All reviews are written after the viewing of the fifth episode.

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Since Chuck is in its first season, we'll pass judgment via the categorization route:

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What show do you get when fantastic responsibility is thrust upon a schlub who is looking for more to life than their dead-end job in a big box store, but certainly not too much? You get Chuck... and you get Reaper... and you get a little Bionic Woman and even some Journeyman. As you can see, there's a strong common theme between several of the shows that have premiered this season (I discount Pushing Daisies, which I will review later on down the line, since the main character pretty much had his special ability/responsibility for his entire life).

What it's about: Chuck Bartowski is one of the aforementioned schlubs, working as a knock-off Geek Squad (Nerd Herd) member at a knock-off Best Buy (Buy More), who happens to mistakenly receive an email from an old college roommate -- an email that contains the downloaded contents of a government supercomputer that in turn contained all the secrets of the NSA and CIA combined. Since Chuck's old roommate blew up the computer (and got himself killed), Chuck is the only source of information for the CIA and NSA, both of which have sent agents to watch over him and carry out missions using the information in his head. Sexual tension heats up between Chuck and his CIA handler, Sarah Walker, as they play boyfriend and girlfriend as a cover.

Thoughts after the pilot: This show has pretty much everything a video game-playing nerd could want - snappy dialogue with references to Zork, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and more, stuff blowing up, and Yvonne Strahovski walks around in her underwear part of the time.

Your typical episode includes: Chuck sees someone or something that causes his brain to access the downloaded contents, giving him immediate knowledge of a security threat or situation. As Sarah and Casey, the NSA agent, work together on a mission, Chuck acts as a third wheel, usually getting all three in deep trouble before saving the day unexpectedly. On the domestic front, Chuck spends a lot of the time hiding his new found responsibility from his sister Ellie and best friend Morgan, who works at the Buy More with him. Chuck also spends part of each episode coming to grips that Sarah is only his pretend girlfriend, not his real girlfriend, which is hard because she's pretty good looking and acrobatic.

Long-term subplot: Unfortunately the show has eschewed any long term spy-related subplot for a focus on Chuck and Sarah's relationship. This isn't surprising, since the show's creator is the same person behind The O.C., but it's also disappointing. Chuck should be about explosions, half-assed attempts at karate and more Star Wars references -- not feelings!

What's good: The above-mentioned nerd-culture references; Yvonne Strahovski is that 'cute' kind of hot; Adam Baldwin is totally perfect as the over-the-top, gun happy CIA agent who feels Chuck is better off in a cell just feeding him information, rather than in the field.

What's not good:
  • The spy-related plots are pretty boring and not that interesting for someone who watches 24; in fact, the scenes at the Buy More are more interesting than the scenes of when Chuck is in the field
  • The show takes itself too seriously for the spy-related stuff and has a disproportionate amount of fun with everything else -- if premise is already ridiculous, so why not make everything quirky?
  • Zach Levi, who plays Chuck, is a handsome guy, so it's hard to believe he would be socially awkward and have trouble getting a date.

Thoughts after five episodes:
  • The "good" category above is about half the size of the "bad" category.
  • The writers need to either make the stakes a little higher for everyone involved or put the show on the Get Smart route to spy comedy.

Catch up here.

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Bottom line: If every episode follows the same plot, it's going to get real boring real fast.

1 Comments:

Blogger jomilkman complained...

"Zach Levi, who plays Chuck, is a handsome guy, so it's hard to believe he would be socially awkward and have trouble getting a date."

huge pet peev of mine. not necessarily with chuck, which i haven't seen, but with about 900 other shows/movies that have made the same glaring misjudgment.

11/16/2007 5:46 PM
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