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Monday, 12 December 2011


A friend of mine told me about a show quite awhile ago now; a show with Adam Baldwin and nerd references in it. I laughed, said, "That's awesome" and never got around to checking it out. Then, true to form, I was looking for another show to check out. I remembered Chuck, and decided to check it out.

Let me give you some background: IMDB provides the following promotional fare about the show,  

        "When a twenty-something computer geek inadvertently downloads critical government secrets into his brain, CIA and NSA assign two agents to protect him and exploit such knowledge, turning his life upside down."

While enticing, that tidbit works for only about half the show, maybe a little more than half. The show is about said twenty-something, named Chuck, who works at a "Buy More", basically a Best Buy, and his adventures in espionage. 

Let me just say that the show is formulaic; once you've seen 3 episodes, you'll know the pattern. However, the way they present that pattern, turn it on its head, that's what kept me coming back from week to week. The show takes all the classic tropes involved with spy movies, TV dramas, and sitcoms, and presents them to you in a way which demonstrates their familiarity comfort. The show manages to give you a simple format, while presenting it in refreshing, and often surprising ways.

A show with a character's name in the title is only as strong and interesting as said character. Chuck is a relate-able character whose growth over the series rewards the viewers for sticking with him. We first see Chuck as a mopey, ill-confident extended teenager (a person who hasn't grown up and is still stuck without direction, entirely too common in our world today), working in the Buy More, going nowhere. With him, is Morgan, his sidekick, someone who makes even Chuck's low levels of accomplishment seem extraordinary. 

Chuck receives an email from an old colleague named Bryce. Upon opening said email, images flash and Chuck passes out. We learn that he has downloaded "The Intersect" into his brain, a collection of secrets from the CIA and NSA. Once these agencies find out about this, they move in on Chuck.
Enter Sarah Walker, CIA agent. Blond, sexy, confident, she moves in trying to get some idea where the Intersect has gone. Enter John Casey, NSA agent. Tough, gruff, and to the point, he too wants to know what Chuck knows. Chuck ends up helping them both stop a bomb going off and that's when the three of them form an unlikely partnership. The government feels that they can use Chuck's secrets and Sarah and John are there to protect him and exploit said knowledge, thus the tagline given above, in Italics

As the series continues, we obviously become more interested in the characters. Sarah's ice-cold demeanor melts and so too do our hearts (too cheesy?) when we notice her falling for Chuck. Right from the first episode, there is a goodness to Chuck, an innocence, but more importantly a desire to help people that wins Sarah over. Not that it took much convincing for me...err, I mean Chuck of course, for Chuck to fall in love with Sarah.

Every episode makes it clear how awesome and beautiful Sarah is. Every time she enters the Buy More, the scene slows down, her hair waves in the breeze, combine that with her ruthless efficiency as a spy, and her compassion for Chuck, and well, she's a winner in my book. Oh, and the nigh-inevitable girl-fights featured in almost every episode, haha.
But seriously, while a show that showed an obviously sexy woman, doing things that are over the top and meant to showcase her would normally turn me off, I like subtlety, the show manages to do so without me losing faith. Sarah manages to show a vulnerability, and as she struggles with that, we relate to her, and urge her on to give her heart to Chuck. She isn't just something to look at, she's a compassionate woman who missed childhood completely. As their relationship begins to grow, Chuck manages to get her to search within herself and see herself as more than just an agent, and thus, we do too.

John Casey's stern attitude is one we enjoy right from the start. At first I was happy, and a little sad, for Adam Baldwin's seemingly type-casted role as tough-guy John Casey. I mean, I've only seen him in a few other things, but if you happen to remember a little show he was on before, a show cut before its prime, Baldwin played a grunting, gun-blazing, tough-guy, who's lack of words won us over. Well, he's done it again. He's the hero of Burbank, the man we call Jay...John. However, he too grows as a character, albeit slowly, but it is almost more rewarding. At first, he thinks the entire operation is a joke; babysitting a civilian when he could be out there, sniping terrorists. But, his belief in Chuck, and his team, grows as the series continues. The infrequent times that he displays emotion are diamonds in the rough, and makes you love the "big teddy bear" that much more.

Even Chuck's best friend Morgan has an interesting character arc. At first, he is very annoying, providing some comic relief but often getting in Chuck's way unintentionally. However, he finds out Chuck's secret and begins working with the team. His knowledge of Chuck saves the team on more than one occasion, and his working with the team goes to show you how close the two of them are. That was a complaint I had early in the show: that Morgan and Chuck did not seem very good friends despite their claims to the contrary. But, in working together, you can see why they've remained best friends. Morgan grows up as the show progresses, showing responsibility and bravery. His arc is one of the most impressive and noticeable, going from climbing in Chuck's window to hang out and play Call of Duty, to walking through the front door as a man and solid member of Chuck's team.

Finally, there's Chuck. As a friend pointed out, his haircut changed for the better as the show went on, making him look less dopey, so that's good, haha. Additionally, Chuck moves from being a victim to a hero over the course of the show. At first, he is at the mercy of the Intersect, having to do whatever Casey or Sarah asked/told him to do, having to balance his two lives, and lie to his friends and family to carry out missions he never asked for. Later, Chuck's confidence grows and he becomes a real spy, leading missions and saving the day. While his abilities improve, Chuck's natural goodness, and oddity come out, making for some interesting situations and odd saves throughout the show. 

A couple of things I want to mention about the show in general. First, Robert Duncan McNeil is the producer of this show. For anyone familiar with Star Trek: Voyager, he played Tom Paris. For anyone not familiar, well, it makes sense that the most badass, suave, spy-like character on that show ended up making a spy show of his own.

Secondly, there's one really cool thing I love about Chuck. Their lack of deus ex machina, or more precisely, the show's ability to demonstrate it early on and make it seem either entirely believable or at least, not out of nowhere. The first episode, when we first see Chuck, he is instructing his fellow Buy More colleagues, that there is a website out there, with a virus on it that will cause a specific type of computer to literally crash and burn. He demonstrates that and the show goes on. I thought at first it was just the show's way of showing us that Chuck is a normal person, doing a job. Later, however, there is a bomb in a hotel, and while Casey and Sarah think about how to disarm it, Chuck notices that the computer running it is the same model as the one he was working on earlier. He connects it to the website, and the computer crashes, defusing the bomb. Maybe not entirely believable, but makes me feel better when I see a show actually trying to do things right. 

As a nerd, I love the references. The show routinely throws a movie, comic book, or video game reference out there for you to catch. Often, they're lines of dialogue from the ever nerdy Chuck and Morgan, sometimes, they're background content which adds more flavour to the show. Sometimes, a situation will seem to pan out exactly like one in a movie, and just when you wonder if they meant to do that, they make it obvious they did, but they do something to make it fit and make you laugh.

Surprising guest appearances, from Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise), Linda Hamilton (Terminator, Terminator II), to Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix Trilogy) and even Dolph Lundgren and Timothy Dalton, even Isaiah Mustafa (the Old Spice Guy), the show keeps me interested.

Oh, one more thing: the creators of the show said they are doing only 4 seasons and then stopping. If they go through with it, I'll be very happy. I never want a good thing to end, but I am tired of good shows carrying on way too long, just to pander to the audience, when they should be wrapping up their craft. You know of shows like that, I know you do.

So, that's it. The show is in its final season, and I for one am excited about how it will all end. Check it out, like I said, it's formulaic, but that's a good thing. If you like the first two episodes, you'll love the rest of the show.

Thanks for reading!

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