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The Best Show You’re Not Watching

April 24, 2009

Chuck airs its second season finale on Monday April 27 8/7c. In its sophomore season, Chuck has seen its hero become adjusted to life as the government’s most important intelligence asset- The Intersect, while struggling with his very real feelings for fake girlfriend and CIA handler Sarah and trying to maintain a normal life at the Buy More and at home. NBC has yet to announce that Chuck will be picked up for a third season, much to the shock of its fans. I asked some friends and fellow TV geeks to weigh in on just what it is that they like about Chuck.

1. Obviously, the writer’s strike killed a lot of shows as they were just starting to blossom and others have managed to survive, but just barely. Chuck, I feel, has picked up a lot of steam in the second half of the second season and has potential to do all kinds of crazy awesome things next season. Why has a show that’s as funny and entertaining as Chuck been struggling so much? Should NBC move it to another night? Spend more on advertising the show? More shower scenes?

Eunice: I think the show has just been struggling to find an audience probably due to the fact that Mondays are jam packed with good TV. A lot of my friends who were not Chuck viewers before only needed one forced viewing (it’s ok, I didn’t tie them up) to want more of the show. Maybe if Chuck were moved to Tuesdays or Wednesdays, they might be able to pick up some new viewers.

Anthony: I think the main problem with Chuck‘s struggles is that it is competing against some big shows like House and Dancing with the Stars. I’m sure if NBC moved our show to another night, like Tuesday, then Chuck would have a stronger following.

Jentrie: You know what? Chuck has been pretty phenomenal all season. The premiere was fantastic, and the 2nd episode out of the gate was Chuck vs. the Seduction, which featured one Mr. John Larroquette. The guest stars have been well-chosen. I think Chuck has struggled because of the reasons everyone else mentions – the writer’s strike, the 2-month hiatus in the winter for virtually no reason, and its extremely competitive time slot. I do think NBC will keep it, though. The concept of product placement has been mentioned, and I think that this is where Chuck definitely has an edge over a show like Daisies. If they can continue to use this to their advantage, I think it’ll help quite a bit. I’ll think about that more while I’m buying my $5 Footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki from Subway to eat during the finale….

As for more shower scenes? Yes, please. I think that goes without saying.

Megan: Well I partially feel like the reason Chuck hasn’t gotten such great ratings is that the whole ratings system is outdated. With DVRs and Hulu you don’t even need a TV. I think the network execs realize that, but it’s hard to convince people to buy ad space when you can’t prove anyone watches your show. I don’t know why everyone else in America seems to like Dancing with the Stars better. I can only assume that our faltering education system and fascination with B-list has-been celebrities has something to do with it. Why does America hate everything I like?!?!

Jentrie: I feel the same way! It makes me sad to see creative shows fall by the wayside as networks fill their time with reality shows and crime scene dramas (CBS, anyone? It’s all the same show! Why can’t anyone see that! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!)

Brian: I can’t decide why it struggles, probably because I’ve never put a finger on why it’s so good. I mean, when I break it down it doesn’t add up for me. The premise is silly. The science fiction is of the “don’t scrutinize it too closely” variety. Chuck is too good looking to be a nerd. Sarah is too pretty for words. Almost nothing that happens is at all plausible, and the central relationship is the typical unrequited love type.

And yet, it’s such a satisfying show to watch. It’s just plain fun. I root for every single character. So why isn’t everyone else seeing what I’m seeing? This show should be pulling in 13 million viewers a week. And by all means, more shower scenes. That should be the case regardless of ratings.

Keep reading after the jump…

2. What’s your favorite thing about Chuck?

Eunice: There are so many things to love about Chuck. You have the action, the comedy, the heart so it’s hard to pick just one thing. But I must say, I really do like the relationships this show portrays: the brother-sister relationship, the best friends relationship, the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, the spy-intersect relationship….you know, the normal stuff.

Anthony: I think the storylines. They’re pretty simple, and they’re fun, so they keep you hooked.

Jentrie: Where to begin? “Everything” might be too broad of an answer, so I’ll narrow it down. The case of the Season 1 DVD says that Chuck is “Get Smart for a 24 world”, and I think that describes what I love about it best. It doesn’t take itself seriously. So many of the things that happen in the show, to steal a quote from Chuck, “aren’t usually an option in real life”, but the characters make us forget that for a little while and just enjoy the ride. It’s just a show that sets out to have a good time, and succeeds week after week. I also love every single member of the cast and what they have done with their characters, especially the “big three”. In particular, I don’t think any character makes me laugh more than Adam Baldwin’s John Casey, on any show.

Megan: I love all the nerdy references. I mean last Monday when Chuck said there was no way Casey could get enough torque to beat him with the radiator, I was all “Physics FTW!” Plus, the soundtrack is kickass. And last but not least, Adam Baldwin is perfect as Casey.

Brian: I love that it’s funny. OK, that’s kind of vague. I love that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time it doesn’t insult viewers by mocking its own premise. No, the idea of an Intersect is not very plausible. But the writers ask us to just accept it and run with it, and it pays off every time. I guess my favorite thing about Chuck is the writing. That’s still vague, but really it explains why I love every character, right down to Jeffster and the General. There are no weak links. The C plots are as funny as the A plots are suspenseful. The stories are built around the characters, so you never get caught up in what’s implausible. All that boils down to good writing.

2a. Isn’t Zachary Levi dreamy?

Eunice: Can I get an AMEN, sista?! But seriously, if it weren’t illegal, I would kidnap him and tie him up and…whoops, I am saying a lot of things.

Anthony: I’m straight.

Jentrie: I absolutely concur with your findings, Megan. Wonderful actor, and nice-looking to boot. I’d like to submit the following as evidence.

Megan: Oh yeah. He’s my new TV boyfriend. I had to break up with John Krasinski, but I feel good about my decision.

3. The way they’ve set up the penultimate episode, with Chuck getting the intersect out of his head, Morgan quitting the Buy More, and Chuck and Sarah maybe finally together, where do they go from here?

Eunice: I have no idea which is why I am so excited to see what Schwartz and Co. do.

Anthony: There are a lot of things they can do: Chuck will probably realize that a “normal” life isn’t for him, and he could become an agent, or he’ll volunteer to reinsert the intersect into his brain.

Jentrie: From the previews for the Finale, it appears Bryce is back this time around. I’m curious to see what they’ll do with that dynamic. I don’t think he’ll be a threat to Chuck and Sarah in the romantic sense, as they’ve done that already. I do think vs. the Colonel was a milestone in the Chuck-Sarah relationship. They know how they feel about each other, and there’s no turning back from that. Let’s see what these two crazy kids can do together! I doubt Morgan will actually leave, but with the staff of the Buy More in disarray, I’m curious as to how Big Mike (Corleone, apparently) will get his former position back (assuming he does). Really, I have no idea where they plan to go with this, and I find that very exciting.

Megan: I’d like to see Casey and Sarah quit the government and the two of them and Chuck form some private sector spy firm in Los Angeles. And the front could be a doggy clothing store.

Brian: The easy way out would be for Chuck to put the Intersect back in. I wouldn’t mind that in theory, but it’s all in the execution. Why would Chuck go right back to the life he spent two years escaping? No, I think he’ll put the Intersect back because, as untrained as he still is, Chuck is a spy now. It’s his life, from the secrecy and the plotting to the righteous fight for his country against those who would harm it. He’s an idealist, and he has this incredible outlet for pursuing his ideals. And I really believe those moments in the motel bed were a breakthrough for Chuck and Sarah. They’ll be together on some level, and it will be the perfect, plausible complication for their job to work together. As for Morgan, I have a feeling he’ll be back. There’s something not-so-permanent about decisions to leave everything behind and move to Hawaii.

4. If they do end up hitting some reset button, and Chuck gets the Intersect back in his head, the Benihana in Hawaii isn’t hiring, and everything ends up the same as it was before, isn’t that sort of cheating? How long can they keep up that premise before it gets old (I’m looking at you, The Office)? Why does every television show feel like it can’t change the rules?

Eunice: I guess I don’t agree with you on The Office keeping the same premise and being old, so I can’t say that Chuck would be cheating as long as they keep me interested in the storytelling.

Anthony: I think it will be cheating. If they, the writers, do choose to hit the reset button, I’ll be pretty disappointed. But judging by last Monday’s (VS. the Colonel) episode, I think Chuck writers will make the bold choice, and do something different. If not, and they go back to the old ways, then at least have Chuck and Sarah be together…and maybe take them out of Cali? Honestly, how many terrorists can Burbank, CA get?

Megan: I’ve spent some time in Burbank, and almost every time it’s resulted in rage. I blame the IKEA.

Jentrie: I think they have to go in a different direction (and from interviews I’ve read so far, I really do think they will). The challenge is to have the characters, particularly Chuck, keep the same qualities that we all love. I think they can do that. If Chuck were to have the intersect put back into his head, I don’t think it would be a cop-out, either. It’s one thing to have that sort of responsibility thrown at you. It’s quite another to choose it for yourself. I don’t think the Buy More will play as pivotal a role next year (because there WILL be a next year), and that’s probably for the best. Unlike Office, Chuck‘s not nearly as confined to reality, so I think that keeps their options quite a bit more open.

Megan: It is cheating. I can’t imagine the government allowing Chuck to be the Keeper any longer, it seems like it would be much safer if they stored their intelligence in some protected server, maybe in multiple locations….Not that the premise of this show was ever that practical. As far as Morgan going to Hawaii…didn’t they have the original Buy More manager go to Hawaii? Maybe they can bring him back. I don’t know the actor’s name but I really liked him. He plays Matsuka in Dexter. In the very least, I hope they make some big change and stick with it.

Brian: I kind of answered this above, but no, I don’t think it’s cheating. But that really depends on how it happens. They really have to sell it, and I believe they could and would. It would be such a bold move to reinvent the basic premise and have Chuck live the life of a spy willingly rather than as the Intersect’s captive. I don’t think the current premise is in danger of getting old yet, but that’s no reason not to change things up.

5. You can write in any 80’s reference to the show you like. What is it?

Eunice: There has to be a Goonies reference in there somewhere…just has to (I don’t think there’s been one so far in the show, has there?) But come on, don’t you think Chuck has an old Goonies lunchbox or tee lying around somewhere? There has to be.

Brian: Casey wasn’t always a super-agent. Once upon a time he was a leisure suit-and-no-socks-wearing, spiky haired Don Johnson wannabe, bouncing at an L.A. club by night and working at a downtown gym by day. Eventually, he met an Army recruiter who changed his life. But before that could happen, he was well on his way to a career as a personal trainer to the stars. This is all revealed to Chuck and Sarah when they learn Fulcrum plans to blow up the convention center where Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran and the surviving members of Wang Chung are performing a charity gig.

Megan: Hmm, I’d like to see some Simple Minds or a Breakfast Club reference. Has there been one and I missed it? OR if they do decide to give Chuck a little combat training, they must pay homage to the Karate Kid. Even if it’s just “You’re the Best” in the soundtrack.

Jentrie: So many options! The 80’s references are yet another favorite thing about this show. I’ll just list a couple of possibilities. Movie-wise, I’d pick something from Better Off Dead or Ghostbusters (“He’s a sailor….we get this guy laid, we won’t have any trouble!”) . TV? Maybe something off of Perfect Strangers. They already have Night Court covered, so in my book, they can do no wrong.

Anthony: Truffle Shuffle?

Jentrie: Just a quick note about the music on Chuck. For my money, it’s by far the best soundtrack anywhere on television. Bon Iver? Perfect. Blitzen Trapper? Perfect. Huey Lewis? Perfect. The use of Toto’s Africa was nothing short of epic. The mix of indie rock and 80’s fits Chuck Bartowski like a glove. Also, I wish I were that glove. Wow, I’m saying a lot of things…….

Megan: I agree. I’ve downloaded many, many albums based on songs I’ve heard on Chuck. My current selection for April, Forfeit/Fortune by Crooked Fingers was inspired by hearing “Luisa’s Bones” in Chuck vs. The Dream Job. (And it rocks.)

I want to thank Brian, Jentrie, Anthony, and Eunice for taking the time to do this! You guys rock!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Eunice permalink
    April 24, 2009 3:20 pm

    Jentrie, I think it’s hilarious that we both said the exact same thing (I’m saying a lot of things…….) when talking about Chuck.

  2. Jentrie permalink
    April 24, 2009 10:02 pm

    Yep! How can we help it, though? He makes people say a lot of things.

    Also, Brian? I like your show idea – the one with Duran Duran. Season 3 finale?

  3. June 17, 2009 11:27 pm

    I’m trying to start a new expression, “to be Chucked” referring both to inexplicable love for the show and the strange capacity the main character has for making everybody love him. Because I have no idea why I do. The show is derivative, cliched and silly but I truly love it and have my first official crush on a fictional character because of it. I think maybe that’s it’s appeal: the wonderfully-likeable, beautifully-cast set of characters. I have truly been “Chucked”.


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