In Praise of Chuck

In a climate where television shows hang under the threat of cancellation and some promising shows like [[Heroes (TV Series)|Heroes]] turn to mush before our eyes, it’s nice to have a show that you can rely on to entertain on just about every level.

And just in case the title and prominent cast photo didn’t give it away, that show is NBC’s [[Chuck (TV Series)|Chuck]].

To get you up to speed – Chuck is a regular underachiever working in a tech support job at a large retailer. An old college friend emails him a computer programme called the Intersect, a massive database of national security secrets, which gets embedded in Chuck’s brain. The CIA and NSA have to work together to protect Chuck, who is the only link to this valuable information. They assign the sexy Agent Walker and gruff Major John Casey to protect him. In the meantime, Chuck has to live his life without letting his family and friends know about his double life as a spy.

Chuck and Sarah: Will they, won’t they?

Chuck with his pretend girlfriend Sarah

Perhaps the most important recurring theme is the chemistry between Chuck and his handler, Sarah Walker. For a start, who wouldn’t be attracted to Sarah? But for their cover story, Chuck and Sarah have to pretend to be in a relationship. To complicate matters further, Sarah is torn between professionalism and the closeness she feels toward Chuck. Chuck will occassionally back off when he senses an approach from another spy – Bryce Larkin, for instance – or on the basis of bad advice from Morgan or Ellie.

The family connections

Chuck’s got a weird dysfunctional family – he and his sister Ellie grew up alone after their father left them. Their mother also left several years earlier, making Ellie the fussing but very lovable mother-figure in the household. Of course, Chuck’s father reappeared in the show recently, and it turns out that he invented the intersect that’s stuck in Chuck’s head.

Aside from the Bartowski family, Sarah Walker’s father has made an appearance as a conman, revealing a little more of Sarah’s hidden past to Chuck. With the possibility for more family members popping in to stir things up, this is one of my favourite parts of the show.

The Buy More geeks

While Chuck’s hanging by his nails from a rooftop somewhere, you can bet the misfits at the Buy More will be wreaking havoc in their own special way: Jeff is a very creepy former computer game champ with a stalkerish fixation on his co-worker Anna. Lester is an insecure, sycophantic type who’d love to usurp Chuck’s position of trust at the Buy More, but mostly can’t be bothered raising his game.

Big Mike, the store manager, makes rare but brilliant appearances, most recently when it was revealed that he was sleeping with Morgan’s mother. Mike (and his fish) have provided some brilliant comedy moments in the show.

Fulcrum

Fulcrum is the shady agency who want to create an intersect of their own. But they’re everywhere!!! Virtually every week, a Fulcrum agent is at the center of whetever conspiracy is bothering Chuck’s private life. They even managed to recruit Chuck’s ex-girlfriend Jill (the one who broke his heart in college).

The Babe Factor

Chuck is lucky enough to have two of the most stunning women on television working with him. Of course, one of them is his sister Ellie (played by Sarah Lancaster). The other is stunning Australian actress [[Yvonne Strahovski]], who plays Chuck’s cover girlfriend Sarah Walker.

And if that mix of blonde and brunette don’t float your boat, there’s always Morgan’s on-off girlfriend Anna and her enticing way of wearing her Buy More uniform. Or you could take your pick from the string of hot female guest stars who appear on the show, from Jenny McCarthy to Jordana Brewster.

Geek Credentials

A lot of the brilliance of Chuck is in how it weaves in geek references to the fabric of the show – whether it’s Sarah Walker dressed up as Princess Leia, or Quantum Leap’s Scott Bakula guest starring as Chuck’s dad. It’s never done in a negative way (let’s face it, the geek shall inherit the earth – you want to stay on their good side), but more of a celebration of Sci-Fi, technology and other things geeks love.

Whether it’s Chevy Chase’s turn as a corrupt version of Steve Jobs or Morgan’s quip about looking up a song on his Zune: Chuck: “You have a Zune?” Morgan: “I’m just jerking with ya, I’ll look it up on my iPod!” I literally fell off my seat laughing at that one.

Major John Casey

Adam Baldwin wins a special mention for his portrayal of the murderous, uptight NSA agent, John Casey. Casey’s surly demeanour and frequent threats to kill Chuck himself are hilarious, and I couldn’t imagine the show without him! Is it just me, or does Casey need to get laid? Perhaps a love interest for him in the next series?

Having just had a massive Chuck marathon, I have tried to pinpoint what I love about the series. Ultimately it boils down to great writing, a fantastic, diverse cast of characters and a mastery of cliff-hangers that keep you buzzing about the next episode. Technically, as a ‘formula show’, it shouldn’t work – Chuck has his villain of the week and the Buy More crew have their disaster of the week – but there’s something special about this show that I needed to write a post in priase of it. Just in case some trigger happy studio exec is thinking of canning it.

It’s not often that a show comes along that you can’t find some fault with, but Chuck is so damned near perfect that it deserves a word or two of support.

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