Tuesday, August 14, 2007


“Why me? I’m nobody. I’m the supervisor of a Nerd Herd at a Buy More. Maybe one day, I’ll be Assistant Store Manager, and I don’t even know if I want that job.”
-- Chuck Bartowski

Chuck (Zachary Levi, from Less Than Perfect) is working an 11$ an hour job at the local Buy More. He’s got a sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster, from What About Brian and Everwood) who’s forever pushing him in the way of the nearest live, breathing girl, and a best friend in the person of fellow nerd Morgan (Joshua Gomez, from the sadly cancelled Invasion and Without A Trace).
On his birthday, he gets a surprise email from Bryce Larkin (Matthew Bomer, from Traveler and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), his roommate back in Stanford, who apparently stole Chuck’s girl and got him kicked out of university; an email that contains all of the information the NSA and the CIA have, encoded in a program equipped with pattern recognition.
All that gets stuck in Chuck’s head in one massive infodump, and makes him the target of both intelligence agencies, kicking off the engaging and entertaining hi-jinx of Chuck.

Brought to us by Josh Schwartz and McG (who also teamed-up for The O.C.), Chuck is fun and loads of funny, as Schwartz once again places geekdom front and center and introduces us to Chuck Bartowski, a nerd whose love life is well and truly dead following the trauma of losing the mythical Jill to Bryce back at Stanford. Then, just when he thinks he’s scored after Sarah (spellcheck nemesis Yvonne Strzechowski) comes up to the Nerd Herd counter, this whole agent/spy thing comes crashing through his door.
Schwartz takes one of any average kid’s dreams (for some, it was to be a secret agent, for others—like myself—it was to be a superhero) and gives it to a geek (which, on some levels, is really just a kid who never completely grew up), mining the conceit for all its comedic and action potential: Chuck is Alias if Alias were a comedy and Sidney Bristow were a nerd.

The action set pieces are cool, the first—as with Casino Royale’s opening—proudly displaying the fact that mainstream productions have learned a little something from Yamikazi. There’s a car chase, and a Mexican stand-off atop a skyscraper.
While on the comedy front, though much of Chuck’s humour is found in the smart dialogue courtesy of Schwartz, there is one particular moment of broad, slapstick humour that I wish had been downplayed. (I’m not very big on slapstick.)
There is also some alarming sitcomesque humour (as with Ellie’s boyfriend, “Captain Awesome,” played by Living With Fran’s Ryan McPartlin) that I hope gets refined as the season unfolds.

But, above and beyond the action and the humour, what seals the deal with Chuck are the long-term plot threads that are planted in the Pilot that hopefully, the series will fully explore in future episodes. The one I’m most interested in is why did Bryce send the email to Chuck? They hadn’t spoken in five years, and they apparently parted under less than happy circumstances. Why Chuck?
I realize this isn’t Lost, but I do hope we see more of what went down at Stanford, which will perhaps give us an inkling as to what was going on in Bryce’s head when he decided to send the email to Chuck.

Minor flaws notwithstanding, Chuck opens solidly, and as the lead-in to NBC’s phenomenal Heroes, stands to attract a huge audience. And I can guarantee Chuck is a fantastic way to spend an hour as you’re waiting for your weekly Heroes fix.

Parting shot: As an aside, it’s interesting to note that three individuals once involved with Superman are on Chuck: McG, who came this close to directing the fifth Superman film; Matthew Bomer, who was Brett Ratner’s choice to play the Man of Steel; and Ryan McPartlin, who auditioned but was reportedly rejected by the studio.

Parting shot 2: Also in the cast is Dexter’s C.S. Lee as Buy More co-worker Harry Tang.

(Images courtesy of Chuck Bartowski’s photos at flickr.com.)

1 comment:

Reg said...

This reminds me very much of Jake 2.0, but at least this is funnier.