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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pre-Air Extravaganza: Chuck

In the last pre-air extravaganza installment, I reviewed the leaked pilot episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. As it turns out, the scene where [SPOILERS] Cromartie shoots up Cameron at John's school and then walks around with a gun shoved into his open leg wound [END SPOILERS] is set to be re-written and re-shot in the long, long wake of the Virginia Tech. shootings. I think that's ridiculous, but maybe that's why FOX doesn't pay me the big bucks to write a passionless Terminator spin-off.

But that's the past, and I'd like to avoid any apropos time travelling tonight if I may, because we're here tonight to hear about Chuck, a sort of sci-fi-comedy-drama mish-mash with the cast as follows:

Did you say Alec Baldwin!?

Oh. You didn't. Well, I'm sure he's just as good.

Eager critics were willing to dismiss Chuck early on, as it had many apparent similarities to UPN's failure of a show, Jake 2.0, which really wasn't all that fair of a comparison: I mean, UPN could have had sole broadcast rights to the Moon landings, and they still would've had to cancel it halfway through. I know it's not exactly a challenge to insult UPN, but I mean, really. Have they ever had one show, other than Star Trek, that lasted more then two seasons on its schedule? Sure, I could go easy on them - maybe it's just that they didn't have the contacts that the other networks had, being new in the business: but they passed on Malcolm in the Middle, which, although being a terribly unfunny show, was a success for FOX. Then they killed Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And Star Trek went down the tubes quicker than Data's reflexes once it became UPN-exclusive.

And that's why UPN sucked. Oh crap - I was supposed to be talking about Chuck.

Like before, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS, so watch out!

Chuck tells the story of Chuck Bartowski, anathema to women everywhere, and member of the prestigious Nerd Herd tech support team at the electronic retail chain Buy More. He hangs out and plays video games with fellow Buy More employee Morgan, a bearded hobbit-like dude who, like all of us desperate nerds, never knows when to shut up or go home. Chuck is sent an email from his former college room-mate, Bryce Larkin, and since Bryce just so happens to be a rogue CIA agent who's just downloaded a crap-load of state secrets into his Ipod and encoded it in a way that transmits it into another person's brain, Chuck is now SUPERCHUCK! Well, not so much, actually - he just has all that information stored in his little Nerd Herd brain.

It's explained away thusly: the NSA and the CIA were forced to share every bit of intelligence they had with each other after 9/11, and naturally this meant keeping it all on one computer in a big room in which every surface is covered in video displays, sort of like a Pee Wee's Secret Secret Mission:Impossible Playhouse. Therefore, we have a reason for why one agent could get all of the CIA's secret files, leaving no backup except in the head of a former friend. Whoopie and hooray for convenient contrivance!

The show begins at Chuck's birthday party, where his sister has tried to arranged for him to hook up with one, any one, of her fellow female doctors. I'm just going to skip over this introductory segment, since it only serves to introduce Chuck's status (single, ladies) and that he's still pining over a girlfriend he hasn't seen since the freshman year of college. We're also introduced to "Captain Awesome," Ellie's (Chuck's sister) boyfriend, but he doesn't do much either. So off we go! Chuck gets Bryce's email, has a head full o' new secret stuff, and goes off to work.

Sarah Walker, CIA Agent, is assigned to get close to Chuck and, if possible, retrieve the information. This helps us to get acquainted with "Nice Guy Chuck, leader of the Nerd Herd with a Heart of Gold," but more importantly, it gets Chuck out of the house so that he can come home to this:

A Ninja attempting to steal his computer. Needless to say, this means war.

When all is said and done, the Ninja is victorious, but the computer is mucilage.

Sarah and Chuck go out on a date so that Sarah can look for a backup to the super secret vital information that was only stored on one computer in the entire world. During a visit to a nightclub, the NSA attempts to get the information for themselves - you know, because National Security always plays second fiddle to making your career and getting to murder a blonde chick, consequences be damned.

Hey, how long do you think it'll take before this is animated and set to Haddaway's "What is Love?"

So, that doesn't turn out too well, either.

Throughout all of this, Chuck keeps getting "flashes" of the information he's been given, in particular, a bomb plot involving an Army General. NSA-asshole survives the hideous car-wreck pictured above, and just before he can kill blondie, Chuck remembers that the aforementioned Army General is about to blown to smithereens and, you know, just kind of throws it out there. NSA-asshole responds that Chuck "knows all our secrets," followed by "we're the good guys, we keep bombs from exploding." Which makes me wonder: if Chuck only has the information that the CIA and NSA have, then that means the CIA and NSA knew that there was going to be a bomb in the building where the General is. And just when were they planning on acting on this information? Was it in encrypted in such a way that it needed the magnificent mental prowess of the Nerd Herd to interpret it?

Well, putting aside plot holes that you could drive a fertilizer-filled truck through, the gang of CIA, NSA, and NERD get to the building, find the bomb, and, through the magic of Chekov's Gun, the day is saved by porno! How, you may be asking? Well, I'll spoil a lot of things, but this is really the highlight of the episode, so I'll leave it for you find out - all I'll say is that Morgan may have indirectly contributed. So go Morgan.

The episode ends the only way it can: through convenient suspension of disbelief. Chuck is not only allowed to live with all that information without being debriefed, but he's even allowed to go back to his thankless job as the alpha-male in the nerd herd. Of course, NSA-asshole shows up as a new employee for Chuck to train, and Sarah returns to keep an eye on him, presumably roaming the aisles of Buy More for 12 hours a day without somehow drawing suspicion, but this can only lead to more wacky hijinks!

What's the verdict on Chuck? I liked Morgan's character, and seeing as how I'm still watching Psych based solely on the humor of Shawn and Gus, that's really enough for me. There's the potential for NSA-asshole (whose name may in fact be John Casey, as played by Adam Baldwin) to be the straight-man Lassiter type to Chuck and Morgan, and that gives me great hope for the show. It also reminds me of The Lone Gunmen to some degree, so I'm definitely going to be giving this one a chance.

Favorite lines:

Jeff (one of Chuck's co-workers): What if you were the unwitting target of a Ninja vendetta and he returns tonight to strangle you with his nunchucks?
Chuck: That's super, Jeff. Thanks for thinking outside the box on that one.

That's super, Jeff.

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