Chuck Bartowski - Zachari Levi
John Casey - Adam Baldwin
Sarah Walker - Yvonne Strahovski
Morgan Grimes - Joshua Gomez
Ellie Bartowski - Sarah Lancaster
An ordinary man gets a secret database downloaded into his brain and from that point on is a vital security asset with two top agents assigned to his protection. How would James Bond deal with protecting a completely ordinary man, a man who hides at the first sign of gunfire and trusts all the wrong people? It's a brilliantly simple idea and it's the core of the new series CHUCK.
Brilliantly simple the concept might be, but a show needs more than that to succeed. Fortunately, CHUCK has a secret weapon of its own in the shape of its cast. Zachary Levi is the anchor as the bemused everyman, and he manages to be hopeless and charming all at the same time. He shares a real chemistry with Yvonne Strahovski as the sexy spy who starts to fall for his unusual charms. She also disrobes quite a bit and gets into a series of fights with other sexy female spies, obvious hooks for the young male audience that this is so clearly aimed at. Completing the trio is the wonderfully dry and underplaying Adam Baldwin as the super-hard fellow agent upon whom Chuck's charms are completely lost.
Supporting the main cast are a set of minor characters all chosen to be as quirky and off the wall as the main lead, including his over-supportive sister, her dumb jock boyfriend, Chuck's loser best friend, a set of oddball coworkers and a boss who rules through fear (he thinks).
The subversion of all things spy and Bondian is the show's raison d'etre, combined with a 'will they, won't they' relationship that just manages to stay on the right side of intrusive.
CHUCK is never less than entertaining and light, but even a souffle starts to lose its appeal if you eat too much of it. The show gets away with it throughout this first season, but it will have to develop a little more in future if it is to survive.Top
Chuck is a true nerd and proud of it. He works at an IT helpdesk in a big warehouse store, plays computer games and hasn't had a girlfriend since college so when he his roomate from those days sends him an e-mail that downloads the combined secrets of the NSA and CIA into his brain he is singularly unprepared to deal with them. He is also unprepared for the deadly agents that are sent after those secrets, one a gorgeous female who wants to date him, the other a grizzled agent who wants to kill him. It's going to take an attempted assassination to save him.
Losers, slackers and nerds appear to be the new heroes. Perhaps its because the nerds who first started out playing Dungeons and Dragons are all now television and movie executives. That's really all well and good as long as the show is good and fortunately the opening episode of Chuck shows some promise.
Firstly it helps that the cast are very likeable. Zachari Levi is a nerd, but he's also a far too good looking one with far too much charm to be real one. It's a good enough facsimile though. He's able to anchor the show and allow the other characters to orbit around him. Yvonne Strahovski makes for a very sexy female assassin, but the sequences of her in her underwear smack of a desperate grab for the male viewer. She doesn't need it and neither does the character. Adam Baldwin's agent is going to take some time to develop a personality beyond being slightly grumpy, but that will hopefully come.
This being the pilot there's an awful lot of exposition to get through, but it's handled pretty well, allowing for one kick-ass action sequence that promises more for the future and a last minute bomb threat that sets up the format for the rest of the series. The mutual antipathy between CIA and NSA makes for an interesting commentary on the US intelligence services. It's funny when it wants to be and action-packed when it chooses and doesn't actually miss a step at all.
CHUCK is up and running. Whether it can keep up the pace or quality remains to be seen.Top
Chuck vs the Helicopter
The intelligence agencies want their secrets back and they think that they know how to get them out of Chuck's head, but the doctor who was to be the lynchpin in the operation is vapourised in a car bomb. Sarah blames Casey, Casey blames Sarah and Chuck's sister wants to meet his new girlfriend.
This second episode is a disappointing step down from the pilot as it consists mainly of the two agents telling Chuck that the other is bad and responsible for the Doctor's death. There is some running around, a french farce of a dinner party and then Chuck has to fly a helicopter like its a computer game. It's not as funny as it would like to think it is, there is less action (outside of an agent on agent wiener house bust up) and the plot is predictable with a twist that you see coming almost as soon as it's set up.
That said, the cast is still likeable and there is a killer LOST reference that made us really laugh.
CHUCK is still in a grace period and so it just about gets away with this, but it is going to have to do better if it is to maintain our good feelings about it.Top
Chuck vs the Tango
Chuck gets his first field mission when he puts together a list of clues to announce that one of the world's most notorious arms dealers is going to be at an art auction. Unfortunately, nobody who has see the arms dealer has lived to tell the tale so only Chuck's peculiar talents are likely to reveal him. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned and Chuck's life is put in danger more than once.
It's only episode three and the shine is starting to wear off the show. The problem isn't the people. The cast remain extremely likeable and are the main reason why this remains at least watchable.
The problem is the plotting, which in this episode is threadbare at best and suffers from having been used so very recently in BIONIC WOMAN, substituting a bionic eye with Chuck's secrets-linking brain.
The tango moment is funny enough, Chuck's torture scene is amusing and Yvonne Strahovski gets to both slink into a evening gown and get involved in a half-decent fight.Top
Chuck vs the Wookie
The team is ordered to help a rival of Sarah's to locate and steal a giant diamond from an arms dealer. This rival turns out to be Carina, an incredibly hot girl who does everything that she can to spoil Sarah's cover and relationship with Chuck as well as gaining the diamond for herself. When Sarah is left in deadly danger, however, Chuck is the only hope for saving either of them.
The plot is basic in the extreme, but that doesn't matter much because that's not what this episode is about. This is about the rivalry between the two gorgeous agents. Guest star Mini Anden rivals Yvonne Strahovski in the looks, action and character departments, making the rivalry all the more interesting and believable. She also seems to enjoy the duplicitous nature of her job a good deal more, making her more entertaining. She certainly doesn't mind getting down to her underwear either.
Subtlety is not high on the episode's agenda, but it is fun enough with good one liners and enough action to get by on.Top
Chuck vs the Sizzling Shrimp
Whilst out with friend Morgan trying to score some sizzling shrimp, Chuck spots a top Chinese agent. Sarah and Casey stop an assassination attempt on a local bigwig, but it turns out that the local man is head of a Triad and has kidnapped the chinese woman's brother. In return for her defection, the team agree to help her get her brother back, although this leaves Chuck with no time for either his friend or sister who are both in need of him.
It seems that Chuck is settling down into a routine of being 'fine', which is a shame after its initial promise and episodes like last week's Chuck vs the Wookie. The plots aren't proving to be either exciting enough nor funny enough to take away from the fact that it is all getting a bit samey. Chuck spends most of his time trying to juggle his new life with his old and messes up and then uses his charm to make it all right whilst the agents tell him to stay in the car, which he doesn't and saves the day.
This episode isn't exactly bad, it just isn't anything special.Top
Chuck vs the Sandworm
The interview for assistant manager of the Buy More is nigh, but Chuck has more immediate worries when he identifies a missing CIA technical genius. Laszlo has been exploited by the agency for his inventions since a very young age and Chuck can identify with that as he has just found his home bugged. Laszlo, though, is about to take revenge and Chuck has to choose between a new job or a new calling.
The introduction of the Laszlo character allows CHUCK a new avenue to explore in terms of his identifying with the fugitive, but it is just more riffing on the same theme. Chuck finds reasons not to trust his handlers, reasons that they give him, quite frankly. He pines for the girl and she doesn't respond. His friend feels rejected, but still comes through for him. We've seen all this before already, and it's only the incidental pleasures that keep bringing us back.
Those pleasures are, this week, the sight of Yvonne Strahovski as a very attractive Princess Leia in the gold bikini (don't believe us? See below) and Chuck and Morgan's sandworm suit.
Chuck vs the Alma Mater
Five years ago Chuck was thrown out of Stanford University, apparently at the instigation of Bryce Larkin. Now his old professor, revealed as a CIA asset, is in trouble and Chuck has learned that he himself had a file on the Intersect computer system. The only way to find out the truth behind his file and his ejection from the university is to go back there and face the pain. Oh and also an Icelandic assassin who likes to use a crossbow.
Instead of a simple 'mission of the week' thing, this episode of CHUCK delves into some of the back history and reveals the first inklings of a plot arc. The actual mission and the return to Stanford is fairly standard stuff and the adventures of Chuck's co-workers under their new manager are quite frankly a distraction, but the information imparted about Chuck's past and Bryce Larkin's apparent betrayal gives it a bit more bite.
That said, it it weren't for the intrinsic likeability of the cast we might have given up on this a while back.Top
Chuck vs the Truth
A nuclear scientist with a set of master launch codes is poisoned by a truth drug that ultimately kills. Chuck's sister Ellie gets a dose and in trying to save her life Chuck, Sarah and Casey also gets dosed. The race is on not only to save their lives, but to get an antidote before someone says more than they ought.
The truth's a tricky thing. If you don't use it you land yourself in very deep water, but use too much of it and the trouble is ten times worse. This episode of CHUCK sets up a killer scenario, but then fails to go through with it. The opportunities for jokes at the expense of what everyone thinks of everyone else are pretty much squandered, but there is enough to make it enjoyable enough, if not memorable.Top
Chuck vs the Imported Hard Salami
Following Sarah's revelation under truth drug that she saw no future with Chuck and her, Chuck decides to try and make a go of it with the girl from the sandwich shop, Lou. When her ex-boyfriend turns out to be smuggling a time-sensitive package into LA, Chuck has to again juggle his secret life with what he would like to be his love life, only this time there are two women making a mess of it for him.
This episode manages to be a step up from some of the others in that it takes the story a little further with the plot arc of Chuck's relationship with Sarah as well as providing a one-off story that is also fun. Hell, even the subplot with Morgan getting it on with one of his co-workers is funny. The love triangle is nothing new, but it does have three charming corners to it and they are all given some nice dialogue to play with. Even Adam Baldwin's usually neglected agent Casey gets some nice lines.
But the big moment of the episode comes right at the end, after Sarah and Chuck have kissed in the face of certain death, when the package is opened and the one thing that could destroy Chuck's happiness is found to be lying within.Top
Chuck vs the Nemesis
The return of Bryce Larkin from the dead ruins both the burgeoning relationship between Chuck and Sarah, but also Chuck's plans for a traditional Thanksgiving, especially when it turns out that Bryce wasn't a rogue agent and was, in fact, still working for the good guys. Now Chuck's life is in danger and not only from the rabid shoppers at the Buy More post thanksgiving sale.
Bryce's return really puts the cat amongst the pigeons as far as Chuck and Sarah are concerned, but it also allows for some action sequences such as a truck crash, a shoot out at the OK Buy More and short range killing shots. This all hangs together well for about two thirds of the running time, but the steam goes out of it towards the end and the conclusion seems both perfunctory and rushed, not least because the 'next week on' segment immediately after the show is over reveals the resolution of the cliffhanger.Top
Chuck vs the Crown Vic
Things have been strained between Chuck and his CIA handler Sarah since she kissed him in the face of certain death and then found out that her greatest lover was still alive after all. All these rampant emotions threaten the current case, which centres around a rich philanthropist who is using his aid programme in the Far East to actually front his counterfeit money scheme. The threat is not only to the innocent, but to Chuck's best friend Morgan.
The 'will-they, won't they' thing has worked for a lot of TV shows in the past, but there are times when it is actually stretched a bit too far and that's what's happening in CHUCK. Instead of keeping us on tenterhooks, it's really just annoying. Sort it out the pair of you for heaven's sake. It also gets in the way of a decent spy storyline. Instead of an investigation into a counterfeiter what we get is an excuse to get Yvonne Strahovski into a bikini (no complaints from here) and Chuck all jealous.
The Crown Vic of the title is Casey's pride and joy automobile that is introduced simply for the sake of something bad happening to it.Top
Chuck vs the Undercover Lover
The computer in Chuck's head flashes on a whole lot of unsavoury russian characters in a nearby hotel and comes up with the exciting news that Casey's dead love isn't exactly dead, but in fact about to be married to another man. Before you know it, all three of the team are in a fight for their lives and a race to stop a wedding.
It's Casey and Chuck's sister Ellie who get love problems this week. It's nice to see the buttoned up secret agent reveal something of himself at last and the manner in which it happens is consistent with his personality, allowing Adam Baldwin a chance to widen his range on the character somewhat.
The story of Ellie's problems with her lover could have been purely tedious, but is handled with the usual charm, wit and sledgehammer finesse that has marked the show, making it entertaining enough.Top
Chuck vs the Marlin
Captain Awesome has decided to propose to Ellie and has asked Chuck to look after the engagement ring for a while. The Buy More has been targeted by spies out to discover the intersect's identity and the ring gets stolen. More importantly, the decision is made to take Chuck and 'secure' him in an underground facility where he might get to see the sun every month or so, but he'll never see his family again.
The last episode in the series and it is as funny and quirky as all the others, but somehow we might have expected more from a season finale. There's no cliffhanger to speak of, just a vague threat to Chuck's continued freedom.
It's been a pleasant enough ride in the company of pleasant enough people, but somehow never really fulfilled its promise. We'll be back for season 2, but we'll be hoping for better.Top
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