Thursday, December 11, 2014

NBC's Chuck

© by Gerald So | | 8:45 A.M.

A nerd meets a beautiful, out-of-his-league woman and they fall in love. That simply put, Chuck had the same premise as The Big Bang Theory. Without a DVR, I flipped between the two series when they premiered in the same timeslot in 2007. Big Bang won the bid for my attention in the long run, but I held onto the notion of buying the complete set of Chuck on Blu-ray if the price were right. This past Black Friday, it was.

I've been binge-watching the show this week and have pinned down why I wasn't more into it when it aired. I bought the premise that the contents of the massive intelligence-gathering Intersect computer were subliminally uploaded into Chuck's brain, giving him flashes of information that put him at risk, warranting a protective detail of the CIA's beautiful Sarah Walker and the NSA's brawny John Casey.

Through Season 2, the show did a good job showing why Sarah was attracted to Chuck in spite of her trying to stay professional. Chuck was only reluctantly involved in spy work, and his reluctance showed Sarah the appeal of civilian life. In late Season 2, the government wanted to put Chuck in lockdown, but Sarah went rogue to save him and offered to go into hiding with him. At the very end of Season 2, a second exposure to the Intersect gave Chuck acrobatic ability and fighting skills.

Season 3, six months later in story time, found Chuck in field training, having declined Sarah's offer. Half the season was spent repairing their relationship, after which Chuck explained that he chose to become a spy to be with Sarah. I couldn't buy that. Sarah had fallen in love with Chuck as he was in Season 2. His uncharacteristic choice to be a spy, more than anything else, drove them apart.

The series went on to prove the Intersect a plot device of the worst kind. It granted knowledge and abilities that disappeared in a flash. It altered personalities and wiped memories, getting in the way of what I'd enjoyed most: the characters' natural growth and the core story of a spy falling for a regular guy.

That said, as many elements as the show juggled—spy thriller, workplace comedy, family drama—each episode hooked me into the next. Speaking in book terms, it's the "One more chapter" effect. I didn't intend to blow through five seasons in four days, but here we are.

Chuck was narrowly renewed a couple times over five seasons, and only Seasons 2 and 4 were standard length. I wonder what impact this had on stories. Was Chuck's physical upgrade and sudden desire to be a spy a blatant play for ratings?

No comments: