Monday, October 29, 2018

Catherine Versus The Delightful Spy Show: 3 Reasons to Love NBC's Chuck

image via Shuttershock 

"What makes you special is that you're not like every other spy. You're a good guy and you want to help people."
-Sarah Walker to Chuck Bartowski ("Chuck Versus the Gravitron" season 2, ep 8, quote via imdb)

When we think of a spy, we think of someone like James Bond: suave, a bit dangerous, with a lot of gadgets.  Or maybe the empowered Sydney Bristow with her varying disguises from Alias. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge 007 fan, and Alias was a fun show, but I also love a dorky, earnest, ordinary hero. This is part of what drew me to a TV show that aired in the mid 2000s called Chuck.  
**As always, a note before I move on: This post does contain spoilers for the first two seasons of the show. So if you want to remain entirely spoiler-free, watch the show and then come back and read** (The show is available to stream on Amazon Prime, FYI).

The basic premise of the show is this: Chuck  Bartowski (played by Zachary Levi) is a 20-something computer geek working at a Best Buy-type store, (Buy More) who gets government secrets downloaded into his head. He then becomes an asset to the CIA and NSA, with two agents (Sarah Walker, played by Yvonne Strahovski, and John Casey, played by Adam Baldwin of Firefly fame) to help protect him.  Adventures ensue. 

Now, there are a lot of things I like about this show. It somehow finds a balance between action, drama, and comedy. One minute you might be on the edge of your seat and the next you laugh. It also plays with the trope of ordinary people being thrown into extraordinary circumstances and extraordinary people being thrown into ordinary circumstances. There is Chuck of course who goes from IT guy to spy. Then there's Sarah and Casey who are already super spies, but have to assume mundane covers (Sarah at a hot dog restaurant and Casey works as an associate at the same store as Chuck). But there are 3 specific reasons I'm enjoying it so much:

1) Chuck as a character. Think nerdy Captain America. But without super powers. Chuck is an all-around nice guy. I'm pretty sure he would help little old ladies cross the street and save kittens from trees (swoon). Okay, maybe those are extremes. But we see in the show that he is a loyal friend, a loving brother, and generally wants to help people. In one episode, season two's "Chuck Versus The Sensei," Chuck's sister (Ellie) is engaged. Chuck promises that he will try to find their estranged father to walk her down the aisle because he knows how much it would mean to her.

Chuck: Dad's going to walk you down the aisle.
Ellie: You can't... say that Chuck. I know you want that for me, but we haven't heard from him in a really long time.
Chuck: Yeah well, I'm going to find him. I'm a smart guy, I can do that. And when he hears about the wedding, he'll be here for you.
Ellie: Come on. You really think he'll make it?
Chuck: I guarantee it.

(quote via imdb)

I also love the fact that he is geeky.  In one episode, he and his best friend Morgan dress up as the sandworm from the novel Dune for Halloween. There are even Comic Con stickers on the wall of his room.  Just fun little nerdy details that really make him an even more endearing character.

2) The humor.  I love a show that doesn't always take itself seriously. There are only so many "very special episodes" I can take. While yes, a story does need conflict, there should be other elements to balance that out so it doesn't become an angst-fest. One particularly funny scene takes place between Chuck and Casey, who are on a mission to rescue Chuck's father (the plot is a longer story than I've got space for):

Casey: You made three crucial mistakes, Bartowski. You didn't realize you were being tailed for the last half hour, you didn't bring nearly enough firepower... And you didn't ask me to join.
Chuck: Wha... Casey? Would you like to help us rescue my father?
(Season 2, ep 21, "Chuck Versus The Colonel", quote via Reddit forum "Favorite Chuck Quote")

3) Not too story-arc heavy. One of my pet peeves about TV shows these days is that they tend to have these really long and involved narratives. The problem for me is such arcs incorporate SO many details and SO many plot points, that I lose track, get frustrated, and stop watching (I'm looking at you, LOST). Chuck does make use of story arcs (especially in season 2), but they're not an exercise in deconstruction. The arc is essentially 'hey, there's this rogue organization called Fulcrum and they're causing problems' (this is an extremely simplistic summary). But in the same season we also have the episode "Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer" in which Chuck flashes (this is how the computer in his head works) on someone in the Buy More. It turns out this person is a nuclear terrorist looking for Jeff (one of Chuck's coworkers). We then find out the terrorist is after a video game  that Jeff had a high score for.  The game contains information on how to control a satellite that will ultimately cause a war. The only way to stop it, is by getting to the end of the game (which Jeff was "famous" for finishing the game). This episode stands on it's own and is quite a fun one to watch. (By the way, the "Tom Sawyer" is a reference to a song that is significant in the episode. It's pretty clever). 

Alright readers. What do you think? If you've seen the show, do you agree? Disagree? Are you more interested in checking it out? Let me know in the comments. And I'm sorry for the delay in posting. I was suffering from some writer's block and trying to put this together took longer than I wanted. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the post and thanks for reading! 


No comments:

Post a Comment