TV series: Chuck (NBC)
Originally aired: 2007-2012
In October/November sometime 2019 I fell down the rabbit hole of wanting to watch whatever I could get my hands on that happened to have Zachary Levi in it. I had already watched Alias Grace, which is what kicked it off, and even watched Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and as I was browsing Prime Video, I saw Chuck. Five seasons and he played the titular character. A big time investiture if it’s not very good. “Well, I guess I’ll watch the trailer,” I said, did, and was instantly sold on the concept.
And then it was hard to not bingewatch it, because by golly is Chuck the awesomest of awesome shows.
I have no idea why we didn’t watch it when it aired, to be honest. I remember seeing it being on at the time, but somehow didn’t. On the plus side, the final season apparently never aired in the UK, so I guess it was just as well I only discovered it seven years later.
So, the show’s about computer nerd Charles “Chuck” Bartowski (Zachary Levi). He works at the computer repair desk in a Buy More (Curry’s, basically) and leads a pretty humdrum life. He games with his co-worker and best-friend-since-childhood Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and lives with his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her boyfriend Devon, a.k.a. “Captain Awesome” (Ryan McPartlin).
Life in Burbank, California, is unexciting … until Chuck gets an email from his old Stanford University room-mate Bryce Larkin (Matthew Bomer) – the guy who got him kicked out of Stanford and who stole his girlfriend! Bryce is now a CIA operative, and he’s stolen something called the Intersect, which is a sort of joint CIA/NSA computer program/database thing that you can upload and store in your brain. He destroys the computer storing it, emailing the only copy to Chuck … who opens the email and gets the whole thing downloaded into his brain via encoded subliminal images. I know, I know, it’s silly, but just roll with it, okay?
Both agencies send people to investigate. From the NSA, Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin, Jayne from Firefly), and from the CIA, Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski, Mrs Waterford from The Handmaid’s Tale). They assume cover stories in order to keep close to Chuck and protect him from those who wish to get the Intersect for their own nefarious purposes. Casey poses as one of the sellers on the Buy More shop floor, while Sarah works at the Weinerlicious hot dog joint next door, and pretending to be Chuck’s new girlfriend.
Chuck tries to live the double life of being a major intelligence asset who gets to do cool spy stuff (because the order to “stay in the car” is rarely followed) and being the regular guy who works at the Buy More.
There’s a nice balance between the spy world and the Buy More world and the off duty life. I love how it’s one of those fun spy shows that’s completely over-the-top and unrealistic, as opposed to one of those that are arguably way more realistic but also, let’s face it, really dull as a result. (Like Berlin Station. THERE, I SAID IT.) I’d rather have a remote control drive and rocket launchers in a Nerd Herd branded little Toyota is what I’m saying. To hell with realism, give me cool gadgets!
One you get over the admittedly ridiculous premise of the show, i.e. the Intersect, it’s a show not just full of adventure and exciting spy capers, but also incredible warmth, romance, and laugh-out-loud comedy, because Chuck is often hilarious. If shipping is your jam, Chuck and Sarah have you covered. Charah are one of my favourite couples ever. I can’t recommend them enough.
I love both characters. I love a lot of characters. Bonita Friedericy is excellent as the team’s boss. Casey is basically if Jayne from Firefly worked for the NSA, and he’s just as square and gun-toting as you’d expect. Then there’s Morgan, who has no idea his BFF has become a spy. He’s loyal, and he has a really nice character arc across the seasons. In fact, I love the whole Buy More crew. From boss Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) and supervisor Emmett (Tony Hale) to Anna (Julia Ling), who has more than one surprise up her sleeves, and the two reliable creeps Lester (Vik Sahay) and Jeff (Scott Krinsky). From having their own band (“Jeffster”) to starting a fight club in the cage in the stock room, you can always count on them to bring the hilarity.
Plus, you get recurring people like Scott Bakula, Linda Hamilton, Brandon Routh, Timothy Dalton, Chevy Chase and Mark Sheppard.
The second season is better than the first, it’s like the show really takes off then. Chuck’s hair style is best in season 3. The fifth and final season has divided opinion ever since it was first broadcast, and the final episode … I choose to look at it in a positive way, because Chuck was a positive show. Whether it might get picked up again, as revivals seem to be popular these days, or an epilogue done as a film, we still don’t know. We’ll wait and see. The cast members still seem up for it.
Chuck as a show is never mean-spirited. It’s fun, positive, sweet, uplifting, and just all around a great antidote to the past few years being so completely awful. I’m sad I didn’t get to see it when it was being made, but on the other hand I would have save myself the heartache of the never-ending question of whether or not the show would be renewed, as this was always up in the air. Really up in the air. It must have been nerve-wracking as a fan, never knowing if your favourite show was being canned or not. This is why the different seasons have such a varied number of episodes, and why there’s a bit of an obsession with Subway.
How does the show hold up these days? Really well, as it happens.
Chuck was an amazing show, for so many reasons, and it’s worth watching and re-watching. Except it’s currently not on Prime, so I’d have to get the DVDs or wait until it’s returned. 100% worth the time invested, even if you don’t stan Zachary Levi.