It would be fair to say that right now, TV is pretty great. Shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones will undoubtedly be revered long after they stop airing. Yet no matter how great these shows can be, there’s no denying that they take themselves rather seriously. Even comedies such as The Think of It and Louie are very serious comedies. You have to be in a certain mood to watch them. You certainly don’t feel like watching them when you’re feeling a bit run down, and your brain can barely get its head around the notion of washing your own balls, let alone sitting through a 10 minute diatribe from Louis C.K. about how he doesn’t love his own mother. That’s when a show like Chuck comes in.
You may have noticed that a whole lot of nothing has been happening on Square Eyed recently, and long-story-short, it’s because I’ve been ill. So it would be fair to say that I haven’t exactly been in the mood to watch another ground-breaking, emotional roller coaster. I can’t remember what it was exactly that made me think of Chuck but I knew that it had wrapped up its final series earlier this year and that from what I’d seen of it, it looked watchable and most importantly, it looked pretty light-hearted.
So what is Chuck? Created by Josh Schwartz, the man behind The O.C. (a show that holds a special place in my heart), along with college pal Chris Fedak, Chuck is a show about a nerdy slacker who winds up with a CIA database in his head. You’ll never guess what his name is.
We follow Chuck as he learns to become a spy, while maintaining his cover as a civilian. The premise is farfetched, but Chuck is never meant to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it spoof the spy genre, more it is a loving tribute to it. After all the spy genre is a bit silly in the first place. It’s a genre that asks you to take huge leaps of faith as it constantly tries to tell you, “this is what happens in real life, it’s just top secret”. Look at the latest big spy show, Homeland, a show that takes itself bloody seriously. Yet it still asks you to believe that the CIA would hire a woman who for all intents and purposes is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Bold as it may be, give me Chuck over Homeland any day of the week.
The main thing that draws you in to Chuck is its lead man. The American Office’s John Kransinski may have to step down as Man Most Impossible To Hate, because Zachary Levi is just so damn adorable. Coming from a long line of TV Zacharys (Braff, Quinto, Knighton, Taylor, Morris) Levi simply is Chuck. Geeky, charming, funny and possessing a smile that could end wars – I would go on but it would just get a bit weird. He does the impossible task of making sense as both a nerdy slacker and as a super-spy. Credit should also be given to the casting guys, as it would have been so easy for Josh Schwartz to call upon O.C. alum Adam Brody to basically reprise his role as Seth. But they didn’t, and the world is better for it. Although I would like to see more Adam Brody on my screen.
They say behind every great man, comes a great woman. In this case it’s Yvonne Strahovski (Mass Effect, Dexter) who plays Chuck’s CIA handler Sarah. A beautiful femme fatale who, like any other geek would, Chuck instantly falls for. You see the spy stuff is just a smoke screen, because it’s the story of Chuck and Sarah’s relationship that keeps this show moving. Sure it’s the old tale of guy-falls-for-girl-out-of-his-league but it’s done in a unique way, with some unusual complications on the way. It’s also helped by the undeniable chemistry between Levi and Strahovski, and while I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, let’s just say it probably doesn’t end up the way you think it would.
Other great cast members include Firefly’s Adam Baldwin (no relation to Alec), Saved By The Bell: The New Class’ Sarah Lancaster and Ryan McPartlin as Chuck’s disgustingly perfect brother-in-law, Captain Awesome.
Chuck is a show that wears its target demographic on its sleeve, the geeky male. Constantly referencing video games, comic books, films and TV shows, it’s pandering is unabashed. Yet the geekiness feels genuine, in part due to Levi’s performance, and because unlike shows such as The Big Bang Theory, the geeks aren’t the but of the jokes. And while Strahovski does seem to wonder around in her skimpys a lot, this is countered by the gratuitous shirtlessness of Ryan McPartlin’s character. The pandering also leads to some rather spectacular cameos, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Old Spice Guy, Sarah Conner and the incredible Timothy Dalton.
This show is far from perfect though. There are a few characters that are just straight up annoying and sometimes it’s attempts to be funny don’t always hit the mark. Also, can we please stop using Star Wars as the go-to for getting someone to come across as a geek. I’m sat here with a X-Men comic in front of me, and Nintendo 3DS to my right, writing for my TV blog, which probably classifies me as a geek and I couldn’t give two flying fucks about Star Wars. It’s the Shawshank Redemption of geekiness. Rant over… for now.
So to wrap it up, if you’re looking for something full of what-the-fuck moments or cutting edge humour then Chuck is not for you. If you are however looking for something fun, easy to watch and rather charming then give it a go. I didn’t realise how much I liked this show until I finished it and became instantly upset that I wasn’t going to see any more hijinks from Zach and the gang. And as it turns out, it makes for perfect sick day viewing. Chuck is not a show that blows minds, it’s a show that soothes them.