My favorite show on television resumes Sunday night, starting its third season on NBC. If you’ve never seen Chuck, I highly recommend it – it’s right up there with Firefly and the David Suchet Poirot films on my list of all time favorite series. If you have seen Chuck and think the show is silly, implausible, and shallow . . . well, we will just have to ascribe our difference in opinion to optional values!
(Aside: Having just listed three of my favorite television series, I just realized something very odd – I have never seen even a single episode of any of them on actual television in the conventional sense. I watched them all at my own convenience on either DVD’s that I own or on my computer with hulu.com. Come to think of it, I had never even heard of Firefly until long after the show had been canceled. Technology is wonderful!)
Chuck is actually entering some dangerous television-series territory. At the end of last season, the main character, Chuck, apparently picked up some new super-powers that could spoil one of the main delights of the show – namely, seeing him use his untrained, civilian mind to solve his problems, overcome fear, and save the world from evil forces. If he can now automatically summon new skills in the blink of an eye, with no effort, that is no fun at all. It may give the writers of the show a gimmick with innumerable opportunities . . . but at the expense of the main character’s heroism.
The premise of the show, for readers who are unfamiliar with it, is that Chuck (played by Zach Levi) is a good-natured, intelligent young “geek” who, due to circumstances that become clear later, has been kicked out of Stanford University and is thus biding his time working at the local BuyMore (a thinly veiled knockoff of the typical BestBuy-style electronics superstore). Through a plot device that is at least coherent, if not exactly scientifically plausible, the contents of a clandestine CIA supercomputer end up getting downloaded via email into Chuck’s brain – without him knowing what has happened! He discovers the fact when he starts “flashing”: the sight of certain people or objects spontaneously triggers images from the supercomputer database in his head, thus presenting him with secret CIA information that he hardly knows what to do with.
Enter Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), agents from rival agencies (NSA and CIA, both of which are the good guys) who intrude upon Chuck’s life in order to protect the sensitive information. This sets up the conflict – and the fun – of the series. Casey is a ruthless and dedicated agent with seemingly little concern for Chuck the person, not to mention alarmingly little hesitation to squeeze a trigger. The sharp contrast between the mundane requirements of Chuck’s ordinary life as employee at the BuyMore and the perilous excitement of his new life as a spy provides suspense and amusement; Chuck’s best friend, his sister, and his workmates know nothing about his new burden. Above all, though, the best part of the series is the relationship between Chuck and Sarah. They obviously fall for each other, but Sarah must keep her own feelings hidden out of dedication to her mission. Sarah is as competent and courageous as she is beautiful, and her feelings for Chuck show up through the cracks, as it were, in fascinating ways.
As I indicated above, I worry that the new direction the series is taking may diminish some of its quality, but I’m looking forward to the show all the same!