Secret Agent Geek
"Chuck" / The TV Whore
Sept. 24, 2007
TV Reviews | September 24, 2007 | Comments ()
Just as I was predisposed to dislike “Journeyman” before having actually watching, I was similarly predisposed to like “Chuck,” despite its star having an uncomfortable resemblance to Jimmy Fallon. First, “Chuck” focuses on a full-on geek who works at a Best Buy-like store. And since I’m a full-on geek who used to work at such a store, I already have much love for the character. Second, the show is executive produced by Josh Schwartz, and if Schwartz showed us anything with “The O.C.,” he showed that he’s capable of providing truly entertaining geek (the fun that show had with Seth Cohen in the first season is unquestionably what made me fall in love with the show … well that and “welcome to the O.C., bitch!”). Mix in the “Alias”-like secret agent aspect of “Chuck,” and I was all aboard from the get-go. Of course, I’ve learned to keep my expectations for new shows tempered, regardless of any predisposition, so I didn’t go into “Chuck” expecting the next great thing. Instead, I simply went in hoping for a fun show. And I think it’s going to be exactly that.
“Chuck” focuses on a main character who, shockingly, is named Chuck. He works for the Nerd Herd at a store called Buy More, which is an obvious parody of Best Buy’s Geek Squad. Chuck is a geek in the truest sense of things, just as I loved all of Seth Cohen’s geeky moments, so too do I love Chuck’s geekdom (for example, his explanation that certain finger injuries were the result of playing too much Call of Duty, something I can absolutely sympathize with). Mind you, Chuck’s not a loser, and actor Zachary Levi wears the role well, showing himself capable of both the humor and the minor dramatic elements, and keeping Chuck the kind of character you enjoy, not the kind you feel bad for.
But this world of geeks is only one aspect of the show. For unbeknownst to Chuck, his ex-college roommate is
an accountant a fancy-schmancy government spy for the CIA. When Chuck gets an accidental e-mail from said ex-roommate, he suddenly finds himself plunged into the super-secret government spy world, as the e-mail has inadvertently made Chuck into a kind of living computer with all of the government’s most important secrets. Yes, this sounds stupid, and it is stupid — the writers give it a cursory explanation, but it’s one that doesn’t hold up to any form of scrutiny. You just have to accept the premise and move on.
And if you’re willing to accept it, it’s all rather entertaining. At first, Chuck doesn’t really know what the hell is going on, but he starts to get the gist of things after getting wrapped up with a super hot CIA agent (Yvonne Strzechowski) and a big, bad NSA agent (“Firefly’s” Adam Baldwin!). Over the course of the first episode, Chuck inadvertently winds up in a car chase, in a Mexican standoff, and defusing a bomb. And by the end of the first episode, we learn that there are also some double-agents in the mix, further complicating this new spy world Chuck has entered into (man, how great would it be to find Arvin Sloan behind the baddy agents?). But the key for “Chuck” is that, while the spy and action stuff is shot and played well, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This show isn’t “Alias,” and it’s not trying to be. The geeky side of the show is relatively campy and light and a sudden tone-shift to super-serious spy shit might be a bit too much. By wisely keeping the spy of things light as well, “Chuck” manages to keep a relatively fun overall tone.
To be fair, I don’t think the show is perfect. While I enjoyed the camp of it all, I could see some preferring to call it a bit cheesy. Plus, rarely is the humor truly funny, as it’s more of the “that’s cute” variety. And some of the cast is a bit over-the-top, particularly Chuck’s geeky friend and his sister’s boyfriend (referred to as Captain Awesome). But beyond that, I can’t really put a finger on any specific failing because the show managed to keep me entertained enough that I didn’t bother taking notes bitching about this, that and the other, as I often do. And so I’m willing to forgive the show some of its weaknesses, in part because it’s just not the kind of show that’s meant to be overly analyzed and in part because I’ve heard that things improve over the first few episodes. All of which is to say that I’m sticking with “Chuck” for now, although it certainly won’t be taking me away from my live watching of “Monday Night Football.” And I actually suspect that this show will be one of the bigger freshman hits (though it may not become the break-out NBC is hoping for), particularly as it’s the perfect lead-in for “Heroes,” both in terms of its tone and style. In fact, this makes NBC’s decision to cap the night off with “Journeyman” quite understandable, as it gives the network a full slate of sci-fi/genre which gets progressively more serious as the night progresses. Will this be enough to help NBC get out of its fourth-place status? Dunno. But I bet all the geeks like Chuck will be watching, and that’s a good start.
(“Chuck” premieres tonight on NBC at 8 p.m.)
Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He wishes that his brain were a government super-computer so that he wouldn’t fuck up his fantasy football roster each and every week. Seriously, this shit is killing him.