It’s become a bit of a tradition of mine to use the summer as a chance to watch new shows. This summer I decided to try Chuck; a show that I admittedly knew almost nothing about. I knew it centered on a guy named Chuck, played by the wonderfully charming Zachary Levi, or as I knew him, Flynn Rider. I knew the plot of the show involved taking Chuck out of his element and I remembered hearing something about government secrets. But that’s all I knew. I did however remember hearing about the series’ ratings struggles and I knew there was a small but very dedicated following, which I later learned, are lovingly referred to as Chucksters. Being a huge fan of The CW’s Supernatural, I’m all too familiar with small, dedicated fanbases. I have a soft spot for cult shows and so I decided to give Chuck a try. And let me tell you, it was love at first nerd.
So let me explain the purpose of me writing this little ode to Chuck. First of all, I am looking for any excuse to talk about this fan favorite that has become something of a TV happy place for me. I also hope to encourage any of you who haven’t jumped on the Chuck train to take the leap. (I keep things as unspoilery as possible.) I also hope to start a little conversation about these TV gems that often get overlooked by the general public. So feel free to sound off in the comments section.
There is just something about this show…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but to me it’s like visual comfort food. Maybe it’s because Chuck Bartowski is so easy to relate to; a 20-something whose life isn’t working out according to plan. He’s at a standstill in his career, working a dead end job and just generally not totally living up to his potential. Who can’t relate to that at one time or another? There is something endlessly comforting about seeing a character’s struggles mirror your own and then watching that character flourish. And Chuck is the kind of guy that can’t help but flourish. He’s generally likable which makes it so easy to care about him. He’s a good guy with the best of intentions and an optimist at heart. It also doesn’t hurt that Chuck is a nerd; something I can personally relate to. While I’m not a video-game-loving, computer genius I have personality quirks that make me my own unique brand of nerd. I think we all do. And it’s nice to see a nerdy and endearing character like Chuck in a starring role rather than playing some quirky side character.
Anyone who knows the show knows that relationships are the glue that holds everything together. When the series starts, Chuck lives with his sister Ellie and her laid-back, lovable boyfriend Devon, or as Chuck refers to him, Awesome, “because everything he does is awesome”. Chuck and Ellie’s parents aren’t in the picture so they are each other’s only real family. I love the closeness of their brother-sister relationship. Their bond serves as a constant by which Chuck can measure himself and his other relationships. It’s a view of family that I’m not used to seeing on television. Another honorary member of the Bartowski family is Chuck’s best friend Morgan Grimes. I’d be lying if I said I loved Morgan from the beginning. It actually took me a few episodes to warm up to him. At first it seemed he was just there for comic relief, but as I learned more about Chuck and Morgan’s backstory it was hard not to love the guy. He’s a fiercely loyal friend to Chuck and a hilarious thorn in Ellie’s side. So even though this foursome isn’t the most conventional TV family, it’s a family you can’t help but want to be a part of. And as this family continues to grow and change throughout the series, the importance of those relationships never changes.
The series also focuses on Chuck’s relationship with his CIA handler, Sarah Walker and her partner-of-sorts John Casey. In an avid attempt to remain as unspoilery as possible, I will just say that these two characters change and grow in ways I didn’t expect and I loved it. Sarah is a strong and caring handler and a total B. A. (And I’m not referring to her education) Casey is a wise cracking, gun loving, all-American man. The two of them make a great team. In watching the first season, I worried that the show might take a turn for the procedural and Casey in particular would serve as one of those characters that is just there when you need him, the character that always happens to know exactly what to do. I was very happy that this wasn’t the case. Casey thankfully got his own story arcs and quickly became one of my favorite characters on the show. As Chuck grows, these characters grow and evolve alongside him and it’s a fun thing to watch.
A good part of the series revolves around Chuck’s job at the Buy More where he works as a member of the Nerd Herd fixing computers alongside a wacky bunch of coworkers. While the Buy More storylines often serve as comic relief they also tend to mirror whatever personal struggles Chuck is experiencing in his spy life and gives him a sounding board to help him work through these problems. Even the Buy More itself serves as an integral character without which this whole series wouldn’t have worked. Plus, the Buy More brought us Jeffster; something I’ll never forget because it’s burned into my brain. Jeffster intrigued and disturbed me and ways I can’t quite explain. You have to see it to believe it.
So, I’m sure some of you are wondering where the heck I’ve been since 2007. I’ve actually wondered that myself. This show is right up my alley and I’m sad I missed it while it was on the air. But it’s been a real pleasure to watch (more like devour) over the past couple of months. I only wish there were more seasons or a movie!
So if you’ve never seen Chuck, give it a try. It’s a show with a lot of heart. And when you watch it, you can tell that everyone involved in making it loved the project, which sadly isn’t as common as it should be. It may be too late to help the show ratings-wise but it’s not too late to enjoy it and express your interest in having more shows like this on the air. I believe a vocal online community can have an impact on the networks. Plus, there is nothing like participating in a fandom as fun and active as I’ve found the Chucksters to be. If you’re a long-time Chuck fan I would love to hear how you found the show and what kept you watching.
(Note from Alice – Here’s a bonus BTS photo I got from Vik Sahay (Lester) during my last interview with him. It’s from the series finale, during the shooting of the big Jeffster performance. Still one of my favorite scenes of the series! Here’s an excerpt of that interview too where I gush over that scene.)
You have so much going on. Do you mind though if I spend a couple of minutes to gush over how awesome the ending of “Chuck” was?
Did you enjoy it?
Did we! You see, our entire family watched “Chuck” together from beginning to end. My son started watching when he was five and now he’s ten. He’s grown up with the show. As soon as those opening chords of “Take On Me” came on, we were shouting and high-fiving one another. “It’s Jeffster!”
That so sweet. Wow, what an amazing thing.
You certainly impressed us. We didn’t know you could hit high notes like that.
They didn’t end easy in the singing world for me. It’s like, let’s do this death defying act. But it was great. I though it was an amazingly appropriate song. It was really beautiful to tackle and I thought it worked very well in the whole show. It was an old school epic in a way.
It’s not just that, but Jeff and Lester got a significant plot in the end. I love that.
Yes we did (laughs). It was an appropriate way for us to end. Oddly, getting our dreams in the end. Lester is certainly not for all markets, but for the niche German market, absolutely.
It worked for Hasselhoff, why not Lester?
Exactly. The comparisons between Hasselhoff and Lester are endless (laughs).