John Walker's Electronic House


by on Oct.23, 2007, under Television

It’s great to be wrong.

I can’t even be bothered to watch Reaper any more, but I’m totally into Chuck.

The two shows have so much in common – both feature a reluctant regular guy who works in the nerd section of a large store, thrown into a fantastical situation where they have to fight evil/crime. Each has nerd buddies, nerd gags, and a wise-cracking geek best friend. Except one ran out of steam by the second episode, while the other, despite seemingly having nowhere to go with its concept, is really, really fun.

Episode two of Reaper was such a terrible mess. It was an almost scene-for-scene reprisal of the first, with a different monster-of-the-week, and apparently completely different parents. Sock, the comedy buddy was still funny, but the second he went off screen, it was like watching roadkill. Episode three I couldn’t even survive halfway through. It was the exact same episode again, ringing more hollow than before. And this time the jokes felt deeply contrived.

But there’s better news. Chuck. The potential didn’t seem to be there – a guy gets all of the government secrets from every American agency downloaded into his head, and rival CIA and NSA agents are assigned to keep an eye on him. So where can that go? Surely secrets are update constantly, and how exactly are they going to apply it? Rather well, it seems.

Each week the team of three – Chuck (Zachary Levi), Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and John Casey (Firefly’s Adam Baldwin) – are either given a mission, or stumble upon one, where the two super-agents are forced to rely on Chuck, and his constantly entertaining bemusement and fear, to complete their tasks.

So there’s constant fight scenes, kung fu, daft gadgets (“How was I supposed to know Karina had a remote controlled jetski – it’s not usually an option in real life,”) and Chuck’s “flashes” where visual stimuli trigger information from the information in his brain. And that’s all fun. But it manages to get the in-between stuff right too. Chuck lives with his sister, and he has to keep his new life a secret from her, which leads to domestic issues. But not tiresome Clark Kent rubbish. It keeps it short, but realistic. Then there’s Chuck’s “cover” – he and the astonishingly pretty Sarah are pretending to be a couple, which of course leads to potential romantic friction. And again, rather than being a pain in the arse, this is done really nicely, and even manages to be touching occasionally.

It’s all-round great, and it would be lovely to see it survive a first season. Where Reaper’s pilot appeared to have great, sharp writing, the following episodes revealed that they used it all up in one go. Chuck’s pilot was over-serious and convoluted, and did not portray the strength of writing that was to come. It’s been consistent, and really smart. It’s second best to this year’s best, which is perhaps not too fair, since this year’s best – Pushing Daisies – is possibly the best in a decade. And maybe I’ll find the words to say why, soon.

7 Comments for this entry

  • Tom

    Oh my God, this is brilliant. Thanks for the recommendation – I’d heard the name bandied about, but with no particular advice attached to it, so I wasn’t planning on investigating. I’ve only watched the first one and a bit episode so far, but it’s genius. Oh, and now they’re playing the New Pornographers. I shouldn’t be surprised the soundtrack is good, though – the creator is the guy who did The OC. Zachary Levi looks a lot like Adrian Brody, in fact,.

    Did you get the Lost reference when Chuck’s reciting secrets in the Buy More theatre room?

  • Tedi Worrier

    The clips on the website look fun … when will it air on UK TV?… probably not going to replce tennis, though

  • pharoahe_monch

    what did you think of Saving Grace, again? seemed really mediocre the whole 23 minutes of the first episode (i couldn’t bother to watch any longer). and always-solid actress Hunter just seemed lost… surely not the right role for her!

  • John

    I rather enjoy Saving Grace. I’m about 302 episodes behind, but I can’t help but be entertained by its quiet nonsense. Also, it’s got Angela’s dad in it, and he makes everything safe and ok.

  • Masked Dave

    While I’m furiously enjoying this now (thanks for the tip!) what I love most is that *this* is what the OC team went on to do next! That guy just does geeks so well.

    It’s never more obvious than in the morning exchanges with his sister (or similar), I can’t help feeling that at any second Sandy is going to walk in an make a bagel.

  • Masked Dave

    So Chuck’s Mother’s Day = OC’s Chrismukkah then. Actually episode 5 was just *very* OC all round.

    Except for the Chinese spy stuff. They never did that.

  • The_B

    Although you’ve obviously got more pressing things at the moment, can we expect the Pushing Daises stuff anytime soon? I’ve been following it thanks to Tom (although I’ve only seen the first two episodes due to the removal of my sources) and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on it.