Since 2007, my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the NBC cult favorite television dramedy Chuck, starring Zachary Levy as the titular character. For most of its existence it has struggled to stay on the air with at least one fan launched campaign to save the show from cancellation. I have to admit right up front that this is more of a retrospective than a standard review. In a more standard review, the show has more or less just started and the review has much to do not just with what has been on the show but what could be — and what kind of future the show might have. I have been meaning to review Chuck for awhile but it never happened — and now that the show is coming to a swift end soon, it behooves me to look back and think about the show that was and a few places where the show went not quite right.

The show started well enough. The plot began with an average nerdy individual named Chuck who was living in Southern California not quite living up to his potential — working at an electronics store in the repair department. (Basically a clone of Best Buy with their Geek Squad program.) It only takes one e-mail from his former classmate to suddenly turn his brain into the world’s most complicated computer — containing all of the information in the CIA and NSA databases.

The joint government organizations send people to take care of him and end up recruiting him to help them with fighting terrorism — at first in the States and eventually around the world. Naturally at first he does not tell anyone about this new found ability which at some point comes to also include superhuman abilities (I suppose the writers got tired of Chuck always being just the brains of the show and always having to be saved because of his limited physical ability) but over the course of the show his best friend finds out and then slowly everyone close to him finds out.

Throughout the course of the show it has been greatly sponsored by the fast food chain Subway and not only in the ordinary between scenes commercial sort of sense. Rather, there were actual scenes in which characters would order food from the chain or would talk about wanting to eat certain menu items. I don’t know if this is going to necessarily be the trend in commercial sponsorship of for-profit television programs but in the context of Chuck it regularly felt as though I was watching a commercial while watching the show and that was never a pleasant thing. One of the fan campaigns to save the show involved fans going to Subway, buying a sandwich, and informing them that they bought the food because they were fans of the show. It very well could have been a major factor in the show being on as long as it was on the air.

Another thing that the show had going against it was that it relied far too much on the Intersect, the large computer database that Chuck accidentally downloaded to his brain, to keep the show going. On a couple of occasions the database was removed from Chuck — on both occasions the show suffered tremendously as a result. Without the database, Chuck was just an ordinary individual relying on a his intellect and a nerdy sense of humor (I certainly appreciated all of the pop culture references made by the show) and even though it was largely funny to watch it became tiresome to see Chuck saved over and over again by different powerful heroic characters.

In the last season, the one that we are in right now and that is ending in only a couple of episodes, the Intersect has once again been taken from Chuck and was given briefly to Chuck’s best friend with somewhat humorous results. It nevertheless is still a bit of a stretch every week to believe that somehow the core good guy team continues to survive intact and kills dozens of people without ever sustaining death or critical injuries themselves. I suppose this could come with the fact that the show ultimately was meant to be more of a comedy than a serious spy show.

I’m not sure that I would necessarily recommend Chuck as a show to watch on DVD or online — it was fun to watch as it went along but I don’t feel like it is going to be the sort of show that will hold up over the years as classic shows such as The Cosby Show and Roseanne have held up for repeated viewing.


  1. I think product placement in TV shows is going to hit us like an avalanche. There’s even industry talk of going back into old shows like Seinfeld and “replacing” his old cereal boxes with updated brands and placing other promotional items on his bookshelves and tables. Advertising is a social monetary virus!

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