It's spring and upfronts are on the way, which means that it's time for the networks to decide which shows they want to keep and which get cut. Chuck falls into the "bubble" show category -- series that do passably well, but haven't gotten a pick-up for next year yet, meaning that the outlook is uncertain. Which is a shame, especially since it's NBC, a network that will have five less hours of primetime programming available next year (given that it decided to give Jay Leno that plum 10 PM spot), so finding space for its existing slate of shows, as well as new pilots in the works, is going to be difficult. We're concerned for Chuck's chances, but we've got all our fingers crossed, hoping that it will work out. Here's why.
1. It's well-written.
For a show that blends action and comedy, it features some of the smartest and most quick-witted dialogue on TV, throwing in pop-culture references willy-nilly amid techno-babble and spy speak. And yet, it all works somehow.
2. There's a fun nostalgia factor.
Which other show is going to find a way to organically work in "Africa" by Toto? I can't think of one. Nearly every episode has some sort of inside joke or homage to culty classics, like Back to the Future, Tron, Dune or Ferris Bueller. That's not even taking into account all of the comic book, TV and computer references that appeal to our nerdier sides.
3. The Chuck/Sarah relationship
Hands down the most angst-ridden on-again, off-again, pretend couple on TV. The sparks fly between these two, but the writers always find ways to keep them apart (she kills people in cold blood to defend him, there's rules against inter-office dating, she's pretty much out of his league) while forcing them to constantly be together. We root for Chuck to get the Intersect removed from his brain so that he and Sarah can be together... but watching their "almost" moments makes it worth the wait.
4. The action sequences
They know how to do good explosions, but the more impressive stunts are the hand-to-hand battles that involve intense choreography, but look so realistic. There's a lot of care taken to show Chuck's ineptitude, without making the fights too one-sided or silly to watch. And there's nothing like watching Casey shoot someone in the head, or Sarah turn around and roundhouse kick someone. It's what makes all the best spy shows work.
5. The awesome cast
From the top down, this cast is fabulous. Zachary Levi is geeky, but in a hot and endearing way. Yvonne Strahovski is as sexy as a Bond girl, but can make us believe Sarah would actually fall for a nerd like Chuck. The entire Buy More clan looks like they actually stepped out of a big-box store. Adam Baldwin makes a perfect agent. And lets not forget Sarah Lancaster and Ryan McPartlin (Ellie and Captain Awesome), who give Chuck a life outside of his day job and his secret-agent Intersect work.
6. They know how to handle guest stars.
We're not huge fans of stuntcasting, but we're slightly more amenable to it when it's done well. And this show knows how to handle big names without letting them take over their show. What could be greater than watching Sarah beat the hell out of Nicole Richie, or seeing John Larroquette as a debonair retired Bond-type, or Dominic Monaghan as another rocker? Our favorite appearance was Reginald VelJohnson reviving his Die Hard role, complete with Twinkies. Though Tricia Helfer is on tonight, so we reserve our right to change our minds.
7. It's gotten better as it goes along.
While the first season was good, this show has really hit its stride in its second season. It takes more chances and has upped its spy-game antics. The character arcs are getting more elaborate and intriguing, and even the B-plots with the Buy More have been better-integrated. It's living up to its potential, so it would be a shame for it to get nixed just as we're really getting to the juicy bits.
Here's hoping that the powers that be see fit to give this original (if a little quirky) show another well-deserved season, because we'd love to see a quality show like this get a chance to keep on shining, and we really want to know more about the Intersect... and we'll be mighty ticked off if we're left on a cliffhanger.
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