[06/15/07 - 12:18 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Chuck" (NBC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.

And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

(Tuesdays at 9:00/8:00c this fall)

The network's description: "From executive producer, Josh Schwartz ("The O.C.") and executive producer-director McG ("Charlie's Angels," "We Are Marshall") comes a one-hour, comedic spy thriller about Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi, "Less Than Perfect") - a computer geek who is catapulted into a new career as the government's most vital secret agent. When Chuck opens an e-mail subliminally encoded with government secrets, he unwittingly downloads an entire server of sensitive data into his brain. Now, the fate of the world lies in the unlikely hands of a guy who works at Buy More. Instead of fighting computer viruses, he must fight assassins and international terrorists. With the government's most precious secrets in Chuck's head, Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin, "My Bodyguard") of the NSA assumes the responsibility of protecting him. His partner is the CIA's top agent (and Chuck's first date in years) Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strzechowski, "Gone"). They'll keep him safe by trading in his pocket protector for a bulletproof vest. Also starring are Joshua Gomez ("Without a Trace") as Chuck's best buddy Morgan and Sarah Lancaster ("What About Brian?") as Chuck's ever-supportive sister Ellie. Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak wrote "Chuck," which is produced by College Hill Pictures and Wonderland Sound and Vision in association with Warner Bros. Television."

What did they leave out: Only that my enthusiasm for this show knows no boundaries.

The plot in a nutshell: Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is coasting through his post-college life. ("Working on my five year plan - I just need to choose a font.") Usually his biggest worries are computer viruses named after Serbian porn stars during his job at the Geek Squad Nerd Herd at Best Buy Buy More or his fingers chaffing during a late-night session of "Call of Duty." Enabling Chuck in his slacker lifestyle is his best friend/co-worker Morgan (a priceless Joshua Gomez) while trying to pull him out of his rut are his sister/roommate Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her boyfriend/fellow roommate, the aptly named Captain Awesome (an equally priceless Ryan McPartlin). Her latest effort - a birthday party for Chuck in which she's invited "real, live women." It's during said party that Chuck continuously torpedoes his romantic chances by routinely bringing up his ex Jill and his old friend-now-accountant Bryce Larkin, who apparently got him kicked out of school, stealing Jill in the process. Cut to the not-accountant Bryce ("Traveler's" Matthew Bomer in a great cameo) who it turns out is actually a CIA superspy, and a rogue one at that. It seems he's stolen the intelligence community's entire database - which has been encrypted into images that will "download" the information into your brain upon viewing - and (just before being shot to death) e-mails it to Chuck for some reason. Chuck then, unbeknownst to all of this, opens said e-mail and is shown the entire string of images. The following day, after what he assumes is a hangover, he starts to see and notice things he didn't before - whether it be an Army general's security detail or a demolitions expert shopping at the local CostCo Large Mart. Before long he's the target of both the CIA - in the form of Sarah Walker (a stunning Yvonne Strzechowski), who dupes him into a date - and the NSA - in the form of the shoot-first-ask-questions-later John Casey (Adam Baldwin, reprising his junkyard dog-esque role from "Day Break"), who's responsible for killing Bryce. Normally I would tell you more, but half the fun of this show is just enjoying the ride. Suffice it to say there are ninja fights and huge revelations and by the pilot's end, Chuck's life will never be the same.

What works: There is a energy and joy to this show that's unlike anything else you will see next season. Funny, sweet, silly and thrilling all at the same time, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say Josh Schwartz and co-creator Chris Fedak have recaptured the same type of lightning in a bottle "The O.C." had when it premiered. I honestly don't know where to begin without sounding like an overzealous fanboy. Okay, let's start with the cast. Zachary Levi and the where-the-hell-did-they-find-her Yvonne Strzechowski bring an effortless charm to the proceedings, whether it be flirting or (in Yvonne's case) beating the crap out of the bad guys. The same goes for the supporting players - from Joshua Gomez as Chuck's clueless Jiminy Cricket to Sarah Lancaster's as Chuck's sweet-but-pushy sister to Ryan McPartlin's two-shades-to-the-right-of-Todd-from-"Scrubs's" Captain Awesome. Hell, even bit players like "Dexter's" C.S. Lee as Chuck's rival at Buy More all get a chance to shine. An equal amount of love goes out to director McG, who literally has created some of the most spectacular action sequences I've ever seen on television - from ninja fights to car chases to jumping from buildings. Okay, okay, I know - I need to calm down here. And finally, as usual, Schwartz brings both his geek - references are made to everything from "Zork" or the TRS-80 - and music - how long before we see a "Chuck, Mix 1" soundtrack? - skills to the table.

What doesn't: Nothing. All in all, if there's one show you should be watching this year...

The bottom line: ...it's "Chuck."

  [june 2007]  


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