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October 3, 2015

Chuck: Pilot (series premiere)

by Varun Lella, posted Sep 25th 2007 9:18AM

Chuck episode 1

(S01E01) "Working on a five year plan, just need to choose a font." - Chuck Bartowski

Last night was the premiere of the shortest-named show in primetime. Shhh ... what do you mean Cane and Life are only four letters? I don't care about House and Bones tying at five letters. I refuse to acknowledge that CSI and ER are still on the air. I think my first line was clever and I am keeping it no matter how wrong it makes me.

Meandering back to the point ... it has been a long time coming for Chuck. For months there have been teasers and web ads bombarding people with its existence and now it is finally here. So let's see if it was worth the wait.

There has been so much Chuck-vertising, I am not really going to bother with the full plot description (go to my Early Look for more info). Government secrets in cute nerd's brain. Nerd sees random secrets and helps government solve cases. Nerds $11/hour life is now dangerous/never will be the same again.

Its like The Office meets Psych meets Jake 2.0. Yet at the same time nothing like any of the shows previous mentioned.

The episode opens on a weak gag. Which might be one of the most negative things I will say about the show's pilot episode.

I think the point was to trick audiences into thinking that Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) were in some actual spy-like danger and it was supposed to be a comedic reveal that they were at Chuck's birthday party. It really just didn't work. Luckily, the ensuing moments were hilarious enough to almost erase the poorly executed opening moments.

Zach Levi is the right person for Chuck. Although he looks exactly like Jim Halpert, Chuck carries this very distinctively, lovable beta-male personality that seems to naturally mesh with Levi's. It seems like the guy doesn't really have to act too much. Just strap on a white short-sleeved dress shirt and a tie on the charmingly awkward Levi and you got Chuck. Now to Morgan, well let us get one thing straight. There is no Joshua Gomez. I swear that it has to be Seth Green with dyed hair. Am I the only one who thinks they are clones? Maybe I am going crazy. As for the character, I think Gomez is very subtle with some of Morgan's mannerisms and movements. If he just comes across as annoying and not funny, it is probably because you aren't looking close enough. Then again, you shouldn't have to work to find a character funny.

During the opening sequence we get to learn about Chuck's personality through some of the most awkward conversation in the history of mankind (and this is come from a dude who has had alot of awkward moments).

Come see the spectacle that is Chuck! Squirm in delight as Chuck fields questions about his career path. Writhe in pain as he monologues about his ex-girlfriend.

We learn some important things in the middle of Chuck's rantings. Chuck is awkward. Chuck got kicked out of Stanford. And Chuck is not the biggest fan of Bryce Larkin, who is about to change Chuck's world forever.

In the middle of these funny birthday scenes we are treated with the story of Bryce "Not an accountant" Larkin, a rogue CIA agent. The battle-worn Larkin is stealing government secrets out of a high-tech NSA-CIA collaborative effort known as the Intersect. He manages to escape security only to be taken down by NSA's Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin).

I do not have space in this review to tell you how much I love Adam Baldwin, who played the hilariously rebellious Jayne on Joss Whedon's Firefly. Just know that even though I think his talents are wasted on one-liners, he brings this attitude to the show that just couldn't be provided by anyone else. You could possibly find another Chuck, but some one to replace Baldwin? Impossible ... well maybe Hugh Laurie from House, but that is it.

Now I have gotten comments from people who didn't like the scene where Larkin downloads the secrets to his handheld computer, and I have to say that it was my favorite of the episode. The show seems know how ridiculous the premise is and is serving to extend that with a subtle poke at the spy genre. I mean how hilarious is it that Larkin is downloading the entire secret history of the government off of a Classic Mac desktop?

The white room with millions of image panels was admittedly a little over the top. It is a little indicative of the show's choice of style of substance., but pretty cool for a first season television show.

And the fight scene. Oh, the fight scene. Many have complained that it came off choreographed and fake, but I watched the pilot in a room filled with the key demo (18-34 year olds) and they lapped it up. I have never heard so many "Oh snaps!" come from engineers' mouths before.

Back to the episode review before this baby gets out of hand. Bryce sends an email to Chuck, which proceeds to hypnotize him and encode him with thousands of cryptic photographs. Chuck goes to work at the Buy More for the Nerd Herd (very subtle ... ) unaware of his new acquisition and suffering from a major headache.

At the Buy More, we are introduced to Sarah (Yvonne Strzechowski), a melt-your-mind kind of gal who is clearly Chuck's love interest. Until we find out that she is a CIA agent and Bryce's ex-partner sent to receive the Intersect, which now happens to be Chuck (after she breaks his computer). She comes back to the Buy More and gets Chuck to go on a date with her. Meanwhile, Chuck is beginning to trigger his secret stash (knowing police procedures for a NATO general visit, recognizing a Serbian demolitions expert). It seems like every week a different image is the "secret" image. This week it was a picture of apple pie. I don't know if it is a metaphor for something, but it made me really hungry.

So Chuck and Sarah go on a date, only to be followed by Casey's NSA goons onto a dance floor. Again, another jab at the spy genere's tendency to have spies that can kill people in large crowds without anyone noticing. Josh Schwartz also manages to slip in a band shout out here with the musical stylings of LA-band Foreign Born. On a side note, the music to Chuck is a blending of generic action soundtracks with Schwartz's penchant for good, pretty obscure bands. Hopefully, Schwartz will introduce the audience to new bands as the show continues. Although, I don't know how many times Chuck can attend a concert before people realize what is happening.

So Chuck and Sarah run away and Sarah reveals some of her spy skills to a horrified Chuck along the way. How cool was that entire emergency barricade thing? COME ON! How can you not be entertained?

Casey chases the pair onto a rooftop, where they end up in a Mexican standoff. Well, it would be if Chuck had a weapon. It is more like an El Paso standoff. Chuck's powers activate and he conveniently realizes that the building across the street has a bomb in it that needs defusing.

From here on out the pilot wraps up as expected. Big tension with a bomb about to explode. The two agents can't do anything so Chuck has to step in and use his nerd skills to save the day. Chuck realizes the enormity of his new "powers." He sits on the beach as he contemplates and the credits roll ... oh wait, not yet?

There is an entertaining ending sequence, which I really think will set the mood for some of the smaller side stories during the season. Chuck is applying for the assistant manager position, which should make for a good filler episode. Government killer John Casey is joining the Buy More team ... makes you look twice at that Sales Clerk at Best Buy. And Chuck sometimes sees things he doesn't want to. I don't know if this will come up more in later episodes, but it could be a nifty plot device.

I love this pilot. I can't wait till next week. Feel free to disagree with me people, but try and keep it clean in the comments section. I know it can get violent down there.

Also 100 cool points for the person who can name the closing song right before the credits roll. Cool points redeemable for coolness.

Here are some larger questions that are going to bother me until I get answer

  • Why did Chuck get kicked out of Stanford?
  • Will we find out why Lark in was rogue?
  • What did Sarah mean when she called Casey a burnout?
  • How long before Chuck tries to kiss Sarah?
  • When will Seth Green guest star as Morgan's evil twin brother?
Do you like Chuck?
Yes, I do922 (85.1%)
No, I don't57 (5.3%)
I mean he seems like a nice guy, but I hardly know him.104 (9.6%)

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Jeffrey Lipsey

I'm not as big a fan as the author of the article is, but it does have potential.

"Two things exist that will keep me watching the show: one is the interesting plot line while the other is Strzechowski’s character. Shit, not only is she hot but she’s a bad-ass (who keeps throwing knives around her ankles); they should give her a new show too. Even though the initial explanation and background just flat out sucked, Chuck has the potential to be yet another fresh and quality show (as long as they fix the poor jokes)."


October 08 2007 at 5:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeff G

Chuck is the best new show on TV and Josh Schwartz is a genius (before he lost his touch and turned the OC from clever and witty into soap drivel... but he's back).

The premise is a fun spin on the classic spy genre, it's sort of Seth Cohen from the OC transformed into Maxwell Smart scenarios, but less slapstick and more clever dialogue and fun characters. How long can they keep it up is a good question, but there are a lot of unexplored angles... Why was Chuck thrown out of Stanford? Why did Bryce go rogue? Will Chuck use his secret agent skills to move up the ladder at BuyMore? And of course, will Sarah fall for Chuck?

Very fun and of course Sarah Walker is not hard on the eyes...

October 05 2007 at 7:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Am in complete agreement with you regarding Adam Baldwin. He's simply fantastic... though I wish he were back with rude Jayne one-liners.

October 02 2007 at 3:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, talk about a show trying SO HARD it hurts. It was trying so hard to be cool, and hip, and cute, and...oh, it was so tiring to watch. Not very charming at all. A huge retread of Jake 2.0, which at least knew it was cheesy, but wasn't so over-the-top NEEDY as this show is. The whole thing played like a cartoon. It probably would've worked better that way--it had small sight gags like the Buy More's slogan, something like "At Buy More you can save more, and if you save more, you can buy more, and if you buy more, you can save more" on a sign at one point.
There's "a computer in his head"? It's called a BRAIN, you idiot. Even following the show's own rules, all he got was a data dump. It's his OWN BRAIN sorting through the stuff and putting it together.
There's far better stuff on the air than this.

September 27 2007 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To Kathy: The whole NSA versus CIA is what bugged me the whole time!

I can put aside the ludicrous computer abilities/functions due to it being a show (I am in the IT field), but the fact that one government agency appears to have no quams about killing an agent from another part of our own government? That just doesn't make a darn bit of sense.

September 27 2007 at 10:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Any show that incorporates Zork into the storyline wins for me.

But changing a grue to a troll was a poor concession to all of the non geeks out there.

September 26 2007 at 8:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this show already. It's a great parody of all the ridiculous things in American television.

September 26 2007 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Overall I liked it but I have to say they killed the most intriguing character in the first few minutes. I want a show about Bryce. Those moves were fab and he expressed both action star and an ironic cool in a few short scenes. RIP Bryce. I wish you weren't really dead.

So the NSA and the CIA have no qualms about ordering hits on each other? Good ot know :)

And no matter how good the show gets - I'd trade it in an instant to get back Firefly.

September 25 2007 at 10:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually, as the guy above mentioned pretty much that whole part of the episode was a complete copy of one of District B-13's best chase scenes. Liked the show though.
Check out the clip of the real scene on youtube to see the better version.

September 25 2007 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So, basically "Big Bang Theory" meets "Alias"

September 25 2007 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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