WARNING: After I announced that this piece would only be up for a week or two due to its instantly dated subject matter, enough people pleaded with me to keep it linked on the site that I was convinced to cave in to demand. So, if you want to read it, just be warned...it was intended for the readers of January 6, 2010 and has not been updated since then.
Next week, a veritable chuck wagon of Chuck, with a two-hour season premiere PLUS a bonus episode the following day. Start your fruitless online petitions now, because the ratings won't be promising.
Even the producers doubt they'll have enough success to be granted a Season 4. And to make matters worse, Fox moved its winter premiere of House up two weeks just to hit the wounded harder. Not only does Fox frequently greenlight nifty cult shows just to kill them, they won't let anybody else have one either. Psychos.
What can Chuck do at this point? Take his shirt off? Add a lovably irritating adopted 8-year-old to the cast? Wake up to find Sarah in his shower and the entire second season a dream?
|Or maybe Chuck should start wearing sunglasses at night and make semi-clever wisecracks about corpses he examines. ...Or maybe not.
Mayhaps the true answer can be found in the wisdom of the brainiacs at TV By The Numbers......'s comments section.
I have similar feelings toward Chuck that I did toward My Name Is Earl. With Earl I liked the characters, but I didn't like how badly it was written. With network TV the pickings are so slim you have to take whatever you can get, and I'll settle for a show that's only 40% appealing, but I wish I didn't have to.
I wish I earned $11 an hour. Maybe when I'm in my forties.
The concept of Chuck is great, much more interesting than TV series ideas usually are. I like the idea of a geek spy, and that his own "normal" world is sometimes even weirder than the secret life he lives. But there's a lot about this show that bothers me and keeps it from being a favorite. I WANT to love it, but it plays hard to get. If I were in charge of Chuck right now, here are some changes I'd implement:
1. More interesting spy stuff
Usually, I enjoy the scenes at the Buy More more than I do the secret agent moments. Ultimately, a good show is about its characters, not its plots, and there are simply better characters at Buy More than there are in the field.
The spy game is a part of the series that has always needed a bit more thought. What happens on the action side of the show is usually full of standard cliches, things you can guess the direction of in the first ten minutes. Chuck is a silly show and knows it, and that's part of its appeal, but that doesn't mean the writers should get a free pass from thinking, just because it's funny.
Part of the blame for this might be the budget. A Chuck comic book miniseries came out last year, promising more epic plotlines than the actual show had, because pen and ink could tell such stories much cheaper. Heroes frequently has this same problem. Two people with powers meet, clench their fists, prepare to battle -- and then a door slams in your face and you only hear a bunch of sounds for a minute until the defeated member crashes through. Not even Chuck is that bad at it, but let's face it, 10,000 Subway plugs can't get it the production cash Heroes receives. However....Smallville has gigantic fights all the time while operating on what must be 1/25th of a major network budget. So actually NBC's got no excuse.
2. Fix Chuck and Sarah
"You don't like Chuck and Sarah? Then why do you even watch Chuck at all? That's half the show!"
I'll tell you what I don't like. I don't like, as a viewer, being treated like a cow. I don't like having a carrot on a stick dangled in front of me and being told to march on the false promise that I'll get to eat it. I don't like the old, obvious, tedious, lazy, annoying gimmick of keeping characters apart for increasingly unrealistic reasons, just out of fear no one will watch anymore if they hook up. And from the very beginning, Chuck made it no secret that this was what they wanted to do. When this show started, I didn't believe for a minute that Chuck and Sarah were going to get together anytime soon. They're paired up on the posters, in the promotional material and in all the ads. That usually means a WT/WT and I HATE those stupid things.
Also....the actors don't pull off any real believable chemistry. A lot of people think they do, but I don't see it.
I would fix Chuck and Sarah by having them act more like an actual couple does. Real people don't play stupid games to delay contact when they meet someone that stands out to them. Where's the tension in that...well, there isn't any. But I'm not an angst fan. Note that I would have begun the entire show that way, not switched it around in Season 3. It's a little too late for Chuck.
3. Find writers that are actual geeks
Ever since the show began, and Chuck confessed in the pilot that he'd broken his thumbs playing Call of Duty (and not some obscure uncool JRPG instead), I've been questioning how authentic the intended connection to the nerds of this nation really is. To me, it feels like they're faking it, and I got definitive proof the night "Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer" aired.
The plot of that one was that the actual codes to disarm a real missile had been hidden in the kill screen of Missile Command, and to get it you had to play the game until it was broken. It was promoted as the geekiest Chuck ever. It might have been if it wasn't completely wrong.
They knew, at least, that most ancient arcade games bugged out once they got past a certain score they weren't built to compute (though Missile Command didn't, I'll take it anyway). But entire scenes were built around the assumption that Atari was (A) a Japanese company, and (B) still in business. Everybody knows that (A) Atari was founded by Americans and (B) ceased to be in the mid-90's after the Jaguar tanked. The brand name was bought by a French company, so Chuck should have been fighting wine-sipping weaklings, not Japanese ninjas. After I saw this, I expected the show to lose a large chunk of its audience. I at least expected the Internet to light up with "HOW COULD THEY BE SO STUPID" complaints. But zip, nada, nothing. I've never heard a fan of Chuck complain about this episode. This seriously didn't bother anybody?
The men behind this show are Josh Schwartz, who created The OC and Gossip Girl, and "McG," mastermind of the loud and mindless. I don't believe either of these people spent college typing mathematical algorithms into Commodore 64s. It shouldn't be hard to find writers for Chuck that are deeply immersed in geek culture. If you want to pursue a career writing scripts instead of playing football, that is in itself a geeky trait. So where are they?
Chuck should have been the one to reference Chrono Trigger on network television first, not Hiro.
|4. More Anna
It really pains me to write this, because I know I'm not gonna get it. When Chuck began, Anna was a standout member of the Buy More that I figured we'd be seeing a lot more of as time went on. But the second season had 22 shows and Anna only appeared in something like four of them. Once the writers made her Morgan's girlfriend, they didn't seem to know what to do with her anymore. Meanwhile I was screaming at the TV, "JUST DO WHAT YOU WERE DOING BEFORE! IT'S NOT HARD! JUST BECAUSE SHE'S NOW ATTACHED TO A MAJOR CHARACTER DOESN'T MEAN SHE HAS TO BE WEAKENED IN COMPARISON!!" Chuck was barely renewed for a Season 3 by an ailing NBC that would accept anything that had a slight cult following. One of the demands in the shorter budget was that one character be removed. They barely use Anna anymore. The writing is on the wall.
Natasha Wing was partly borne out of frustration with Chuck for squandering a strong Asian character. It was a "Fine, if YOU don't want her, I'LL take her" kind of thing.
5. No Kristin Kreuk
This is another big reason I think the producers are faking their geek cred: if they'd done a tiny bit of research, they would know geeks everywhere HATE KRISTIN KREUK.
When you think of Kreuk, the worst moments of Smallville come to mind. Her back-and-forth attitude towards Clark. Her marriage to Lex. Her obviously fake "deaths" every May. Her being possessed by a witch for one season, affecting nothing. None of these dopey things were Kreuk's fault, but her lack of talent didn't help. It's an accepted fact that Kreuk can't act. Like a lot of WB/CW stars she was hired to be pretty, with everything else an afterthought.
Kreuk's character will ride a few episodes as a new love interest for Chuck. They're supposed to have some "sweet moments together." Well, how sweet can they be if the whole series has been trying to sell us on Chuck and Sarah all this time? They'll just come off as aggravating time wasters. Note that Kreuk's previous TV role had this same problem, only on a much grander scale. Reminding people of Smallville is the last thing you want to be doing at this point, lady.
Now, if they'd hired Allison Mack instead.....but that can't be so.
As long as we're wasting time with girls that we know will be dumped in a few episodes because they're not Sarah, why doesn't Chuck start dating one of THESE? He already met Brittany last December and you have to admit there was chemistry between them....
If Glee is supposed to be about outcasts, why does all the focus go to the jocks and cheerleaders?
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