If you’ve been to the movies in the last twenty months then you’ve already seen NBC’s entire fall lineup, including the comedy/spy thriller Chuck. You probably also know that Chuck is about a guy named (what else?) Chuck who is a computer geek by day – actually, he’s always a computer geek – and he’s also the United States government’s newest, and improbable-est, secret agent. Stop me if you’ve already heard this one.
Chuck went to Stanford, so he’s smart, but he also works at Buy More (a play on Best Buy) so he’s also an underachiever. He’s shy around women (he tries to hide from girls during his own birthday party) yet he can still be charming. He wears Converses but also a tie. See where I’m going with this? Chuck straddles the line between working stiff and slacker in a way that makes him eminently likeable without being Carson Daly bland. Think of a young Tom Hanks in a comedy spy thriller and you can see Chuck’s potential.
Zachary Levi’s goofball charm in the lead role, a number of behind the scenes players help make Chuck a comedy thriller that’s actually – gasp -- funny.
Writer/producer Josh Schwartz cut his teeth on a little television show you may have heard of called The O.C. This was THE young person’s soap opera during my college years and while Rachel Bilson may have used her super vixen hormones (it’s my understanding that Bilson’s hormones are currently being studied by the government for their potential uses in biological warfare) to attract a legion of drooling viewers, it was some sharp, witty dialogue that kept them glued to the screen week after week. Chuck shares a lot of the same sharp wit, thankfully streamlined for greater comedic appeal.
McG (The O.C.) and David Solomon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) bring some snappy camerawork to the table. There’s plenty of movement and action to remind viewers that Chuck is no sitcom and the pace isn’t so fast as to induce epileptic seizures.
The on-screen talent isn’t too bad either. Yvonne Strzechowski and Adam Baldwin star as Chuck’s “covert co-workers.” Yvonne displays some nice chemistry with Levi in the two lead roles and her blonde good looks are sure to keep guys happy. And every show is better off (ie: funnier) for having Adam Baldwin in it as proven by his work in Firefly. Chuck’s co-workers and friends, played by Joshua Gomez, Vik Sahay and others seem like they’ll be playing a larger than expected role in the series and their deadpan banter evokes memories of The 40 Year Old Virgin though toned down enough for a television audience.
Monday’s pilot episode did everything right in setting up Chuck’s character. There were a few clichés (why must everyone go to the beach to contemplate deep thoughts?) but overall the show was sharp and fresh and the chemistry between the principal actors was on target. It’s hard to see exactly where Chuck is headed and this lack of long-term focus may be a problem down the road, but for now I’m simply happy to watch, and laugh, at what happens next.