Chuck (NBC, Mondays)

Now that the show has premiered, and the insane media spin is slowly fading out, let’s talk about it. Frankly. It’s bad enough this show reminds me of just how wonderful Alias was, and how quickly it was sabotaged by its own creators and network (thanks, ABC and JJ Abrams), Chuck also shows how easily a show can be appealing to wider audience, and still remain smart and engaging. I spotted these things, did you? Here’s hoping the show can find its tracks fast, because all the elements are there, just mix them in proper order, and you’ll have a runaway hit.

The one thing Chuck doesn’t want to be like (it seems) is another spy hourlong. Despite cool action scenes (and not just in the premiere episode), it brings a lot of comedy and everyday life into the plot. I didn’t like Sydney Bristow’s personal life subplots in Alias, but with Chuck, I think the humour makes it more interesting. Same personal themes, if presented with kindness and understanding, work well. I hope to discover more of Chuck’s personal life, and find out about his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), her boyfriend and of course the oddball friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez). Sure, they are just another bunch of ‘pretty white kids with problems’ (that’s an old Mad TV sketch), but they have chemistry, and more importantly, their screen time is just right. Enough to propel the plot, but not too much to make the episode wander. After all, they’re secondary.

The spy stuff also works. I had a problem with too much kicking and explosions in the premiere episode, but it looks things have toned down a bit. Good. Those Toyota Yarises (yes, it’s a product placement, I might as well mention it here) do not fix themselves. The fact that in both episodes something happened to that car – and the driver survived is a good advertising hook. If they make it into a regular stunt – that would be a good inside joke. Less explosions means more spy-talk? Not necessarily. A lot of terminology is mentioned without explanations, and when somebody raises a brow, it’s dismissed as if it wasn’t the point. That part I like. If you want to make tech stuff engaging, it’s gotta be realistic. But if you’re inventing gadgets and terminology, might as well not spend too much time explaining it. It’s a plot device, let’s move on.

Finally, the two other characters who occupy Chuck’s time and space – the hot love interest Sarah (Yvonne Strzechowski) and the mercenary killer John (Adam Baldwin). Both are spies (for competing government agencies), and both have to protect Chuck, without, of course letting him use his secrets against the state. It’s a 3-way love-hate relationship. Complicated, maybe, but this is where the humour kicks in. Sarah grows to like the clumsy Chuck, while John sees him as a threat to the country. Of course, all this time we’re talking about a geek, not very attractive physically, and not very threatening. He’s just a smart kid who’d rather fix computers all day long and not run around and do spy stuff.

Maybe that reluctance makes the show differ from other shows. He wants the glam of being a spy, but he doesn’t have what it takes. He just happens to possess a bunch of government secrets in his brain.

The relationship between his home turf (Morgan), and the fantasy world (Sarah and John) makes for amazing comical opportunities, and pretty impressive action scenes.

This show is different, but is set in a familiar territory. Will it have enough plot to exist for 30-40 episodes? I hope so. A lot of potential, and a lot of energy. Please don’t run out of steam.

Chuck. Monday nights. NBC.

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