I have more than a few guilty pleasures in my life – music by The Carpenters is several of them, I think. Nerds on TV seems to be another.
The original “Nerd getting the Hottie” (on TV) has to be Ross Geller. Ross and Rachel were TV’s #1 couple for a lot of years, even beyond the point where fans wanted to put an end to their misery. Talk about Lucy pulling the ball away from Charley Brown – that had to be the television equivalent.
Well, the #1 couple today has to be Chuck Bartowski (yet another nerd) and Sarah Walker (hottie/spy), played by Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski, respectively. At first blush (and first viewing), the show Chuck (NBC, Mondays 8:00 pm eastern) is a ridiculous farce – Twelve dollar and hour geek gets CIA/NSA spy information planted in his brain by his college nemesis and tormentor, and is put under the protection of two super-spies, because the bad-guys want his brain. Chuck, of course, falls head-over-heels for one of his protectors, who seems to be falling for him in return, but can’t admit it lest she endanger the mission, the country and Chuck himself. His life may depend on her being dispassionate.
And even as I type the storyline description, it seems less farcical. The show has an uncanny ability to retain both aspects – farce, romance, and something I haven’t mentioned yet – musings on the masks we wear for each other – like a juggler doing his act. It becomes easy to root for the couple to get together, which is why the Ross & Rachel comparison is too easy to make.
Chuck is more than a bit better than that. Unexpected twists and turns in the standing plot line are to be – well, expected. They’re well done, and I appreciate that. When events seem to force a wedge between the couple, the story becomes serious. Do I detect just a little Romeo and Juliet in there? Perhaps. It seems odd to say so, but Chuck can be that good.
The side-story, Chuck’s “Nerd-Herd” friends at the Buy-More consumer-electronics store, is pure comedy, and well done by the supporting cast. The writing is snappy, at times tremendously funny (I seldom guffaw, but have repeatedly at the great one-liners in every episode). Fans make a game of finding the clever popular-culture references buried in the dialogue.
Fans also worry about the writers, director and producers carrying on the (budding, impossible, inevitable) romance indefinitely, but so far, they’ve done it with excellent pacing and great chemistry between the two lead characters.
Adam Baldwin (my favorite Baldwin
brother) has been a pleasant surprise, adding both comedy and action to the mix as Chuck’s other protector. His character could easily have ended up as a cartoon, yet becomes integral at just the right time with his dry wit.
IOW, I love a show that can make me laugh, make me care about the characters and not insult my intelligence. Chuck succeeds in all three.
Because of the twists and turns in the plot that I mentioned (is Bryce a good guy, or a bad guy?), it may be difficult to begin watching Chuck now and get much out of it other than the broad comedy. It’s a pity, because the show deserves a larger audience than it’s getting. If the show lasts more than, say, three seasons (it is in its second now) then I’d consider buying the DVDs when they come out. It’ll be worth it to see the episodes in order from the beginning.
Update: It’s been pointed out that Adam Baldwin is NOT a Baldwin brother (Thanks, Deb). These does not mean , however, that he’s not my favorite. ;>