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Pilot Inspektor: NBC's "Chuck"

While Pushing Daisies is undoubtedly my favorite new series for this fall, I can now say that I've definitely found my runner-up: action dramedy Chuck, which launches this fall on NBC.

Chuck is a perfect blend of kick-ass action, hilarious comedy, romantic intrigue and nerd humor. It also, like fellow Warner Bros. Television series Pushing Daisies, has one of the most instantly likeable, charismatic casts on television.

For those of you not in the know, Chuck revolves around lovelorn twenty-something Chuck (Zachary Levi), the head of a Nerd Herd (think Geek Squad, only without the product placement) at a Buy More store; he's still after years hung up on a college girlfriend who left him for his far cooler roommate Bryce Larkin (Traveler's Matthew Bomer). Said roommate, a gymnast and engineer, has since moved onto bigger things. Like being a rogue CIA spy who breaks into a highly secure government facility to steal an image-based intelligence software program that encodes secrets into easily digestible imagery. Before Bryce is killed, he managed to download and email the program to the one person in the world that would be least likely to be involved in any plot: one Chuck Bartowski.

Chuck himself is a down-and-out loser, unable to speak to women and more likely to break into a chorus of "Vicki Vale" (Batman, natch) than ask for her digits. So imagine his surprise when the beautiful Sarah (Yvonne Strzechowski), a Buy More customer whose mobile he repairs, expresses interest in him. Naturally, it's not Chuck's body she's after, but what's inside his head, namely that sophisticated intelligence database. But the beautiful and deadly Sarah isn't the only agent after that database; cutthroat John Casey (Firefly's Adam Baldwin) is also tracking the whereabouts of the database and he is willing to kill anyone that gets in his way, including Sarah and/or Chuck.

So what happens? You'll have to wait until the fall to find out (I can't spoil everything, now can I?) but I will say that I was blown away by the strength of the pilot's action sequences, especially the opening sequence featuring Bryce (Bomer) stealing the database in a whirl of acrobatic moves, explosions, and kickass fight choreography, a car chase--driving backwards, no less--between Sarah and Chuck (in a Nerd Herd mobile) and the sadistic Casey, which leads spectacularly to when Sarah triggers an emergency barricade and kneels behind the pillars, resulting in an explosion of glass and auto parts inches above her. It's a jaw-dropping sight and sets the stage for a climactic showdown on the roof of a downtown skyscraper.

While the action is sure to get many a fan's adrenaline pumping, it's the humor that runs underneath the kinetic fight sequences that kept me even more engaged. Chuck and his best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) are hilarious together and their rapport seems natural and easy. I was rolling on the floor during the scene in which they (seriously) face off with a ninja assassin in the process of stealing Chuck's hard drive as Morgan begins to chuck (heh) various household items at the thief, who quickly deflects them right back at Chuck.

Chuck's perfectly balanced combination of raw action and witty humor is enough to win me over, but I have to quickly say how well cast Chuck's entire crew is. Zachary Levi displays the right mix of nerdy daring- do and leading man amiability, resulting in a truly memorable character whom you want to return to each week. Sarah Lancaster is adorable as Chuck's sister Ellie, who pushes her brother to get out there and meet women (she also catches him attempting to escape his own birthday party); she's eager-to-please but not obnoxiously so and blissfully in love with her boyfriend, the preening Captain Awesome, a surgeon extraordinaire. One can't say enough about the sexiness of Yvonne Strzechowski, who proves herself prone to wandering around expensive hotel rooms in color-coordinated underwear (when she's not wearing form-fitting body armor) as well as being a deadly fighter and driver; however, she also displays a rare vulnerability as she too attempts to recover from a monumentally failed relationship.

Finally, Adam Baldwin is so well cast as the Machiavellian John Casey that you want to forgive the networks that cancelled all of his others shows over the last few years just so he could be free to play this part. Baldwin seems born to play Casey, imbuing him with a blend of mercenary detachment, a sadistic penchant for killing, and a lopsided sneer that never seems to leave his face. I won't give away the pilot's ending but suffice it to say that Agent John Casey has a new cover by the pilot's end (along with a new assignment) that doesn't win him any favors towards our boy Chuck. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Dateline (NBC); Veronica Mars (CW; 8-10 pm); The Bachelor (ABC); American Idol (FOX)

9 pm: Jesse Stone: Sea Change (CBS; 9-11 pm); Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Dancing with the Stars (ABC; 9-11 pm); On The Lot (FOX)

10 pm: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)

What I'll Be Watching

8-10 pm: Veronica Mars.

I'm so angry at the CW I can taste it. On tonight's two-hour series finale of Veronica Mars ("Weevils Wobble But They Don't Fall Down"/"The Bitch is Back"), Veronica must clear Weevil's name when he's arrested for selling fake credit cards but he claims that he's being framed, Keith and Vinnie debate, Dick apologizes to Mac, a sex tape of Veronica and Piz makes its way onto the internet, and Veronica tells Logan once and for all that she wants nothing to do with him. I'm crushed.

9 pm: On the Lot.

Fox's newest reality show (from reality TV ubermeister Mark Burnett) begins tonight with a special "preview" episode in which the semifinalists undergo their first Hollywood pitch meeting and must shoot and edit a short film in 24 hours.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I read the script for Chuck a while back and thought it was fun but wasn't totally blown away. Then I saw the pilot and was amazed by how well they put everything together. I was originally worried that the premise of Chuck might be kind of cheesy and predictable but, instead, it's a racaous romp through one geek's life...a geek who just so happens to have all of the government's secrets downloaded into his head.

The cast is great and there is an abundance of both humor and action (I was also really impressed with the action sequences). This is now easily one of my favorite pilots and I can't wait to see how the season plays out!
The CineManiac said…
I'm looking forward to seeing this one next august, but since it sounds like a great show and and stars Adam Baldwin, I'd be lying if I wasn't worried about it being canceled 6 or 7 episodes in.

Jace, where's the 24 recap? or are you like me and still weeks behind because of how awful this season has been?
LB said…
I'm really looking forward to this one! You're right - the casting is spot on and the action sequences are excellent.

If I may, can I plug my new fansite for this show? (Seriously, I'm STOKED about this one!) It's at www.chucktv.net.
Anonymous said…
I agree - I enjoyed it very much. It is a great blend of genres. Also, it will do a nice job of *sniff* filling a Tuesday night hole.

One thing I disagree about, though. I didn't really care for the best friend character. He just seemed like such a stock character, and didn't rise above it. As Whitney said, "He should have been funnier." And I agree.
Anonymous said…
OMG, you have got to be kidding!!

I thought it sucked, the show is really bad!

http://88.191.26.34/i_watch_tv/2007/07/26/chuck-its-not-what-it-looks-like/

Sure, McG knows how to make a picture look good on screen, and having action scenes & explosions helps (wonder if that was only for the pilot, which gets more money put into it, or if it'll stay that way) and hot girls in underwear, but that don't make a good show

scripts people, not funny, and all plots were so lame it hurts!

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