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Paley Festival: "Chuck"

While last night's latest Paley Festival panel, for NBC's delightfully funny and action-packed series Chuck, was definitely a hoot (courtesy of the series' hyperactive stars and creators who riffed off of one another and moderator Damon Lindelof for nearly two hours), there wasn't a whole lot revealed that I didn't already learn from Chuck stars Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, and Adam Baldwin when I spent the day with them in December.

Nearly the entire cast was in attendance except for Sarah Lancaster who was ill and unfortunately could not attend the panel. (Damn!) In a rare switcheroo, Levi was sporting a Jesus-style beard and longish hair that still did make me want to give him all of my pudding (thanks to EW writer Gillian Flynn for that bon mot), while Josh Gomez was nearly clean-shaven with a spiky hairstyle but still sporting "chin pubes," according to Ryan McPartlin, anyway. Adam Baldwin was, as ever, sleekly attired in a stylish suit, Yvonne Strahovski looked as drop-dead gorgeous as ever, and creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak looked cool and casual... though Fedak had bought a blue tie especially for the occasion. Ryan McPartlin IS Captain Awesome, no doubt about it, even when he tries his darnedest to say "fantastic" instead of awesome. And, after seeing the panel, can I just say that co-star Vic Sahay is hysterical and deserves far more screen time than he gets?

One hilarious fact: we learned that one of the original titles for Chuck (derived from a moment of inspiration after glancing at a Chuck Klosterman book) was the destined-for-failure title Scenario 5, a "terrible, bad genre name" that Fedak acknowledged wouldn't have appealed to ANYONE. Schwartz also finally answered a question which has puzzled me since I first read the pilot script to Chuck early in 2007: what happened to the character of Kayla, Chuck's neighbor potential love interest?

Schwartz recounted the fact that the part of Kayla was cast and her scenes actually filmed and that he, Fedak, and executive producer McG (who helmed the pilot) all agreed that it bifurcated the love story between Chuck and Sarah and tried to shoehorn too many romantic subplots too early on in the series; thus editor Norman Buckley effortlessly lifted all of Kayla's scenes from the pilot, which streamlined the action and made Chuck's relationship to Sarah instantly more clear. (Good work, guys!)

Sadly, some tantalizing clues about what to expect for Season Two of Chuck, which kicks off this fall on NBC, didn't really materialize, but that was to be expected as the writing staff only returned to work earlier that day. Still, the most interesting thing to emerge from the panel wasn't even Chuck-related. Lost executive producer/writer Damon Lindelof, who moderated the event armed with blue "segue cards" that were "activated" at various points during the evening, was asked about the four-toed statue that appeared in the episode "Live Together, Die Alone."

Lindelof says that they got a note from the network that said that the four-toed statue was just too weird, even for Lost. "I was like, 'Do you watch the show? This is too weird?,'" said Lindelof. "Essentially, they said, 'Could it be a six-toed statue?' I was like, 'Someone explain to me why a six-toed statue is less weird than a four-toed statue?' And they're still noodling on that."

As for Chuck, the gang is planning to hit the road again this year for San Diego Comic-Con (I'll be there once again, will you?) to promote their six-issue comic book tie-in series from DC Comics and the second season. As for what to expect for Season Two, look for a few new characters ("We're going to bring in some fresh new characters and some new villains," promised Josh Schwartz), an intriguing subplot involving Lester and Jeff that had to be excised from Season One (it involves a secret plot against Chuck), and possibly Jean-Claude Van Damme? Well, if Schwartz get his way, anyway; Van Damme is their dream "get" for Season Two, leading Zachary Levi to ponder some others, like Steven Seagal... if anyone could figure out where he is nowadays.

All in all, a fun and entertaining evening and a chance to see the dynamic interplay of the Chuck cast and crew in all its glory. Still, I was hoping for a little more to go on regarding Season Two (which starts shooting in May) as it's still going to be quite a long time before we can get our next Chuck fix.


While nothing could compare to the Judd Apatow panel the other night, the "Chuck" cast and creators still provided an entertaining evening. I was particularly impressed by moderator Damon Lindelof (and his blue cards) who certainly gave James Lipton a run for his money.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for the great Chuck post. I wish I could have been there! I've heard that Zachary Levi is hysterical in person and wish I could have seen him in action!
Synd-e said…
Dude, I am so there at this year's CCI panel, even if it is at 8AM like last year. Off-topic: How about a Televisionary meet-up at CCI 08?

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