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Chuck at Comic-Con: Morgan Versus the Intersect

"I've got an old-fashioned Rocky montage..." NBC already has its Chuck Comic-Con exclusive ("Morgan Versus the Intersect") online for those of you not at San Diego Comic-Con (such as yours truly) or those still standing in the line outside Ballroom 20... And, yes, the rumors are true: it does feature Jeffster performing "Eye of the Tiger." (And if the above video stops working--as it appears to have just done--you can see the video here .) Season Five of Chuck begins this fall on NBC.

Dispatches from San Diego: Comic-Con 2011 TV Guide Panel

I'm not in San Diego for this year's Comic-Con (marking the first year in about six that I haven't traveled south for the annual pop culture confab) for a number of reasons. However, Televisionary correspondent Lissette Lira was on the scene to offer her report on Thursday's TV Guide panel as well as some photos from the fan-favorites sessions. * * * All in all the TV Guide panel was a bit of a mixed bag. While it was great fun seeing such an eclectic group of stars share the stage together, there were so many participants that everyone wound up getting a bit short-changed in the process. Nonetheless, there were still a few memorable highlights, including Zach Levi passionately voicing his agreement with a fan about the need for the TV ratings system to be changed. Levi vowed to write more about the subject on the website Nerd HQ which he was promoting with his baseball cap. Levi also spoke about his hope that CHUCK fans will b

Family Business: Trust Issues on Chuck

If there's one thing that Chuck has dealt with on an ongoing basis, it's matters of trust and fidelity in the spy world, where such things are seen as potential weaknesses to be exploited rather than strengths. Over the course of the last four seasons, Chuck Bartowski has been transformed from a naive asset into a full-blown spy of his own and I don't mean thanks to the Intersect (which still manages to flash and give him information or enable him to engage in some kick-ass Kung Fu), but rather his demeanor and way of handling himself in the field has changed significantly. Whereas he and Sarah were once on separate trajectories (he wants to be extraordinary! she wants to be normal!), they've now settled somewhere in the middle together, a spy couple whose missions are backdrops for their romantic endeavors. This week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the First Bank of Evil") found the one-time spy wannabe engaging with his own asset, Vivian MacArthur

Fighting the Hydra: Thoughts on the Semi-Season Finale of Chuck

I've been candid over the years about my love for Chuck , supporting it and nurturing it and standing up for it whenever renewal seemed like a distant proposition rather than a sure thing. But I've also been upfront about my thoughts about this creatively uneven season, which seemed to veer from strong episodes to really weak ones on a weekly basis. Last night's episode ("Chuck Versus the Push Mix"), written by Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc and directed by Peter Lauer, was originally intended to be the season finale for Season Four of Chuck , back when the season had only gotten a thirteen-episode commitment, but as with last season, an eleventh hour order of additional episodes meant that the semi-season finale wrapped up several storylines but wouldn't be the end to the season. Which brings us to the here and now, as I have to take an unpopular stand and say that I didn't enjoy this episode as much as others seemed to. In fact, I'll admit that I&

Two-Buck Chuck: The Days of Wine and Roses on Chuck

Proposals are funny things. Pull off an entirely romantic marriage offer and you have a story that you'll be telling your grandchildren in years to come. Fail and it could be, for Sarah's parents, emblematic of everything that went wrong with their relationship. But whether it's an Italian restaurant, or the balcony of a posh French chateau, what really matters is the moment itself, something that Chuck finally grasps at the end of this week's sweet and funny episode ("Chuck Versus the Balcony"), written by Max Denby and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. It's more about seizing the moment with the one you love than it is about balloons, string quartets, or carriages. Unfortunately, Chuck realizes this lesson too late. In true Chuck fashion, the course of true love never did run smooth and Chuck and his lady love, Sarah Walker, find themselves on opposite trajectories. As Chuck prepares to spend his life with Sarah, she's engaged on a dangerous missio

Knife's Edge: The Spotless Mind on Chuck

Knock-knock. It's been a while since we've had an episode of Chuck that focused on Chuck Bartowski's better half, Agent Sarah Walker. We've been given slivers of Sarah's backstory--it was only last season that we learned her true name (that would be "Sam" for those keeping score)--but the enigmatic spy who has stolen Chuck's heart has remained largely an international woman of mystery, her heart encased in stone until Chuck came around. But does Sarah love Chuck for the man he is or the man that she thinks he could be? And with the Intersect out of commission for the foreseeable future, what does that mean for their own? This week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus Phase Three"), written by Kristin Newman and directed by Anton Cropper, did not disappoint on that front, giving Yvonne Strahovski the perfect showcase for her skills, both in terms of silently emoting and kicking butt. While the action led Sarah (and Casey and Morgan) to f

Chuck's Fear of Death Left Me Cold

I always find it disappointing when an episode of Chuck fails to live up to my expectations and this week's episode ("Chuck Versus the Fear of Death"), written by Nicholas Wootton and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, definitely did not live up to the momentum created in the wake of "Chuck Versus the First Fight." I'm sure it wasn't helped by the fact that the series took a week off between installments but this week's episode also seemed all the more weak in comparison to the previous episode, which set up some new subplots and a potential new direction to the overarching mythology. This week's episode... felt more than a little like filler. Way too much weight given to a flimsy Buy More plot involving this week's Greta, Summer Glau, who had little to do other than prance around angrily, flick open a knife concealed in a thigh holster, and eat some product placement. If I'm being brutally honest: it wasn't a good use of Glau at

Childhood's End: First Blood, First Fights on Chuck

Hmmm, did you see that coming? While I teased some details about this week's fantastically serpentine episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the First Fight") in my advance review last week (which you can read over here ), I was especially careful not to spoil that particular bait and switch, lest it ruin what was a rather masterful plot twist this week. Morgan, here thrust into largely the same role that Chuck was way back in Season One, claims that first fights set the tone for the entire relationship and his rubric can be applied to relationships in general. In fact, the way that the final conflict in this episode plays out might hold the key to unlocking--or at least gaining some understanding--about the ways in which Mary Elizabeth Bartowski operates. Her frosty exterior belies a true emotional core, one that's not tied up in whatever elaborate ruse she's involved in at the moment. So now that the episode has aired and I can get more specific with my thoughts

Choosing Sides: An Advance Review of Chuck's "Chuck Versus the First Fight"

Sometimes the hardest advance reviews to write are the ones where the episode in question hinges ever so much on the plot. The innate twists and turns of next week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the First Fight") make the episode delicious fun, but also make it super-difficult to write about as I don't want to spoil any of the plot mechanics, as there are quite a few surprises and unexpected treats in this installment. It's no spoiler to say that the episode deals head-on with resolving some of the issues left dangling from the cliffhanger at the end of "Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror." The title should be a good indication of just where Sarah and Casey's actions have left her relationship with Chuck and their romance has definitely hit a rough patch for all of the reasons that I outlined in my post-air review of "Aisle of Terror." Trust is a funny thing and once broken--regardless of the reasons behind it--it's often difficul

The Daily Beast: "NBC's Disastrous Season"

Poor Peacock. NBC continues to flail in last place, with new shows like Outlaw and Undercovers bombing and veterans like The Office eroding. Over at The Daily Beast, I take a look at the current state of NBC in my latest feature, "NBC's Disastrous Season," in which I offer six possible ways to save the Peacock. What do you think of NBC's current crop of programming, from highs like Chuck, Community , and Parks and Recreation to lows like Chase, Undercovers, and The Event? Do you agree with my assessment and my suggestions? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Blind Spot: Mommy Issues and Protection Rackets on Chuck

Yes, Mama Bartowski is as slippery as an eel. Mary Elizabeth Bartowski has proven so adept at her spy training--possibly with some extra courses on emotional manipulation thrown in--that it's impossible to get a bead on just what her true allegiances are. Double-crosses, triple-crosses, and some quick excuses all add up to a vastly complicated picture of who Mary really is and this week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror") gave us some very different snapshots of Chuck's estranged mother. Is she a villain? A hero, as she maintains? Just how convenient is her cover story? And why would she go to such lengths to convince her son of her innocence... only to have everything blow up in her face? You read my advance review of this week's episode , but now that it's aired, here are my slightly more spoilery thoughts about "Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror." As I mentioned in my initial review, his week's episode was all ab

The Mother of All Fears: An Advance Review of Next Week's Episode of Chuck

Halloween is nearly upon us and that means a slew of scary-themed programming heading to the airwaves over the next week and a half or so, along with several zombie-related storylines and series. There aren't any zombies turning up on next week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror"), but the Halloween-centric installment does play up a number of fears swirling around several of the characters and deals perhaps with the most frightening thing of all: family. The concept of family has been at the heart of the series since Chuck began, examining the way that groups bond together in the name of collective goals, whether that's a workplace environment or centered around hearth and home. Throughout the four seasons thus far, Chuck has explored the way that Team Bartowski has formed a makeshift family of its own, spilling out from siblings and lovers to include even curmudgeonly John Casey in the mix. Picking up where the previous episode left off

NBC Picks Up Chuck for 24-Episode Full Season (And, yes, Picks Up Chase Too)

No couch-lock here: NBC has picked up action-comedy Chuck for a full season. Yes, it's official: the Peacock has indicated that Chuck 's current fourth season will get its back nine episodes plus an additional two, bringing this season's total to 24 installments. The series had initially been renewed this season for just 13 episodes. The news comes significantly earlier than last season, when the show's writers had completed a 13-episode arc (it launched in January rather than September) before receiving word of a back-nine pickup, leading to a mini-season in which Chuck and Sarah became a full-blown couple. “ Chase has introduced an appealing new star to television audiences in Kelli Giddish and we think it has potential to grow,” said Angela Bromstad, President, Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios, in a statement. “We also are glad that Chuck will be with us for a full season delivering its loyal, passionate audience.” [Editor: Bromstad see

Channel Surfing: Ron Moore Gets Wild, Criminal Minds Shakeup, Punk'd Returns with Justin Bieber, Big Love, Dirk Gently, and More

Welcome to your Wednesday morning television briefing. Hold on to your (ten-gallon) hats: Entertainment Weekly 's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Battlestar Galactica 's Ronald D. Moore is said to be developing a remake of The Wild, Wild West , which ran for four seasons in the mid-1960s and starred Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. Project is still in the very early stages, which means not only is there no network attached but Moore has yet to take the project out to networks. ( Entertainment Weekly 's Ausiello Files ) Chris Mundy has left CBS' midseason Criminal Minds spinoff, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and will be replaced by Ed Bernero, who will now oversee both the flagship and spinoff series as showrunner, though he'll lean a little more heavily on Simon Mirren and Erica Messer, who will gain some oversight on Criminal Minds . Mundy's departure from the series was said to be due to the studio deciding that "the spin-off needed more direction

Awkward Engagements: The Danger of Air Vents on Chuck

I hate to say anything negative about NBC's Chuck , but I was really let down by this week's installment, which seemed more than a little bit muddled and bursting at the seams with guest stars. But it was the awkwardness of the ending of this week's episode ("Chuck Versus the Cubic Z"), written by Nicholas Wootton and directed by Norman Buckley, that rubbed me the wrong way as it was so clearly manufactured, rather than organic. On this week's episode of Chuck , the gang had to contend with the return of both Hugo Panzer (Steve Austen) and Heather Chandler (Nicole Richie) and internal issues of the romantic kind as Sarah was still feeling ill at ease about the speed with which her relationship with Chuck was developing. (Hell, she just finally unpacked that suitcase before questions of marriage and child-rearing came up.) I'll say upfront that I've been enjoying Chuck and Sarah as a couple this year and it's only natural that they would be confr

Channel Surfing: Summer Glau to Chuck, Zucker's Replacement Named at NBCU, Starz Considers Spartacus Options, Community, and More

Welcome to your Monday morning television briefing. Entertainment Weekly 's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Summer Glau ( Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ) is set to guest star on NBC's Chuck this season, where she will turn up in the eighth episode as the latest Greta, the rotating CIA/NSA joint intelligence task force agent assigned to the Buy More. Glau, who stars in NBC's midseason action drama The Cape , follows in the footsteps of Olivia Munn, Stacy Keibler, and Isaiah Mustafa. ( Entertainment Weekly 's Ausiello Files ) Jeff Zucker is out and Steve Burke is in. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts' right-hand man Burke, will succeed Jeff Zucker as CEO of NBC Universal once the merger deal--valued at $30 billion--is completed. Zucker announced that he would be stepping down from the position on Friday once the merger transaction is closed. "Steve Burke is an experienced, talented and visionary leader with over 25 years in the media and entertainment ind