Review: Chuck 2×1

Spies like us?

Chuck

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, NBC
In the UK: Probably Virgin One again

Chuck was a show that had a lot of initial promise that it never quite managed to live up to. Chuck (Zachery Levi), a tech support guy for a consumer goods superstore, accidentally gets all the CIA’s and NSA’s intelligence data dumped into his brain and so gets thrown into the deep end of spy work. Assigned to protect him are the NSA’s John Casey (DanielAdam Baldwin), a Reagan-loving, gun-worshipping hard man; and the CIA’s Sarah Walker (Yvonne Stahovski), an aggressive-passive high-kicker whom Chuck would quite like to date (and vice versa) and not just for their cover story, if only it weren’t for the rules of the job.

Anyway, despite the fun premise of spies working undercover down at the local shops among all the IT slackers and fast food flippers, the show never really grabbed me. It was always close to being very good, but never quite made it. There wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry between Levi and Stahovski, both of whose characters are quite dull, despite all plot indications to the contrary, and I gave up after three episodes – only for my wife to start loving it on Virgin 1 and so I ended up watching the rest anyway.

So with a good few months to think about the show and how to fix it, have the producers managed to tinker enough with the format to make it more appealing?

On the whole, it was a reasonable first episode but still not a slam dunk. There were more than a few amusing moments, but the plot itself had a very obvious conclusion that anyone with any brains would have seen coming a mile off.

But the producers have realised that ultimately the spy stuff isn’t what they’re great at and that it’s the relationships between the characters that are going to be the draw if anything. Unfortunately, while just about every other character in the show is proving interesting – whether it’s Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and the other IT guys now promoted to the opening credits, ‘Captain Awesome’ (Chuck’s future brother-in-law), or the reliably right-wing Casey – Sarah and Chuck are still damp squibs.

Sarah’s marginally more interesting, but still there essentially to look hot without exhibiting too much by way of personality, while Chuck is still more of a comedy set of geeky attributes without anything really to make him unique beyond his unfortunate situation. The attempts to make him more dynamic and ‘spy-ier’ mean he’s going to be even less of an individual as the show goes on, if they’re not careful. Here’s hoping Bryce, Chuck’s old roommate and Sarah’s old boyfriend, will get to be a regular, because the show could do with some more tension.

If you’ve never watched it before, it won’t be too hard to work out what’s going on, thanks to the very newbie-friendly intro at the beginning; old hands should be prepared for more of the same, without too much format-tinkering at all.

Here’s a great big six minute montage of season two clips shown at ComicCon. It’s not the highest quality mind. I’ve also included one of the 20 odd random promos NBC’s put together, because it includes Captain Awesome, who is, let’s face, awesome.