For me, Chuck‘s been an “if there’s nothing else on, I’ll watch it” kind of show. I watched the first few episodes of season one and thought that while it was okay – the idea of a nerd being accidentally turned into a spy not exactly being a new one (eg Jake 2.0) – it wasn’t really for me and gave up on it. Then lovely wife started watching it on Virgin 1 and before you know it, we’re watching it every week.
Season two has been okay. With Chuck, there’s a hell of a lot of water being tread – it’s always reasonably good, just never excellent. Chuck never leaves his job at the Buy More to get a new life, or if he does, he’s back within an episode. He and Sarah, his secret agent handler, never get together, except if they do, they have to return to a platonic status quo within an episode. The ‘top’ spies, even the guest ones, are never that good and would get turned into mincemeat by the guys of The Unit, Michael Westen on Burn Notice or Daniel Craig as James Bond without too much of a problem. And even the few revelatory bad things in Chuck or Sarah’s past (Stanford, Jill, his father, her father, Bryce) turn out to be not as bad as previously though, depriving the show of any true edge.
Okay, so there’s a place for “not too much thinking after a hard day at work” escapist television and to a certain extent, this is more of a show about camaraderie, family and disappointment in life than about spies, but it’s not without reason that even lovely wife is saying things like “something had better happen soon”.
Whether Chuck will get that option, since it still hasn’t been picked up for a third season, is a tricky question. But although it looks like there’s a real risk of a return to something like the status quo if it does come back, the season finale – really a two-parter in disguise if you include the preceding episode – is something of a game-changer, at least in some ways.