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Blu-ray Review: Chuck – The Complete Second Season

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Chuck is a series that follows the misadventures of a computer techno-geek who accidentally downloads the entire CIA/NSA secret database into his brain and must be watched over by government agents until that data can be retrieved. The series debuted in 2008 and was one of the series hit hardest by the writers’ strike which saw the series air only 13 episodes. Then NBC decided to shelve it until 2009 with a full season ordered.

Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is a friendly, restless Nerd Herd associate at Buy More who has lots of video games and computer techno-geek knowledge but who's directionless and just getting by in life. One night he receives an e-mail from his old college friend. When he clicks on it, he activates a program named the Intersect that downloads all of America's highly classified security info into his brain.

The government computer and Chuck’s computer are destroyed, which makes the information in Chuck’s mind unique. To protect the Intersect, Chuck has CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA agent Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin) babysitting him until they can get the info out of his brain. Chuck is also living with his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her fiancé Devon (Ryan McPartlin) who is a mountain-climbing, sky-diving doctor who Chuck has nicknamed “Captain Awesome” because everything he does is just awesome. Chuck is living with Ellie and Awesome so that makes trying to be a spy harder for Chuck and funnier for the viewer.

The first season has Chuck leading a double life working at the Buy More, while also helping agents Walker and Casey on missions — when Chuck sees people in the database, the Intersect flashes and gives him that information. To complicate matters, Chuck is falling for Sarah, who also is having feelings for Chuck but won't get involved with him since they are co-workers. While Sarah likes Chuck and is willing to work with him, there’s also Agent Casey who is a gruff, no-nonsense, military type who would just as soon shoot Chuck as protect him. As the series progresses Casey starts to warm up to Chuck, but would still shoot him — just not as quickly.

When the series returns for the second season, Intersect 2.0 is almost ready which means Chuck is no longer necessary. Casey has orders to kill Chuck once the new Intersect is proven to work. Luckily for Chuck that’s not the case and he’s still very much necessary. The season builds upon the first season, fleshing out Sarah and Casey’s back story, seeing Chuck trying to become a spy, delicately balancing the work/friendship relationship between Chuck and Sarah, Chuck still trying to balance working for the Buy More and being a spy, and more.

There are plenty of guest stars too, including John Larroquette as a smooth Bond-type agent (who Chuck wants to emulate and just can’t), Andy Richter, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Nicole Ritchie, Jenny McCarthy, Tricia Helfer, Chevy Chase, and in some of the best casting of all, Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) as Chuck and Ellie’s long absent father, who helped to create the Intersect. Good news too, as Bakula will be on hand for a number of episodes this season.

Levi is great as the uber-nerd who is thrust into a life he didn’t ask for, but is willing to embrace. As Chuck he’s a stronger man than most since Sarah has offered to run away with him so they can be together but he feels he has a duty to protect the Intersect. Strahovski as the smart, beautiful ingénue works very well and Baldwin as the gruff Casey who says more in a couple of words or a grunt, steals most of the scenes he’s in. The scenes between Chuck, Sarah and Casey are some of the best parts of the show. Chuck also has a great supporting cast which only adds to the fun of the show.

The Blu-ray Presentation: Chuck is shot in 16mm as opposed to other shows which shoot in 35mm, so it will never look as good as those shows. It is also has some background noise, but besides the noise issues it does look good; the colors are steady and the tones look fine. You can clearly see the difference between this and a standard DVD. The 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack sounds good, with dialog being easy to recognize and the music and background noise coming through clearly.

The Extras: Extras include: "Truth, Spies and Regular Guys: Exploring the Mythology of Chuck." This behind the scenes featurette is broken into two parts, "The Secret Agents" and "The Agents' Secrets," which each run about 10 minutes and feature interviews with the cast and creators. "The Secret Agents" is more character-focused, discussing the relationships of the characters and the situations they find themselves in throughout the season, while "The Agents' Secrets" delves into the technology, conspiracies, and the spy aspect of the show.

"Dude in Distress" covers some of the big stunts and special effects seen throughout the season and what it took to create them.

“Chuck Versus the Webisodes” are webisodes featuring the Buy More staff which originally aired on NBC's website and are now available to those who didn’t see them.

“Chuck Versus the Chuckles” is a seven-minute gag reel that has dialogue screw-ups, goofing-off, and more.

Spread out over the four discs are deleted scenes which run over 40 minutes. Most are just extended scenes that were cut for time, or an alternate take of an aired scene; but there is a scene or two that add to the episode that were also cut for time, and are great to view now.

“Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome's Tips for Being Awesome” features Ryan McPartlin in his Captain Awesome persona giving advice on topics like what to do when you run into an ex, how to pick a nickname, and more.

“John Casey Presents: So You Want to be a Deadly Spy?” looks like old newsreel footage and, similar to the Captain Awesome featurette, offers advice from John Casey (Adam Baldwin), and at times covers the same topics as Awesome does, yet from a different point of view.

Then there’s the episode “Chuck Versus the Third Dimension.” This episode originally aired following the Super Bowl and was in 3-D. The episode is part of the limited edition version of season two; it’s already being reported that fan interest was greater than expected and it’s selling out, so if you want to get this version act quickly. Since it was originally a 3-D episode, to paraphrase a famous Jedi master, it depends on your point of view if the 3-D version is an extra or the 2-D is the extra.

My nitpick is there are no commentaries. There were eight months in between the season finale and this DVD release; that’s plenty of time to record several of them. Chuck’s future was somewhat in doubt due to NBC giving Jay Leno the 10PM time slot Monday thru Friday; fans rallied and the show was renewed for a 13-episode third season. Then NBC decided to add six more episodes for a total of 19, and while the creators had the choice of expanding upon the 13-episode arc, they’ve decided to treat the additional episodes as season 3.5 and fans will get two story arcs this season. Now due to the Jay Leno Show vacancy there are five additional hours available for the 2010-2011 season. This makes Chuck getting renewed for a fourth season a little more probable.

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