Sometimes television shows just have the worst kind of luck, and they end up with a small viewer base because of things outside of their control. Maybe they have an awful time slot, or they are up against an incredibly popular show, or like NBC's adorable show Chuck, their first season started the same year as the WGA strike in 2007-2008. The show was a darling of sorts, embraced by critics and fans alike, but it didn't get a full-length first season because of the strike and by the time the second season came around, Chuck had fallen through the cracks a little. An excellent partnership with Subway, plus the belief and support of NBC and fans, have gotten it on the air for a third season which just started this past weekend. The release of the second season DVD was perfectly time with the third, providing fans and newcomers alike the opportunity get caught up with the series. But, who is Chuck anyway and why does he even matter?
Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is an everyday genius slacker who works in the Nerd Herd at Buy More (a play on Best Buy). He went to Stanford and once had a great deal of ambition, but his best friend Bryce Larkin (Matthew Bomer) betrayed him by claiming Chuck cheated on exams. He was thrown out of Stanford and then found out his girlfriend left him for Bryce as well. Lost and broken, Chuck started working at the Buy More and living with his sweet older sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), and her fellow doctor boyfriend, Devon, aka Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin). Everything changes for Chuck when Bryce reappears; it turns out Bryce was brought into the CIA and then went rogue. He sends Chuck something called the Intersect, an information computer that has all the secret knowledge of the American government. When Chuck opens an e-mail, the entire Intersect downloads into his brain, and Chuck becomes the most dangerous and important piece of American intelligence in the world.
Chuck is allowed to keep his life in order to provide a safe cover as the CIA builds a new Intersect. He is assigned two agents to protect him: John Casey (Adam Baldwin) from the NSA, and Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) from the CIA. In the first season, Chuck deals with being a spy and going on missions with his protectors. He also deals with his developing feelings for Sarah, and tries to grapple with what he wants for the future. The second season continues that story, both broadening and deepening plot lines. Chuck stops being impressed by the glamour and excitement of the spy life and becomes more interested in getting the Intersect out of his head. He wants a normal life.
He'd like that normal life to be with Sarah, but he knows nothing about her past and she is very dedicated to her life as a spy. Over the course of the season, Bryce Larkin shows up a few times to make more trouble for the young would-be lovers, and Chuck finally finds closure with his college girlfriend Jill (Jordana Brewster). He also finds his father (Scott Bakula) who abandoned he and Ellie years ago. I could tell you more about that particular plot, but if I did, not only would it spoil some of what takes place over the course of the season, but I'd also have to kill you.
The second season contains a full 22 episodes, and the DVD set comes with several fun extras. There is a collection of segments called "Captain Awesome Gives Tips" which allow the adorable Ryan McPartlin to give advice in character, usually about dating or work. Additionally, John Casey talks about being a good spy, there are behind the scenes clips about the mythology of the show, the action sequences, and the spy world. There is also a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and commentary tracks galore. It's a solid amount of extras which feels both personalized and fun for fans of the show.
Chuck is really a show which everyone ought to give a chance. It is endearing and funny. While there are some cheesy aspects and the will-they won't-they love affair gets incredibly annoying, the overall charm of the characters wins the audience over. Chuck is smart and snarky, and while some get tired of the Nerd Herd gang, as part of Chuck's normal life, they provide an excellent contrast to the wild explosions and gun fights of the spy world. Mostly comedy, there are aspects of drama, tragedy, and romance in the story, so Chuck truly can appeal to a broad audience. Hopefully the third season will catch on with a new set of viewers, because without better ratings there may be no hope of it getting picked up again. For people who are already sold on the show, the Chuck: The Complete Second Season DVD set is a must-have.