NBC’s Chuck is one of the smartest, most action-packed, most enjoyable shows on television. Yet, since day one it has struggled to stay on the air. Season four began two weeks ago, and ‘Save Chuck‘ campaigns are already in the works. After the third season, when viewers had to wait until winter for the premiere, and only thirteen episodes were ordered, I was thrilled when Chuck got six additional episodes made last spring, and an early pick up for this year. Finally, the fight was over! But clearly, it’s not.
If you’ve never seen Chuck, then here are some things you need to know. The central character is name Chuck Bartowski (played by Zachary Levi). At the start of the series, a computer known as the Intersect was downloaded into Chuck’s brain, making him super smart. The NSA and CIA quickly sent agents to protect him, and use him for their own purposes. Those agents were John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), the latter soon providing romantic chemistry for Chuck. This connection was resisted, because Sarah couldn’t date someone who was not a spy, and though Chuck longer for that life, his training was slow and awkward.
At the end of season two, the Intersect was removed by Chuck’s father, Steve (Scott Bakula), who had disappeared on his children years ago, but Chuck discovered was also a spy. Sadly, later that same episode, a new version of the Intersect was downloaded, and Chuck now possess abilities as well as knowledge. Chuck became a full-fledged spy. Steve was killed. Chuck and Sarah finally got into a serious relationship. And Chuck discovered that his mother, Mary (Linda Hamilton), who had also disappeared long ago, was still alive, and was also a spy.
Over the years, slowly, members of Chuck’s regular life have found their way into the spy game, as well. Chuck’s best friend, Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez), who is more bumbling and nerdy than Chuck ever was, found out and joined the team in season three. In season two, Chuck’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, Devon Woodcomb, better known as Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) found out, but managed to keep the secret from Chuck’s sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster). Devon, however, surprisingly could not handle any spy work at all, and so asked to stay in the dark about Chuck’s activities. Ellie eventually found out, but Chuck promised her that he would quit the business, which he did, briefly, though she doesn’t know that he has now resumed his dangerous work.
The show stays light by surrounding Chuck at his cover job with a bevy of very odd characters. Chuck (and Morgan and Casey) works at the Buy More, an electronics superstore. The weirdest of the weirdo co-workers are Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay). The place is run by Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence), who has yet to show up in season four, but remains in the theme song with the principal cast.
At the end of season three, the Buy More was blown up, but it was rebuilt by the time season four began. There was one big change, however: The CIA and NSA had taken over the store, staffing it with an elite team of undercover agents. General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy, finally upgraded to full-time cast member), Chuck, Sarah, and Casey’s supervisor, wanted Chuck to rejoin the team, and so sabotaged every new job interview he had until he agreed to come back. She also allowed Morgan to return to the Buy More.
Morgan quickly realized that the store was running far too well, and it’s efficiency was attracting attention. When Captain Awesome came in, he immediately knew that something was up. Morgan convinced General Beckman to allow Jeff, Lester, and the other weirdos to come back, replacing the agents. Beckman made Morgan the new manager for his great catch, which leaves how Big Mike will return to the series up in the air.
If the above seems like a lot to you to pack into such a short-running show, it is. And most of what I have written occurred in just the last few episodes. The show started more like a procedural drama, with a different mission for Chuck to go on each week. But by season two, with renewal far from certain, show runner and co-creator Josh Schwartz (best known for, funnily enough, creating The OC and Gossip Girl, which are totally different than Chuck) decided to lay all of his cards on the table. He packed all of the twists and turns he had envisioned for the rest of the series into less than a season. It’s made season three and four unpredictable and fast-paced, deftly keeping up with the excellence of the end of season two. It’s also let Chuck do the unexpected, which not something a lot of shows get to do. How many series can you think of that let their leading couple settle into a long-term, serious relationship by season four?
Season four is pulling out all of the stops, with Dolph Lundgren, Lou Ferrigno, Harry Dean Stanton, Olivia Munn, Steve Austin, Summer Glau, Nicole Ritchie, Timothy Dalton and Eric Roberts are all among the signed guest stars already.
The bottom line is, Chuck is a wonderful show, beloved by critics, but little-watched among television viewers. It shouldn’t be that way. The show combines drama, romance, humor, and action in a way that is rarely seen, and has allowed Chuck to stand out among it’s peers. Please, please tune into Chuck before it’s too late. Only thirteen episodes have been ordered this year, but there is a nine episode pick up option, which Chuck needs ratings to earn, so please give it to them. The series certainly doesn’t deserve to be canceled now, or anytime in the near future.
Chuck airs Monday nights at 8pm on NBC.