Friday, January 15, 2010

Chuck is Back!

One of my colleagues at work uses the term "delightful," and I think the word fits Chuck to a tee. There is much to love about Chuck and little to dislike.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chuck, let me give you a little background. Chuck, the eponymous hero of the show, was a promising student at Stanford University when he was wrongfully expelled for cheating. He ended up living with his sister and her fiance, working at Buy More in the Nerd Herd. An underachieving slacker, his best friend, Morgan, is even more of a loser than Chuck. But then, one day, Chuck opened up an e-mail from his college roommate, Bryce Larkin, which changed Chuck's life forever. Embedded in that e-mail was an intersect, which included all the secret intelligence gathered by the US. Somehow, the intersect downloaded itself in Chuck's brain. In the meantime, Bryce Larkin destroyed the mainframe intersect.

Eventually, the FBI and CIA find Chuck, and two agents are assigned to protect Chuck from the world. Chuck finds himself to be the reluctant spy who must hide his new life from friends and family. Many adventures ensue, and Chuck finds himself falling in love with the agent who is acting as his girlfriend, Sarah.

Finally, at the end of last season, Chuck takes the opportunity to have the intersect removed from his brain. He learns that his father had created the intersect, and had arranged for Bryce Larkin to protect Chuck. The Intersect 2.0 is created, but Chuck has no intention of downloading it. That is, until his handlers, Sarah and Casey, are in danger of being killed. Chuck then downloads the Intersect, and saves the day, gasping, "Guys, I know karate!"

Many of us worried over the long break between seasons whether Chuck would now be so competent a spy that the lovable goof from the first two years would be lost. We shouldn't have worried. It turns out that Chuck must be in control of his emotions in order to access the skills portion of the Intersect, and Chuck, famously, is incapable of being cold and calculating. He attends six months of "spy school", but flunks out precisely because his emotions get in the way. He returns to his sister's apartment and takes residence on the couch, growing a beard, eating cheese snacks, and hiding from the world. Only when he runs out of his cheese snacks does he leave the apartment, and at last, Chuck reemerges.

We learned through flashback that Sarah had tried to talk Chuck out of being a spy as she feared it would change his personality. Instead, she wanted him to adopt a new identity and run away with her. But Chuck couldn't do it. Finally, he was told by people in authority, that he could help people and his country, and he felt he couldn't walk away from that. Sarah couldn't forgive him. Chuck thus found himself without a job or a girlfriend.

By inserting himself into Sarah and Casey's latest mission, Chuck nearly gets himself and Sarah killed. But he manages to control his emotions enough to - you guessed it! - save the day. Chuck is thus welcomed back into the spy fold.

What makes Chuck so delightful is not the storyline, which is rather silly, I know, but the characters. Beyond the charmingly goofy Chuck and the beautiful Sarah, there's Casey, the other handler. Casey's initial mission was to kill Chuck, and he was quite disgruntled when those orders were changed and he was given the mission of "handling" Chuck. Suddenly, Casey has a job at Buy More too, more often than not scaring all the nerds working there. Casey clearly doesn't understand Chuck, but he grows to appreciate him, and, later, when given the opportunity to kill Chuck, doesn't. He saves Ellie's wedding even after he had been discharged from working with Chuck. Casey is all red-blooded American, patriot, John Wayne-lover. As played by Adam Baldwin, I never fail to laugh when Casey is on screen.

Chuck's sister and her fiance (now husband) are also vital to the story. Ellie and Devon are both everything that Chuck is not - successful doctors in a loving relationship. Devon is so perfect that Chuck has nicknamed him "Captain Awesome," a nickname that Awesome allows with good humor. He is, after all, Awesome. Chuck finally has to reveal to Awesome that he is a spy, which leads Awesome to actually respect Chuck. Awesome's adventures in the spy world this season have been hilarious.

I must confess to mixed emotions about the characters labeled "Buy Morons", who work at the Buy More with Chuck. The primary one is Chuck's best friend Morgan, who is disliked by Ellie (perhaps because he has openly lusted after her for years) and tolerated by many. Morgan is overly optimistic and a good friend, but he's also not the brightest bulb in the bunch. Two other "nerd herders" are Lester and Jeff, best friends, and such outcasts that few socialize with them willingly. Big Mike is the gruff manager of the Buy More, whose appetite is legendary. If used judiciously, the Buy Morons are an incredibly funny addition to the show. Too much, however, is too much. And that doesn't take a lot.

So, every Monday night, I'll be thoroughly entertained by the delight that is Chuck.

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