Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Chuck - Season 1

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, story, acting, laughs, action
Cons: The premise is unbelievable
The Bottom Line:
Mix action and laughs
With characters you will love
In a word?  Awesome

Chuck Versus the Intersect

Every year, I read about lots of shows I want to watch. Some years, the new shows don't wind up interesting me. But then there are those new shows that blow everything out of the water. As soon as one episode ends, I find myself counting down to the next one. And I was fortunately enough to find two such shows last year. One of them is Chuck. And if you happened to miss it, this first season set is a must buy.

I will admit, the premise is a little complicated and silly. Chuck Bartowski's (Zachary Levi) life was going no where fast. True, he is head of the Nerd Herd at his local Buy More. But he lives with his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her boyfriend Devon (aka Captain Awesome, played by Ryan McPartlin). His best friend is Morgan (Joshua Gomez), a fellow nerd who also works at Buy More.

But things change drastically when Chuck gets an e-mail from former friend Bryce Larkin. The e-mail contains all the files of the intersect, the complete intelligence files of both the CIA and the NSA. And, to make things more exciting, Bryce has destroyed the original files.

All the information gets downloaded into Chuck's brain, making him a highly valuable government secret. So valuable that he has two bodyguards, Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), a CIA agent who pretends to be Chuck's girlfriend, and John Casey (Adam Baldwin), a NSA who moves in next door to Chuck and takes a job at Buy More.

Whenever Chuck sees something from the intersect, he flashes on more information. Unfortunately, these flashes are at random and uncontrollable. And Los Angeles seems to be a hot bed of activity. Even with two agents guarding him, Chuck finds himself in over his head with his new life as a spy. Can he survive and keep his secret?

Yes, there's a lot going on here. And each episode expertly blends comedy, action, intrigue, and romance. The action and intrigue obviously come from the cases. This show doesn't skimp on either. I held my breath a couple times wondering how Chuck would get out of this or that predicament. While Chuck and Sarah are only pretending to date, there is obviously an attraction there. And the will they or won't they storylines will keep everyone coming back. Then there's the comedy. From Chuck's adept attempts to woo Sarah or fit into his new spy world to the antics of the staff at Buy More, there are multiple laughs in every episode.

But before this starts to sound disjointed, let me assure you that it works. These elements are blended together perfectly. The jokes always work and the action sequences are great.

Which is a good thing because let's be honest here. The premise? Pretty far out. If you stop and think about it, there are so many holes it isn't remotely believable. But the show never gives you time to over analyze anything. We're always off on the next mission or dealing with the next sub-plot.

The show has something else going on for it, the characters. Every one of them is lovable. Chuck is an everyman trying to deal with things well over his head. Sarah would fall for Chuck if she could, but she can't compromise their work relationship. Even Casey is a fun character once you get beyond the NSA agent's rough exterior. About the only character that can get annoying is Morgan. He just doesn't seem to know when he's going too far or saying too much. But while one minute he might annoy me, the next he'll say or do something that melts my heart again.

While the writers have created great characters, the actors do an even better job of bringing them to life. Zachary Levi has the perfect mix of geek and hero as Chuck. And his chemistry with Yvonne Strahovski absolutely makes the show work. Adam Baldwin is having fun as Casey, and it shows. And a special mention of my favorite actor, Ryan McPartlin, who makes Captain Awesome a funny character who is absolutely believable at the same time. They need to make him a permanent cast member stat.

The first season suffered because of the writer's strike. Still, we got 13 episodes, all of which are included in this four disc set. Extras include deleted scenes, discussion about the show with stars Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez and series creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedek, a behind the scenes look at casting the show and creating the characters, and a gag reel.

I have often described this show as Alias if it didn't take itself so seriously. And considering how much I loved that show, that is quite a compliment.

If you have yet to catch the adventures of the best super geek agent ever, correct that now with season one. Then, like me, you'll be counting down the seconds to every episode of season two.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pilot
2. Chuck Versus the Helicopter
3. Chuck Versus the Tango
4. Chuck Versus the Wookie
5. Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp
6. Chuck Versus the Sandworm
7. Chuck Versus the Alma Mater
8. Chuck Versus the Truth
9. Chuck Versus the Imported Hard Salami
10. Chuck Versus the Nemesis
11. Chuck Versus the Crown Vic
12. Chuck Versus the Undercover Lover
13. Chuck Versus the Marlin

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