Saturday, May 18, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Chuck - Season 2

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Real characters hold together funny comedy and great action
Cons: Goes a little overboard in the sexual humor, especially in the second half
The Bottom Line:
Comedy, action
Mix in a bit of romance
Chuck does it all well




Chuck Versus Fulcrum

Comedies don't seem to be very popular on TV these days, at least in the traditional sitcom format.  But I have found several hour long shows that expertly mix comedy and drama and fill my need for the format.  Chuck has to be among my favorites, and the second season was just as strong as the first.

In case you missed it, here's a quick recap of the premise.  Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) works at a Buy More (think Best Buy) in their Nerd Herd division, helping people fix computers.  His life changes when he gets all the government secrets downloaded into his brain in a computer file dubbed the intersect.  While he keeps his day job, he is also working with two government agents, CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin).  These two act as his body guards and follow up on the information that Chuck flashes on as they work various cases together.

Despite a nine month gap, season 2 pretty much picks up where season 1 left off.  The government thinks they have a replacement intersect ready to go on-line, and Chuck is looking forward to a life free from government work.  But when things fall apart, he must keep up his double life.  Complicating matters is Fulcrum.  This organization of evil agents has really stepped up their search for the intersect, making it highly important to keep Chuck's secret.  Because if they find him, they'll capture him, bisect him, and then kill him.

Of course, all this secrecy means Chuck must keep his job at the Buy More.  And things aren't going well as a consultant comes in trying to make the store more efficient.  And on the home front, sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) is planning her wedding to Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) and wanting her father to give her away.  Can Chuck balance all these things?

Where do I even begin praising this series?  Okay, so the premise is a bit out there.  But if you are willing to buy into it, you'll find it is quite fun.  My concerns about the premise lasted exactly one episode.  After that, I was so hooked I didn't want to stop watching.

The stories can be a bit formulaic, especially the plot thread concerning Chuck and Sarah's relationship (the two are dating as a cover, but they have real feelings for each other they try to keep hidden).  But I honestly don't care.  Once I start watching, I am hooked until the very end.  And then I immediately start hoping the next episode starts quickly.  Of course, the blend in each episode really helps.  You've got action, slower character moments, and laugh out loud comedy, some times all within a minute of each other.  And there are still plenty of twists and turns I never saw coming, especially when we talk about the overall story arc of the season.  Yes, there is a definite arc to things, which really helps keep the story moving forward.

Of course, what makes this show so rewatchable are the characters.  For the most part, these come off as real people you would want to spend time around.  Okay, the Buy More crowd can get a little irritating at times, but they are normally relegated to a sub-plot, so that hardly matters.  But Chuck, the agents, and his sister are very sympathetic.  I absolutely love spending time with them.

And the acting keeps it all grounded.  No matter how outrageous the situation, these actors play is just right.  You laugh at the jokes and are the edge of your seat when the action scenes start.  That's quite a balance to maintain, but they make it all look effortless and believable.

My only real complaint about the show is the increased use of sexual humor.  Yes, it was always a part of the show.  But it seems to be much more pronounced in the second half of the season.  Frankly, the show is strong enough that they don't need it, and I hope they get away from it in the upcoming third season.

Unlike the writer's strike shortened first season, season two was a full 22 episodes.  All of them are preserved here in their original wide screen.  The sound is 5.1 surround, meaning they look and sound sharp.  There are a couple behind the scenes featurettes as well as a couple of featurettes hosted by characters in the show.  We also get some of the webisodes, deleted scenes, and a gag reel.  And if you act now, the first shipment of this season on DVD includes two sets of 3D glasses for use with "Chuck Versus the Third Dimension," which originally aired in 3D.  Sadly, the Blu-Ray set only includes this episode in 2D.

Action comedies aren't the easiest thing to pull off, but Chuck manages meet that challenge every week in season two and make it look effortless.  You really need to give this show a chance.

Season 2 Episodes:
1. Chuck Versus the First Date
2. Chuck Versus the Seduction
3. Chuck Versus the Break-Up
4. Chuck Versus the Cougars
5. Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer
6. Chuck Versus the Ex
7. Chuck Versus the Fat Lady
8. Chuck Versus the Gravitron
9. Chuck Versus the Sensei
10. Chuck Versus the DeLorean
11. Chuck Versus Santa Claus
12. Chuck Versus the Third Dimension
13. Chuck Versus the Suburbs
14. Chuck Versus the Best Friend
15. Chuck Versus the Beefcake
16. Chuck Versus the Lethal Weapon
17. Chuck Versus the Predator
18. Chuck Versus the Broken Heart
19. Chuck Versus the Dream Job
20. Chuck Versus the First Kill
21. Chuck Versus the Colonel
22. Chuck Versus the Ring

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