NBC's Chuck was picked up for the back-nine of a full-season order on November 26. That's a very good thing, because it's the best of NBC's new shows this season.
As part of TV Nerd-Rush 2007 (other notable entrants in this category include the CW's Reaper and CBS' The Big Bang Theory), Chuck is arguably the least realistic, which is saying something when one of your competitors actually works for the Devil to recapture escaped souls from Hell. But Chuck's world is one in which the guy running the Geek Squad at Best Buy—sorry, I mean the Nerd Herd at Buy More—is a super-genius, a walking Cray capable of internalizing an entire hard drive's worth of secret spy data, storing it, and recalling it when prompted to by external stimuli. He's also guarded by two super-spies, one of whom is gorgeous and obviously attracted to him. And they all live in a world in which secret uber-agencies control almost everything behind the scenes, creating the artificial and naïve world in which the rest of us non-governmental types live.
Okay, so maybe that last bit isn't so far-fetched.
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Anyway, what saves Chuck from its high concepts is its charm. It's a genuinely funny show that doesn't take itself too seriously, doesn't worry about explaining certain things, and just asks us to go along for the ride. And we do, because it's a good ride. But at the same time, it's serious about some things—those things we tend to really care about as viewers: the relationships of the characters. As silly as the premise is, the relationship between Chuck (the convincingly grown-up-geek Zachary Levi) and super-spy Sarah (the convincingly ninja-esque Yvonne Strahovski) has weight. Chuck's shaky friendship with super-assassin Casey (the intense Adam Baldwin) is interesting. And Chuck keeping all this dangerous information from his sweet and protective older sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) takes on the sense of real challenge, with real and dangerous consequence if Chuck fails.
Chuck does right not only in terms of tone and gravity, but also in terms of dealing with the nerd-archetype. It doesn't fall into cliché. Even the comedy-relief of sorts, Chuck's best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez), doesn't run around like a spaz. No one here wears a pocket protector. No one here obsesses about comic book minutiae all of their waking life, or brags about having finished Halo 3 before most people bought the game, or details like that. Sure, they play video games. Sure, they've been to comic book conventions. Yes, Chuck has a Dune poster on his wall, and he and Morgan go to Halloween parties as a two-man sandworm. But like most real geeks, that doesn't define them. Unlike what Beauty and the Geek would have us believe, most nerds are grown-up people, who can actually talk to the opposite sex without doing so in Klingon.
So it's good that NBC saw its way to order the full season for this freshman series. Chuck is worth seeing. And honestly, any show that boasts Cake's "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" for its theme song has something good going for it. -- Teague Bohlen