Every year there are one or two TV new shows that never get the attention
they deserve. Sometimes they're more niche, cult programs but sometimes
they are shows that would appeal to a wide audience. One of those
programs that flew under a lot of people's radar last year (myself included)
was Chuck, a comedy/spy show that on the face of it sounds pretty
stupid, but is executed so well that it turned out to be one of the better
shows premiering last season. For those who missed it, all 13 episodes
from the writer's strike shortened season have arrived on Blu-ray.
Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) was a brilliant student at Stanford until
his life came crashing down on him. It all happened when his roommate
and best friend, Bryce, stole his first (and only) girlfriend and then
conspired to get him kicked out of college. That was five years ago
and Chuck finds himself living with his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster),
a doctor, and her boyfriend, a mountain-climbing sky-diving doctor who
Chuck refers to as Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin.) He works at
the local Buy More, and when he's not working hangs out with his uber-nerd
friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez).
Things all change one evening when, out of the blue, Chuck receives
an e-mail from Bryce. It turns out to be a massive series of images
that hold Chuck transfixed for hours. When the images stop cycling,
he passes out.
It turns out that Bryce was a spy for the CIA who went rouge.
For some reason he broke into the computer that contained all the information
that both the CIA and NSA had collected over the years in encrypted form
and downloaded it, destroyed the computer, and then tried to escape.
He didn't quite make it and with his dying breath e-mailed the information
to Chuck. Chuck now has the sum total information that the US government
has collected since 9/11 stored in his brain, and when his computer accidentally
gets destroyed when the CIA tries to steal it, he is the ONLY source of
The problem is that he can't access the data at will. There has
to be a visual trigger that will make him remember something. Since
such important information can't be allowed to walk the streets freely,
he gets two agents assigned to watch his every move: cute and sexy
CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) who poses as Chuck's girlfriend,
and psychopathic killer NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin) who gets a
job at the Buy More and moves into the apartment across from Chuck's.
Naturally this isn't the ideal situation, but it's better than the alternative:
keeping Chuck locked in a cell for the rest of his life. Chuck just
wants to go back to his dull boring, underachieving life, but he can't
when he keeps saying things like "why is one of China's top spy's working
in the kitchen of a Chinese take-out place?"
The show is a lot of fun and they manage to walk the fine line of mixing
action with comedy and not having it turn out campy. One of the reasons
they're able to pull it off is due to the wonderful parodies that they
throw in. Chuck works at a Best Buy clone, Buy More, where he's the
head of the "Nerd Herd." Everyone who has gone into a B&M consumer
electronics store will instantly recognize the various employees too, including
the manager who just wants to be left alone so he can take a nap.
One of the best moments in the show, since it hits so close to home, is
when Chuck is the only employee on the sales floor and a customer asks
him for help. He apologizes that he can't assist her since he's part
of the Nerd Herd. I can't count how many times that's happened to
The show really succeeds because of the actors who play the main characters.
Zachary Levi is wonderful in the title role, playing him as an ordinary
guy in extraordinary situations that everyone can relate to. He has
just the right amount of panic and grasping at straws that makes him seem
real. When he finds himself the only conscious person in a helicopter
flying over the bay, for example, he hopefully asks Sarah via cell phone
thinking back on videogame flight simulators he's played "Is this one of
those helicopters that can turn into a boat?"
While the rarely seen Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) is my favorite
character Adam Baldwin's John Casey comes in a close second. Casey's
a killer, who wouldn't blink while snapping Chuck's neck if ordered to,
but he has a sarcastic streak when dealing with Chuck that's hilarious,
such as when he tell Chuck, before his first mission, that his life may
depend on knowing how to Tango. Seeing him working at the Buy More
is also outrageous, since he doesn't really have people skills.
This show has a great mixture of comedy and action and features an ensemble
cast that works well together. Chuck is one of last years
breakout shows and shouldn't be missed.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The 13 episodes that make up Chuck Season One arrive on three Blu-ray
discs in a double width case with slipcover.
This show is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, encoded at 1080p
with the VC-1 codex, and it looks pretty bad overall. I was astounded
at how much digital noise and grain was present in the image. Much
of the show is plagued by mosquito noise, especially in the background.
While this isn't a problem with every scene, that almost makes it worse.
When they switch from a relatively clean interior scene to a location shot
where the sky is filled with noise it just reminds viewers that this isn't
a great transfer. I never saw this show when it was broadcast so
I have no idea if it appeared like this originally or if it is a problem
with the encoding, but I was expecting a lot better.
Aside from the noise issue things look pretty good. The colors
are stable and the flesh tones look fine. The level of detail is
nice, and there's no confusing this with a SD DVD. There are even
a couple of scenes where the detail is too good, revealing that the scar
on an enemy spy's neck, for example, is clearly a latex application.
If they could do something about the excessive grain, this would be a great
It's a little disappointing that this season set only comes with a DD
5.1 soundtrack. While I guess I should be happy that it's not just
a stereo track, I was hoping that we'd be treated to lossless audio.
In any case the audio sounds fine with the dialog being easy to discern
and the music and background noises coming through clearly. The soundstage
wasn't used much, mainly during the few action sequences when some audio
effects were thrown to the rears, so the show isn't as enveloping as I
would have liked it. The sub channel was also fairly anemic.
For a TV show the sound is fine, just not as impressive as it could have
WB has ported over all of the extras from the SD DVD release, which
is as it should be. First off are ten deleted scenes spread out over
the three discs. These were mainly chopped for time reasons and are
fun to watch.
There are also a couple of featurettes. Chuck on Chuck (27 min)
has stars Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez sitting down with creators Josh
Schwartz and Chris Fedak to talk about the show. They discuss their
favorite scenes and give their thoughts on the show. Chuck vs. The Chuckles
is a gag reel that's okay (not as funny as the best, not nearly as painful
as most.) Chuck's World is a look at the casting with clips from
the stars auditions and finally Chuck's Online World is a brief selection
of video from the show's web site. All in all it was an okay set
of extras, but nothing here really got me excited.
Chuck is a very fun show. It's hard to mix action and intrigue
with comedy and not have it turn into camp, but the creators behind this
show have managed to do exactly that. The stories are fun, the characters
are likeable and the acting is excellent. The network has picked
the show up for a second season, and I'm looking forward to a full year's
worth of shows this time around. The video quality on the Blu-ray
isn't spectacular but even with that flaw, this set comes recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.