I’ve recently begun watching through the series Chuck on Netflix. I always thought the show was an interesting premise when it was on the air, but didn’t really have time to follow it. I’ve just begun season three and I continue to enjoy the story of an “ordinary guy” who unwittingly becomes a Spy while trying to balance his “real life” with his peculiar profession.
There are a great many appealing elements to Chuck. The tongue and cheek critiques of both consumerist culture and over zealous government surveillance sprinkled throughout it’s narrative are particularly well done. The eponymous Chuck’s day job is running the “Nerd Herd” desk at a “Buy More” 1, who is in direct competition with “Large Mart” 2. The sub-plot of many episodes deals with the denizens of the Buy More, dealing with their empty lives as retail drones. The over-the-top governmental surveillance is wonderfully campy and ridiculous, and yet subtly pokes at the intelligence over-reach actually being done by the NSA. Chuck predates the Edward Snowden revelations, and so is working off of what many people suspected the NSA was doing, but the critique is surprisingly spot-on.
Chuck, however, is far from a perfect show. The aforementioned Denizens of the Buy More never really develop as characters. Chuck’s best friend, Morgan is about the only Buy More employee who changes over time. Even then, into the third season his arc is very small. Morgan is fixed into the role as the “ever man-child” best friend who constantly drags Chuck back into a menial “regular” existence. I understand why the Buy More characters don’t have huge development arcs, they really are only meant to function as quirky anchors, but their lack of growth sometimes makes the show feel repetitive.
The “will they/won’t they?” relationship between Chuck and his handler Sarah is what drives the show, and the writers keeps finding new ways to throw the characters a curve. Sadly, Chuck’s pining for Sarah is the most unlikeable part of the character in the first two seasons – when he expresses his frustration with their status he’s just plain annoying. As of season 3 Chuck is beginning to take some more control of his life, so I’m hoping this aspect of his character is fades to the background. Sarah, on the other hand, is an interesting mix between kick butt action hero and “girl next door” damsel looking for redemption. She’s not “in distress” in the typical sense, which is good character work on both the actress’ and writers’ part, but does need Chuck to remind her there is a world beyond deception and lies and duty. Where the show falls down in regards to Sarah, however, is how it treats her sexuality. It seems like every episode the writers find a way to put Sarah in an “underwear scene,” often hiding throwing knives in interesting places – sometimes in slow motion. I get that the target audience for the show was males in their teens and early twenties, but the adolescent fantasy thing just takes away from a great character. I also understand that “sex sells,” but do we really need to reinforce to young men this idea that women are objects which need to be gawked at? Thankfully, the show pulls back from this a bit by showing those who do the gawking to be rather despicable human beings, but the show really doesn’t need it.
Even with it’s repetitive and sometimes uneven nature, I do find I’m enjoying Chuck, and hope the show develops further.