Binge Watch Alert is a virtually spoiler-free look back at shows you may have missed that are currently available on a major streaming service. Today we look at Chuck, a show that ran for five seasons on NBC and one which is now available on Netflix.
The CIA has developed a top secret software program called the Intersect that stores all of the nation’s secrets. Charles “Chuck” Bartowski is an average Joe who works for the show’s equivalent of the Geek Squad at Best Buy. His college roommate Bryce shows up and transfers the Intersect into Chuck’s brain. Chuck’s life is about to drastically change. What we get is five seasons of action, humor, drama, and emotion that bred an army of loyal viewers who are still going strong to this day.
Chuck is a classic underachiever. He attended Stanford but was kicked out after being falsely accused of cheating which led to his girlfriend breaking up with him. Reeling from the disappointment, he works at the Burbank Buy More (Best Buy) as a computer expert for the Nerd Herd (Geek Squad), seemingly content to be unmotivated. However, when implanted with the Intersect, he becomes the center of attention from the CIA and the NSA as well as those on the other side of the law. The Intersect causes Chuck to “flash” on items that trigger his brain to decipher top secret government information.
After receiving the transfer, Chuck is visited by a mysterious and beautiful woman who agrees to go on a date with him after he fixes her phone. It is revealed that she is a CIA agent named Sarah Walker who has been sent along with Major John Casey of the NSA to capture Chuck and to ultimately kill him. However, Chuck flashes on an event that is happening near them and indicates that a bomb is in the building. Upon seeing his usefulness, the government agencies agree that using the Intersect in Chuck would be much more helpful than killing him.
He is allowed to stay in Burbank and keep his job as a cover with agents around at all times to protect him. Casey gets hired by the store and Sarah work at a restaurant across the street; she becomes his girlfriend as a cover identity. Chuck’s life has changed but his family and friends are not allowed to know. He must keep his secret from his friends and co-workers as well as his sister and brother-in-law who live in the apartment right across the hall. This sets the stage for adventures that take Chuck and the whole cast around the world to fight evil wherever it rears its ugly head.
Chuck is beloved for its unique blend of action, espionage, romance, and drama. There are underlying themes of good vs. evil but it goes beyond that and asks us to think about what is really “good” and really “evil”. In fact, a book written by G. Walter Bush entitled “Unpacking Chuck” draws a biblical comparison to the show, identifying Chuck as the Moses character that needs to lead the rest of the cast out of the wilderness. How many TV shows can say that there is an actual character study published about its ensemble?
Zachary Levi leads the cast as Chuck, the genuinely good guy who always seems to get the short end of the stick. Yvonne Strahovski plays Sarah and Adam Baldwin portrays Casey. The Buy More crew features Joshua Gomez as Chuck’s best friend Morgan Grimes, Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky play Jeff and Lester who form the nonsense musical act “Jeffster”. Sarah Lancaster and Ryan McPartlin play Chuck’s sister Ellie and her husband Devon “Captain Awesome” Woodcomb. Chuck’s Buy More boss Big Mike Tucker is played by Mark Christopher Lawerence. Throughout the series there are several great cameos by the likes of Rachel Bilson (The OC), Tony Hale (Arrested Development), John Larroquette (Night Court), Stone Cold Steve Austin (WWE), Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap), Linda Hamilton (Terminator) and Timothy Dalton (James Bond Movies).
Chuck aired from 2007-2012 and was developed by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak. Primarily it ran on the highly competitive Monday night slot on NBC. The final season moved to Friday nights for the last 13 episodes.
The action scenes were superb and garnered stunt coordinator Merritt Yohnka two Emmy Awards. In 2011 it swept through the TV Guide awards winning for best Female Actress (Strahovski), Best Villain (Dalton) and Best Couple.
As a Binge watch Chuck is about as easy as it gets, ninety-one episodes over five seasons at 47 minutes each on average. The characters and the story pull you in and the story works great episodically but always has a tie in to the big picture narrative. The casual viewer can finish in 71 days at only one hour a day. However, once you start it is pretty reasonable to think that you will want to see more and will more likely be at 2-3 episodes per day which puts a realistic binge watch at about 6 weeks. Start now and you be done by the end of summer.