Monday, October 08, 2007

Chuck: She'll take the lead

Spoilers for episode three of "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I paint some happy little trees and happy little clouds...

And here's our show.

Set-up, done. Exposition, done. Questions of Sarah and Casey's loyalty, mostly done. (There's still the matter of what happens when the new Intersect comes online in six months.) "Chuck Versus the Tango" is, according to Schwartz, roughly what the series will look like going forward, and I'm perfectly happy with that.

Where "Chuck Versus the Helicopter" occasionally succumbed to Albert Brooks in "Broadcast News" levels of flop sweat, "Tango" moved very confidently and casually between Chuck's three worlds of home, Buy More and the spy stuff.

Ellie and Captain Awesome got shorter shrift than the other two -- save the bathrobed Captain inadvertently teaching Chuck the girl's part in the tango -- but I think that's just about right for most weeks. (On the other hand, with Casey and -- I think -- Sarah living in the same building with Chuck and Ellie, there should be excuses for more home stuff down the road. I look forward to the Captain trying to make Casey his workout buddy and Casey despising his irrepressible chipperness.)

The episonage plot is walking the right side of that line between being comic but vaguely real and a straight-up, "Naked Gun"-style spoof. The former is sustainable in a format like this, while the latter would get old. It's all goofy and in good fun, but there's at least a sense that Chuck is in real danger from La Ciudad and her henchmen, and that things could have gotten very ugly at the Buy More if Casey wasn't so good at tossing microwaves around. (That stunt was cool enough that I'll forgive him the "that's what I call moving some merchandise" kiss-off line -- or the writers for not having Chuck complain about it.) There were a lot of funny moments along the way -- Chuck busting his old classmate for insider trading, La Ciudad not caring that Chuck has to dance the girl's part, Chuck convincing La Ciudad of his true identity with some hardcore geek speak -- but there was just enough of a genuine spy story here to work as a frame on which the writers could hang the jokes. (I was also fond of the opening sequence, with everyone complaining about how ugly the painting was right before getting shot.)

But what really sold me on the episode -- and, by extension, the series -- was the material at the Buy More. I like that they're already establishing individual character traits for the employees, like Lester studying for Bar Mitzvah lessons or Anna stopping the guys dead in their tracks with the notion that she goes both ways. (Sexually adventurous nerds: breaking TV barriers every week.) I don't know that you can have Chuck being on a mission while simultaneously trying to defuse a Nerd Herd crisis every week, but the balance was good here, and gave everyone in the extended and very likable cast something to do. (And was I the only one who briefly though that Morgan was going to do such a good job motivating the Nerds that he'd suddenly become the dark horse for assistant manager?)

A few other brief thoughts:
  • I doubt I'll often have cause to namecheck Oscar foreign language film winners in my reviews of this show, but the role reversed tango reminded me a lot of a similar scene in "Belle Epoque," though that one took it a step further by dressing the girl as a guy and vice versa. I doubt NBC would go for their hero cross-dressing in only the third episode (feels like more of a sweeps plotline).
  • Speaking of wardrobe, this is two "Sarah dresses to provoke -- and to hide weapons on her person" montages in three episodes though this one was intercut not only with Chuck putting on his tux, but Lester and the Nerds trying to break a time record for fixing a computer blindfolded.
  • I'm writing this review without having seen the new opening title sequence that's supposed to be attached to tonight's show (one DVR will be recording "HIMYM," the other the Yankee game), but I'll catch it online later. Any thoughts?
  • Bob Ross reference! I will cut any show that makes a reference to the gentle afro'ed one a whole lot of slack.
What did everybody else think?

35 comments:

Newscoma said...

It's the first time I've seen the show.
I found it to be charming and the Bob Ross comment was classic.

Chris W said...

Am I correct in saying that the scene where Morgan is locked in the cage and classical music plays is an homage to The Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal Lecter is in the cage when he's killing the police officer?

Re: Opening Credit Sequence
I liked it. Spoofy of the Bond openings and has a Cake song! Two very good things that add up to a good credit sequence.

Jefferson said...

the new opening title sequence was good. very bond-esque. even though it's just music (no lyrics) - I was singing along to the Cake song. even though the lyrics have nothing to due and doesn't fit into the show remotely at all, I was along for the ride..."short skirt and a looooonng jacket."

overall, I'm liking this show a lot and yes, this was easily the best of the first three eps, in my opinion

Jefferson said...

and sidebar....

didn't they know that La Ciudad was a woman and not a man, even though "no one had live to tell" or something like that? isn't "la" the feminine form and "el" is the masculine...or...does it not apply to this word because it's a feminine word in Spanish. someone has to brush me up. haven't taken Spanish since high school. this could be all plain ignorance on my end...

EzekielRawlins said...

Chris - that was the vibe I got, it was pretty much my first thought. I'm surprised no one's mentioned The Dark Crystal reference...
And I am loving the Cake theme song!
Chuck is a lot of bloody fun.

filmcricket said...

Loved the title sequence. It's a great song (last I heard it was in the Keri Russell flick "Waitress") and the graphics are very much in the Bond/"Catch Me If You Can"/"Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" mold.

The fight sequence between Sarah and La Ciudad was less lame than her fight with Casey, but still lame. Yvonne S. really needs some stage-fighting lessons, or else the fight sequences need a new editor.

And jefferson, I would have thought they'd know La Ciudad was a woman, too, but my Spanish virtually non-existent.

Jenn. said...

I agree with all of the above. I could use less Morgan, but otherwise, I was pretty happy.

What was the name of the Cake song, btw?

Chris W said...

The name of the Cake song is "Short Skirt/Long Jacket", if my memory serves me well.

CLJ said...

Am I shallow if I enjoy this show more than "Reaper" partly because the production values are so much higher on "Chuck"?

filmcricket said...

Does anyone know who designed the title sequence, by the way? I was trying to catch it during the credits but they went by too fast and I wasn't recording it.

smm said...

Oh, no, unfortunate. Because the Buy More/Nerd Herd stuff was the worst part. Morgan is irritating-- I'd call him a low-rent Seth Green, in that he's managed to borrow all of Green's mannerisms with none of Green's timing, but even a low-rent Green would be bearable. Every line issued by the Nerd who looks like Bobcat Goldthwait ends with a horrible thud; he was clearly hired on looks alone. The girl Nerd is slightly better but not enough. The third nerd sidekick doesn't register. That entire subplot was unwatchable. I'm starting to think one of the biggest problems with the show is a cast that can deliver funny dialogue-- everyone but Adam Baldwin and Captain Awesome, I'm looking at you.

Anonymous said...

smm - couldnt disagree more. Nerd herd is best part. That old nerd herd guy is my favorite - every line is hilarious. Great episode, best one yet, though I've liked them all.

Nicole said...

La Ciudad means "the city" and it's a feminine word in the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian et al) so it wouldn't necessarily mean a woman. But I don't think we'll need a rocket science background to work out the spy missions.

Overall, I really liked this episode, probably even more than last week. Things are clicking and I hope this can last the entire season.

And while Chuck is ostensibly the smart ass of the show, Casey (Adam Baldwin) is stealing almost every scene with his dead pan humour.

Figgsrock2 said...

I caught the first two eps on Bravo yesterday, and against my instincts I was hooked. Sigh...guess I need to get a DVR now to record HIMYM while I watch this live.

The Cake in the opening sequence is great. And Alan, maybe you could see if Schwartz is addicted to Spoon as I am, or they just got a deal on thE rights. 2 eps in a row jave featured a song mutliple times.

Figgsrock2 said...

Ugh. I meant have featured a Spoon song.

BigTed said...

I also think they're treading a pretty good line between Bond and Clouseau. But while I don't expect realism from a show like this, the fact that a normal guy like Chuck could come that close to being rubbed out twice in as many days and just shake it off doesn't seem credible.

I'd like the Nerd Herd stuff if I hadn't already been tired out by similar store scenes in "Reaper." So we'll have to see where that goes. (Another continuing point of unbelievability: The idea that the repair department in a big-box electronic store would fix computers quickly and well. Try reading Consumerist.com to see if that ever actually happens.)

The relationship between Chuck and Sarah is actually turning out pretty well. You can see that even with the hotness differential between them, there's definitely an attraction -- one that will take a turn for the worse when Chuck finally finds out that she was his old nemesis' lover.

Anthony Foglia said...

This was definitely the best of the three episodes. (And better than last week's Reaper.)

Alan wrote, I was also fond of the opening sequence, with everyone complaining about how ugly the painting was right before getting shot.

Check that again. I'm pretty sure the critics were the ones who did the shooting.

And was I the only one who briefly though that Morgan was going to do such a good job motivating the Nerds that he'd suddenly become the dark horse for assistant manager?

Yes. :-) I liked the Nerd Herd stuff though. Good characters, and I liked that the boss didn't actually expect them to finish.

I'm writing this review without having seen the new opening title sequence that's supposed to be attached to tonight's show[...], but I'll catch it online later. Any thoughts?

I liked it. Good graphics. Geeky and techlike with the use of icons. Could do with the Toyota logo. (Nerd nitpick: The top half of the keyboard is offset to the right of the bottom half by one key. i.e. Above the "F" are the "T" and "Y", not the "R".)

Sexually adventurous nerds: breaking TV barriers every week.

And twice on Mondays. (Can't wait for your How I Met Your Mother post.)

lunatic96 said...

Check that again. I'm pretty sure the critics were the ones who did the shooting.

That's true, but 3/4 critics ended up getting shot in the next scene so they still ended up getting shot

jim treacher said...

Love the Nerd Herd. "If I don't get some serious alcohol in me, I'll never sleep." A man after my own heart. What's that guy's name? I just think of him as Twitchy.

Morgan doesn't irritate me as much as the sister. Unfortunately, the sister irritates me more than any TV character I can think of.

Ted F. said...

Perhaps the best of the three episodes (and I liked the credit sequence), but not good enough. I switched it off 44 minutes through when I realized I hadn't laughed once, and don't feel that any of the main characters are in any peril, and wouldn't care much if they are: other than Baldwin, the acting (especially amongst the minor roles and Morgan) is too broad for my tastes. I wanted to like the show, but I don't have enough time for television that this show is good enough to make the cut.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Does anyone know who designed the title sequence, by the way?

Imaginary Forces, the same outfit that designed the great "Mad Men" opening titles.

Finally got a chance to look at them, and they were a lot of fun. I hope NBC doesn't shove in another commercial spot later in the season and force the producers to ditch the titles to leave room for more story.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Check that again. I'm pretty sure the critics were the ones who did the shooting.

You are correct, sir. I was relying on my month-old notes and memories, and got that part backwards. (Also forgot that it was the tango lesson that was intercut with the getting dressed montage, and not Lester fixing the computer blindfolded; that came immediately after, not during.)

LDP said...

The actor who plays Chuck doesn't look at all like a nerd, or geek, or whatever. He's actually a goodlooking, athletic guy, and putting him in a shortsleeve shirt and bad tie doesn't disguise that -- just shows the limits of the Hollywood imagination, like having Kate Winslet play the "plain" woman in Little Children.

bill said...

The actor who plays Chuck doesn't look at all like a nerd, or geek, or whatever. He's actually a goodlooking, athletic guy, and putting him in a shortsleeve shirt and bad tie doesn't disguise that -- just shows the limits of the Hollywood imagination,

Or it shows your preoccupation with stereotypes. Even nerds, geeks, and whatevers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and social interaction abilities.

LDP said...

Right, I'm unfairly stereotyping people who choose to be known as "nerds."

And anyway, my comment was less about them than about Hollywood. There may be a few Chuck-looking men in the Nerd Herds of the real world, but not many. That the producers of this show choose him instead of an average guy is a serious lack of imagination.

Number Five said...

Yeah, this was definitely the best of the three. I was a little surprised the Mi6 agents disappeared after the La Ciudad reveal, but that's a minor complaint. Great mix of the comedy/drama/action and between the storylines.

The credit sequence was excellent -- short but very stylish. It actually reminded me of Back to You's titles, which is weird since they are such different shows.

As for Zachary Levi portraying Chuck, I think that's just the way TV works. TV actors, even most ones in supporting roles, are more attractive than the average person. Some of that is Hollywood's preconceptions, but I think most of it is that audiences will watch characters do all sorts of different things, as long as they are played by actors that are nice to look at. It's an area where some suspension of disbelief is required, and Levi's performance as Chuck is so good that it's easy to do that.

k said...

Yeah, I'm surprised only one person has mentioned the sister...she is really unwatchable.

Everyone else I can kind of deal with (Morgan & Sarah come to mind as others who are a little lacking in the acting skills right now) but the sister is just painful...

However I really like this show, it is light and fun, makes me laugh (I'd like it to make me laugh more, but I'll live) and every once in a while there are fantastic moments like a microwave nailing someone...that was just aweseome.

drake leLane said...

Just watched the opening again on NBC.com and Alan was right the first time... the first two times someone gives a critique, they're shot, which sort of gives the impression that their being shot for making the comment. The third (last) time, the critique is made after the shooting.

I love the opening titles... intersplicing 007 with the Nerd Herd workers icon is lots of fun.

Ken said...

Given the view out the window in the scenes were Sarah gets dressed/straps on, I would guess that she does not live in the same building as Chuck and Casey. It looks more like a high-rise condo/apartment/hotel.

So that means that Casey is staying really close, at home and work, while Sarah is a step back. But she clearly has a better hold on Chuck.

Kenrick said...

I'm liking Chuck so far. It appears to have more legs than Reaper and it doesn't hurt that Yvonne Strzechowski is smokin' hot. I've found the Jack Black sidekick in Reaper to be somewhat tiring already, but the Seth Green sidekick in Chuck has been good so far (although in real life I do find Jack Black funnier than Seth Green).

I am sad to admit, however, that Chuck was the most enjoyable of the Monday shows I watch this week (the others being HIMYM and Heroes).

What was the Bob Ross comment? I must have missed it somehow.

drake leLane said...

Chuck said the painting was "very Bob Rossian" when La Cuidad asked what he thought of it.

Anonymous said...

I just watched it. I thought it was fine, but I don't know that I'm going to go out of my way to watch every week anymore.

This episode did have a good balance of Nerd Herd/home/spy stuff, but how long can they keep that up? Eventually it'll get repetetive when the bad guys keep showing up at the store or at Ellie's house. And if they don't then I don't see how they'll be able to continue to visit all 3 worlds every episode. Even Alias eventually had to bring Will and Francie into the spy stuff. And then they wrote them out when they realized even that could only go so far.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Given the view out the window in the scenes were Sarah gets dressed/straps on, I would guess that she does not live in the same building as Chuck and Casey. It looks more like a high-rise condo/apartment/hotel.

That's what I thought. The boss lady's comment along the lines of "you've moved into Chuck's building" was vague enough that it could have been referring only to Casey or to both of them.

LoopyChew said...

Don't forget that in the last ep (Helicopter), Sarah had to drive up to Chuck's place for the "date" to the Buy More. (One could argue that she pulled the car out of the garage and drove out front, but I'm pretty sure not.)

PamelaJaye said...

>Imaginary Forces, the same outfit that designed the great "Mad Men" opening titles.

Aha! There was something about ... did I really see a person falling out of another person's nose?... well, they're into falling.

And no, I don't think I've ever seen a James Bond movie, so if this is just common for the genre, I'm clueless and wouldn't know.