Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chuck: Sizzling siblings

Spoilers for "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I make a stakeout mix CD...

Thus far, the reaction to Morgan seems to have a range of "Gah, I can't stand him!" to "He's funny, but only in small doses," so the prospect of us having to spend An Evening Of Morgan along with Chuck, Sarah and Ellie wasn't that exciting. But you know what? It kind of worked, mainly because there was an effort to humanize him, to make him more than just the pathetic comic relief. He bonded with Ellie (the surrogate for the "Gah, can't stand him!" segment of the audience) and showed that sometimes he's a lousy salesman not because he's incompetent, but because he's too kind-hearted. By the end, I'd say my opinion of the guy was roughly on par with Ellie's: I still wouldn't want to spend a whole lot of time hanging out with him, but he seems like good people. I actually felt bad for him when the Nerd Herders deployed The Wounded Raccoon at the exact wrong moment (though I was also laughing at the time).

The spy story had some interesting touches, chief among them Chuck both screwing up royally and then saving the day (with the help of the fireworks that seemed like a throwaway joke earlier in the episode). It's going to get old eventually if Chuck is told on every mission to wait in the car and then disobeys that order, but it was worth it here for the fight scene with the freeze frames: the three spies each got a freeze frame when they were throwing an impressive punch or kick, while Chuck got one while stopping a really old man from getting away in his wheelchair. If you don't have the time/budget to do elaborately choreographed fights, might as well find a way to make them funny, and that was.

I also like how, once again, we're exploring some of the real emotional ramifications of Chuck's new life, this time in how it affects his relationship with Ellie. When I watched the pilot, I worried that Ellie would quickly become deadweight in the same way that Francie and Will Tippin did on "Alias" (until Francie got killed and replaced and Will went to work for the CIA), but that hasn't happened yet. Sibling relationships are something that most TV seem ambivalent about, because there can't (or shouldn't) be any sexual tension, but seeing Chuck struggle to be a good brother -- and learning how he and Ellie were effectively orphaned years ago -- makes me like him more and more.

Oh, and Chuck sang along to "Private Eyes." Since the Captain was absent this week (no doubt for budget reasons, same as Harry Tang), let me just say that that was awesome.

What did everybody else think?

25 comments:

Alyssa said...

It got a little dusty in the room when Chuck explained the origins of Mother's Day.

filmcricket said...

If I'm not mistaken, Phil Klemmer wrote this one, and when "Private Eyes" came on, I immediately flashed to Vinnie Vanlowe singing it out the window in S1 of "Veronica Mars." Even if I am mistaken about Klemmer, that was damn funny.

Much more Casey this week, which was great. Loved the "Glengarry Glen Ross"-ish sales contest, and appreciated the fact that they showed why Morgan's not very good at his job. Liked that they put the Chuck/Sarah stuff pretty much on the backburner - we don't need to see that every week.

And particularly liked that they showed the strength and weakness of having Chuck as the intersect. He can misinterpret data in a way a computer wouldn't, but he can also come up with creative solutions - like encouraging the Chinese agent to defect, or using the fireworks - that a computer would never be able to create. (As an aside: why are fireworks illegal in the US? I've never understood that).

Best moment: The "White Nights" reference! I know it's a little ridiculous for someone of Chuck's age and general interests to even know that movie, but that was my immediate thought as soon as Casey said "defect" as well, so it made me laugh.

Abbie said...

I didn't like the freeze frames. I didn't think they were well done. I've seen that ploy work elsewhere, perhaps with a longer freeze than that, but here they made me think my satellite receiver was acting up.

filmcricket, come to Missouri. Fireworks aren't illegal everywhere. You can buy them here any time of the year. And as long as you're not in the city limits, you can set them off too.

Greg said...

Since I watch via download, I thought the freezeframes were glitches in the file.

Mother's Day, unfortunately would have been decent drama if I hadn't seen it coming so early.

The Throwaway Geek Moment of the night was not White Nights (which was also rad), but: wheelchair guy being named "Ben Lo Pan," a nod to James Hong's role as David Lo Pan, also in a wheelchair, in Big Trouble in Little China. Liked that almost as much as Morgan's messenger bag saying "Tyrell Corporation" last week.

Figgsrock2 said...

That bit with "Private Eyes" made me spit out a mouthful of chili all over my table.

Outstanding ep overall. And maybe someone has noticed this as well--is it Josh Gomez (Morgan)who's in that rather annoying ad that featuires Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart?" It looks like Morgan w/o a beard.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Chuck’s “Forget it Ben, it’s Chinatown. Ever see that movie?” line to James Hong who played Kahn, the Mulwrays’ butler in the film.

Greg said...

d'oh! Of course, anonymous. Chinatown trumps Jack Burton.

TuckPendleton said...

I think my problems with this show are best summed up by Filmcricket's appreciation of "White Nights": yes, it was a little funny, but COMPLETELY unbelievable that Chuck would have any idea about that movie, or at least be able to recall it so blithely and easily.

The writers of this show are far more interested in way-too-easy jokes than creating any sort of real or interesting characters. Everyone seems to be a cipher here.

More lazy attempts at humor: Chuck repeating the 30 yard mantra to himself while tailing the Golden Dragon truck. Ok, kind of funny, maybe, but why does he even need to tail them at all? He knows (and we know he knows) exactly where the restaurant is, because we saw them there at the beginning of the evening with Morgan.

And dear Lord, the writers even dragged out the laziest and lamest comedy line of all time, the "Oh, God..." comment by one character being misinterpreted by another. Here, Ellie and Morgan.

I also think the writers are FAR more interested in lame in-jokes (Tyrell Corporation, Blade Runner, Chinatown) then making a real show with characters that are more than ciphers.

I think Levi is a talented performer, who does the best with the extremely limited material he is given, and really, all the actors do really well. (It still bugs me that Morgan is much more of a 'Chuck' than Chuck will ever be, but that's TV for ya.)

But for all the action scenes and bizarre freeze frame choices, this show is boring from start to finish. Inject it with a little heart -- if the writers can find it in themselves to stop trying to prove how clever they are -- and the show could amount to something. But I don't think the writers of this show have it in them.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this weeks episode. Maybe not as much as last weeks or the Tango, but I thought it was funny, sweet and surprisingly emotional... I didnt think the characters were ciphers but actually gained depth.

White Knights isnt that out of Chuck's reach... its from the mid 80s... And I laughed there and Chinatown.

Stef said...

Will Tippen rocks!

Why wouldn't Chuck know White Knights? I remember watching it on cable a lot as a kid. Granted, I'm a few years older than Chuck, but are we assuming that a 25-year-old-ish guy is too young for Cold War pop culture references? Or is it because it's a *dance* movie?

I laughed out loud at Casey's response, along the lines of "Well, since you've done such extensive research...."

BigTed said...

I also liked the pop-culture references in this episode. But it was weird how, in a show about dangerous spy missions, the main dramatic tension came from whether Chuck would get home in time for dinner, or to help Morgan in a sales contest that turned out not to matter. I don't mind the fact that they're focusing on how the spy stuff interferes with Chuck's relationships, but I think they need to raise the stakes a little to keep us caring what happens.

drake leLane said...

That same Hall & Oates "Private Eyes" moment was used during a stake out on the short-lived Knights of Prosperity. It was still funny, and since no one saw Knights, no harm... right? ;)

Anonymous said...

Was anyone else waiting for Ellie to ask Sarah about her "spastic colon"?

Number Five said...

Yeah, this was much much better than last week. My favorite comedic moment was Chuck talking to the shrimp, but the episode was very funny overall. I'm glad the female spy of the week had a smaller role, but I wish they'd given James Hong a little more to do. Dramatically, I liked how they used both Ellie and Morgan, both by themselves and in relation to Chuck being torn between his two lives. And they let the parallel sibling stories mostly go unmentioned instead of hitting us over the head with it.

I think they're doing a very good job of not making Chuck too heroic but still the center of the show. He's not out there fighting anyone and he's making mistakes (although Sarah should work with him on separating Intersect facts from his own analysis!), but he still helps save the day and has so far been able to balance his two lives.

Nice continuity moment: Chuck reusing the Carmichael alias from a couple episodes ago. It definitely reminded me of FBI Agent Michael Scarn from The Office.

Taleena said...

I laughed at White Nights, Lo Pan, and Chinatown. I am not watching this show for heartfelt drama or realism (although it has it's heartfelt moments) but because it makes me laugh at myself for all the geek check moments it gives me.

Same reason the Binford tool box appears in Toy Story. It's there to get a chuckle from those who know the reference but doesn't overwhelm if you don't. They have got a good mix.

Kristen said...

"Private Eyes" will always be Ken Marino singing in to the spy pen at Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars.

To address a comment made above, Scott Rosenbaum wrote last night's episode and Phil wrote next week.

drake leLane said...

Oh yeah... forgot about Vinnie Van Lowe's rendition!

To be fair, the Knights version was also in a car, during a stake-out (and using Hall & Oates recorded version,) which is why it comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it, despite way too much Morgan and not enough Awesome. I was also waiting for Ellie to ask about the spastic colon (and was glad to finally see her out of scrubs).

jcpbmg said...

Alyssa, I'm right there with you. There was something in my contact lens during that last scene.

All in all the show is definitely finding it's rhythm.

Chris Littmann said...

I'll second/third/fourth/fifth the motion that Private Eyes was funny, and once I saw a guy in a wheel chair, my brain definitely went to "Big Trouble In Little China."

Anonymous said...

I also flashed on "Big Trouble...", Chris. And I just realized that both characters were named Lo Pan. Nice.

Dark Tyler said...

"I know, a girl that beautiful with a colon that spastic" is probably the funniest line I've heard this season so far.

Toby said...

All the rooms are dusty here at Toobworld Central, but yeah, it was dustier than usual in that scene between Ellie and Chuck. It was topped off nicely with her response to his "You'll always be my best gir." (Basically, "For your sake, I hope not.)

That exchange of dialogue about fireworks during "a night of Morgan" triggered my rule that anything extraneous introduced into the plot will have meaning by the end. So I was just waiting for when it would finally pay off.

Best surprise of the plot was that it would be Ellie who came to the rescue. And Big Mike made a big mistake by letting Morgan in on the secret about racial quotas. So long as Buy-More doesn't hire any more Hispanics, his job is safe.

Morgan suggested to the customer that she could get a better deal at Large Mart. Have we heard that before in this show? I have't googled it yet, but I'm certain I've heard that generic name used somewhere else....

And I hope we'll see Mei Ling again in the future.....

Toby said...

Okay, just googled "Large Mart" (should've done it while typing the first message, sorry). It was in the pilot for 'Chuck'; and it's right next door to Buy More....

jim treacher said...

Why wouldn't Chuck know about White Knights? He works at a Best Buy! Er, Buy-More. They have these things called DVDs.

I, too, thought the freeze-frames were a Tivo problem at first.