Monday, February 02, 2009

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the Third Dimension": You all everybody!

Spoilers for tonight's 3-D episode of "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I admire a men's room ceiling...
"Alright, who stole the urinal cakes?" -Millbarge
Because of the Super Bowl promotion and the 3-D gimmick (more on that at the end), "Chuck vs. the Third Dimension" was written under the assumption (or hope) that some new viewers might be tuning in for the first time. So much like the season premiere, there was a definite "Chuck 101" vibe to the proceedings.

And for the most part, that was fine. The mission of the week really had nothing to do with Fulcrum, or the rebuilding of the Intersect, or any of the larger arcs, but Dominic Monaghan was very funny as Tyler the rock star, who came across as an amalgam of Charlie from "Lost," David St. Hubbins and Keith Richards. (Seriously, who else but Keith could shrug off so many tranq darts so easily?) The story was entertaining, the flight in the glass elevator (with Chuck dangling outside in his boxers) continued the show's recent trend of injecting unexpected humor into cliched action scenarios, and the B-plot with the battle for the golden ticket was comic genius. (More on that in a bit.)

My one issue was one that couldn't be helped, given the way the schedule broke. "Chuck vs. Santa Claus" ended on such a strong dramatic note, and promised such interesting tension between Chuck and Sarah, that I'm sorry the very next episode had to be the post-Super Bowl attempt to reel in the newbies.

I credit Chris Fedak's script for addressing Chuck's fear of Sarah as much as he did, and also for having Chuck confront Sarah about what he saw by the end of the episode rather than dragging that part of the story out. (As I said at the time, even if Chuck had known why Sarah killed Mauser, it still would have freaked him out, because that's a line he's not remotely ready to cross yet, and one she did with relative ease.) But because the hour had to be relatively accessible to first-time viewers, Fedak couldn't get too deep into that issue, and instead had to center most of the episode's tension around Chuck's more generic desire to get a day off once in a while. The Tyler plot could have been plugged in at any point this season -- or even last season -- with almost no tinkering, and while that makes it ideal for this kind of hypothetical showcase, it also makes the episode slightly disappointing for us hard-core Nerd Herders(*).

(*) Is that what we're calling ourselves? Buy More-ians? Bartowski Backers? Up With Chuckers?

For that matter, I was slightly bummed -- slightly -- that the Buy More subplot never re-connected with the larger Tyler plot. One of the big improvements of this season has been the way that nerd world keeps inadvertently crossing over into spy world and saving Chuck's bacon. When the stories wind up having little to do with each other in the end, the whole venture feels a little more lightweight. I would have sacrificed the punchline of Butterman scalping the Golden Ticket if it had meant that some combination of Butterman, Lester, Jeff or Morgan wound up at the show and somehow helped Casey and Sarah take down the assassin.

But good lord was the rest of the Butterman story so funny that I will forgive its disconnectedness in a heartbeat. How they managed to combine Jerome Bettis, the underpants bet from "Sixteen Candles," a plethora of "Shawshank Redemption" references(**), Jeff eating both half a giant party sub and a urinal cake, and something resembling a complete version of Europe's "The Final Countdown" -- as opposed to the opening stanza that's been used to death in similar spoofs -- I will never know, but I will be ever grateful to the show for it. As I like to say, funny forgives a lot, and Jeff eating the urinal cake (followed by Millbarge's perfectly-timed entrance to complain about the theft) almost single-handedly erases any misgivings I had about the episode.

(**) Among other "Shawshank" refs: Jeff quotes Andy's warning about biting down hard on anything put in his mouth, the aria that plays while Butterman contemplates the vending machine is the same one Andy played on the warden's record player, Butterman escapes to Zihuatanejo (though it turns out to be Philly), and Jeff and Lester quote a bastardized version of "Get busy living or get busy dying." "That's goddamn right." All that was missing was someone trying to tunnel out of a cell behind a giant poster of Sarah in the lingerie from Chuck's nightmare.

Now, as far as the 3-D goes, I had to sacrifice a little bit of thoroughness in favor of getting this review posted as soon as the episode ended, as I usually do. I'm writing this based on my experience watching the DVD screener as opposed to watching it live. As I said in today's column, the screener didn't look very impressive with the 3-D glasses on, but looked just fine (albeit kinda fuzzy) when I took the specs off -- and I enjoyed the episode so much overall that I didn't really care.

Only a few of the shots that were clearly supposed to be in 3-D (Chuck's first flash, the knife flying towards him) really popped off the screen, and several other bits that I knew were supposed to be 3-D (like the close-up on Big Mike's donut) looked completely normal. Based on what I saw of the 3-D "Chuck" spot at halftime of the Super Bowl, the effects probably looked much better in high-def than they did on that screener. I'm curious how it looked to you all, whether you had the glasses or not, and/or whether you watched in HD or standard-def. Also, The episode's going to stream in both 3-D and 2-D versions on NBC.com and Hulu, so those of you without glasses will get to see the episode normally tomorrow if you want.

Some other thoughts:

• Whether Chuck's desire for a vacation was a bit remedial, I did like that he got into the Crown Vic at the end. It was another sign that he's stopped being a victim and is embracing this weird hand life has dealt him, and I prefer that take on the character, whatever his issues are with his handler/crush.

• Casey's itchy trigger finger with the tranq darts was like one of those Letterman running gags that's a little funny at first, then stops being funny for a while, then gets even funnier once you realize he's just not going to stop doing it.

• As Jeff, Scott Krinsky was definitely the star of the Golden Ticket plot, but Vic Sahay had his own great moment as a mortified and groin-injured Lester squeaked out "I'm a man!" after Butterman ripped off his underwear.

• One moment that was so random I wonder if it was improvised: Morgan offers to buy Jeff a keg of his favorite beer to make up for giving away the Golden Ticket, and Jeff explains, quietly, "It's called Beer. Beer brand."

• The couple in the elevator when Chuck lands on it is the same one whose romantic poolside moment Chuck interrupted when he jumped off the hotel balcony when he climbed onto their balcony in "Chuck vs. the Seduction." There was a similar running gag in "Bachelor Party" (possibly the most underrated movie of Tom Hanks' career) where a couple's romantic getaway kept being interrupted by the surprise appearance of a naked, terrified Cole, who was dropped from a hotel window.

• Chuck's fake cockney accent actually sounded pretty good to these untrained ears. I mean, it was no Terence Stamp in "The Limey," but it was much better than, say, Jerry Seinfeld talking about the apples and pears.

• I thought it was a nice touch that, as Tyler was saying his goodbyes to his new spy friends, he looked at Sarah and immediately forgot anything about her except that she was someone he'd like to have sex with.

• Would the "Back to the Future"-inspired "To Be Continued" gag at the end have been better served as part of "Chuck vs. the DeLorean"?

Finally, as I mentioned on Friday, if you're attending the New York Comic-Con this weekend, I'm going to be moderating the "Chuck" panel -- featuring Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak and Yvonne Strahovski -- on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. Originally, it was just going to be Schwartz and Fedak, which would have been incredibly nerdy. I'd say Yvonne Strahovski significantly lowers the overall nerd factor, but you never know -- she could turn up espousing the genius of Box Office Poison or Kurt Busiek or something.

If there are any questions you've been dying to ask the "Chuck" creators, or Ms. Strahovski, post 'em here. I can't promise to work them all in (gotta leave time for audience Q&A, not to mention my ongoing inquiry into the history of the Wienerlicious uniform), but I'll give it a shot if they're interesting enough.

I'll either include a mini-report or link to one from a comics or "Chuck" fansite (there are bound to be a few) in my review of next week's "Chuck vs. the Best Friend." And if you can't wait for that, Fienberg did an interview with Schwartz where Josh discusses some upcoming things, and his feelings about the show's chances for renewal.

What did everybody else think?

79 comments:

MattB said...

I thought it was kind of a bummer watching it in HD 3d-glass-less. Most of the scenes seemed very fuzzy, as if my glasses or contacts were askew, but I think by the end of the episode you got used to it and forgot about it.

Mike said...

Milbarge warning the Buy More crowd "No touching!" was a nice Arrested Development reference (it was for me, at least).

I found the 3-D effect worked best without onscreen motion. There was a cool depth-of-field effect on lots of the dialogue scenes. But the action stuff got too blurry for me, and I hated how the glasses gave everything a sickly pall. It was a fun experiment, one I hope attracted new viewers, but I'm glad it's over.

Anonymous said...

NO TOUCHING!

Steve Ely said...

MattB, while I take no pleasure in your small misfortune, I am glad to hear I wasn't missing anything from the experience by doing without the glasses.

I was actually afraid the 3-D effects would impair the glassless watching, and it really didn't. Another great episode, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and the same goes for Alan's breakdown, as usual.

Chris Littmann said...

I too laughed at the "no touching!" bit. I didn't notice the 3D stuff too much after the first commercial break (I was without glasses).

Still really liked the show. I'd also like to echo the disappointment about having to lay so much base in an episode where I would've liked to maybe hear a little more about the shooting fallout, but then again maybe that's just frustration over the long break. It'd been so long, it half felt like it needed one of those ridiculous Showtime intros where they recap everything that ever happened in three minutes or so.

I'm still in shock my Target store ran out of the glasses!

Bobman said...

The 3D thing was annoying, as I wasn't able to hunt down any glasses. It looked like the convergence on my TV was off or something; for once I wish I had recorded a show in standard def (although, to miss out on that opening dream sequence in HD would have been a sin).

Good ep otherwise though.

FXKLM said...

The proper term for the Buy More gang is Chuck's Stable of Hos, as established in one the early season 1 episodes (don't recall which one off-hand).

Alan Sepinwall said...

The proper term for the Buy More gang is Chuck's Stable of Hos

Yes, but what's the proper term for fans of "Chuck" the TV show? Browncoats is both taken and non-applicable.

freakgirl said...

Besides the excellent Sixteen Candles shoutout, Chuck's "See you in the emergency room!" as he did his first shot at the bar is a quote from Weird Science, isn't it?

fgmerchant said...

I took my 3D glasses off after the first commercial break and just watched without them. I was watching in HD, but I am serious about watching things in the best possible quality.

The glasses were very disconcerting and I hated that the colors were all off just to make a few things pop out at me. I would have been very happy if they had used some clear 3D glasses so that the 3D works without negating the colors.

I seem to remember using clear glasses that provided 3D on some sort of Universal studios ride about 8 years ago or so. Those would have been idea to pass out and then I would have watched the whole thing in 3D.

Andrew said...

NO TOUCHING!

Without glasses, the 3-D codig was just distracting and off enough (particularly the scene with Ellie and Awesome in the kitchen) to be disconcerting, but not weird enough to prevent watching.

dave s said...

Alan,

Probably nothing worth taking time away from other questions, but I wondered if they would include the episode sans-3D on the DVD set? Or at least include both versions. It was a tad annoying.

I too loved the "No touching!" moment. As an obsessive Shawshank fan, I got a kick out of the b-story, although some of their homage moments were a little too on the nose. And count me in on wishing the fallout from Chuck vs. the Santa Claus had more time to breath. Oh well, hopefully it gained some new viewers who will stick around.

Even though the major arc isn't as compelling as something like Lost, etc, I still hope it either gets renewed, or that they know it's going to end and can give Chuck & Sarah a couple episodes to be together.

Bill C said...

@fgmerchant: Unfortunately, they can't recreate what you're talking about (polarized 3-D) at home yet because it requires a reflective screen, unlike the inferior anaglyph (red/blue) format.

Lou said...

Wow! The show cut to the quick tonight. Surprise! Surprise! Well that should make many of you folks happy tonight. Chuck got the goods of his chest right away with Sarah.

My only caveat was that the whole issue just kind of got swept under the rug. You killed an unarmed person and oh I lied about it. That’s it? Disappointed in the moment myself. A wonderful opportunity for the characters to explore some fertile dramatic territory squandered. Sad.

The main thing about that scene was just how false it was for Chuck to accept Sarah’s spy rationalizations and for Sarah to be so unaffected. Especially when we saw her conflict after shooting Mauser. They might as well have talking about the weather.

The first truly, totally false moment in the series.

But its done and over with and the show can move on.

Dom was hilarious. Cheesy As was Casey with his darts.

The scene with Chuck convincing Dom to go onstage was nicely done too.

The BuyMore stuff after the opening act was weak IMHO.

Entertaining but a middling episode.

The 3D stuff was rather hit and miss to me. Expect that it needs to be seen in HD with the appropriate calibration and better glasses.

OldDarth(Lou) said...

Hi Alan.

Hope you find this of possible interest.

A question for ComicCon directed to Yvonne.

Many of us fans are curious what Sarah was planning to say to Chuck at the end of 2.03 Chuck Vs the BreakUp.

You could see Sarah steel herself just before she sat down beside Chuck at the fountain.

Yvonne, what do you think Sarah was going to say to Chuck?

Also, loved your reactions during the scene and especially the last one inside the apartment when you looked over your shoulder back at Chuck. For me that will always be the moment that Sarah will think back to when she wonders when she had fallen in love with Chuck.

Thanks in advance to Yvonne for answering the question and to Alan for offering to field questions.

OldDarth aka Lou from Canada.

Karen said...

Well, I laughed out loud all the way through the whole thing. Oh, man. Loved the "Final Countdown" hero challenge. Jeff really delivers--it didn't occur to me that "Beer. Beer brand" might have been an ad lib, but it works for me either way.

I was glad that Chuck didn't draw out his issues from "Chuck vs Santa Claus," and I think that both he and Sarah said all they had to say. Yes, Sarah was shaken by killing Mauser, and no it didn't seem like she was shaken by it tonight--but that's part of who she is. She's had plenty of time to work through her rationalization of what she did, she knows it's part of her job, and she needed to take the line she did with Chuck. What else, really, could she say to him? What would it change?

Is it going back on some kind of hiatus again, now, though? The previews weren't for "next week," but for a kind of general rest of the season, which made me edgy.

I hate the way networks scatter their shows so randomly, without any thought for the fan base.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is it going back on some kind of hiatus again, now, though? The previews weren't for "next week," but for a kind of general rest of the season, which made me edgy.

No, it's running straight through from now to the end of the season -- which is why the season will be ending in early April.

David Z said...

The Shawshank references were great, but even better was "No Touching!".

Also for a geekier reference, IG-88 was one of the bounty hunters in Empire Strikes Back.

Pamela Jaye said...

Well, we had a bit of a blow-out here, because I didn't understand that "we are going to watch this *live*" meant "we are going to tune the TV to channel xx8, and not watch it on the DVR" (mind you, I spent a good bit of time getting Chuck, House, and the two CBS comedies to all record, without shipping House to next Saturday, and I had to make sure that they all *did* record, rather than die,)

And apparently our TV hasn't got the NBC channel set, and I have no idea where it is. And the brother couldn't even get any digital channels, so he thought we weren't hooked up - and it took me a good while to convince him that we were.

So - we only got to see the last 1/4 of the show in Digital/HiDef, or whatever this TV gets.
We watched the first 3/4ths as fast as we could - which left me trying to catch up with the plot, while checking the recordings weren't dead, and juggling the glasses, which were definitely a waste of time in regular def (as I found out in the last 1/4)

I'm guessing I would have liked the episode better if I'd been able to pay more attention to it and actually been able to follow what was going on - the Prison Breakishness of the tatoo made me miss the explanation of what it was, and I couldn't rewind... but mostly, even though they may have replayed the Santa Claus closer, I'd forgotten about it, and didn't realize why Chuck was having nightmares till you just told me.

As for the actual 3D in hi-def or whatever, it was rather cool (in lo-def, I couldn't see what the fuss is about and I was wondering if I was unable to see 3D like Ken Levine.)

Maybe now that I can follow the plot, the next time will be better (it would be better if they reran it on NBC tomorrow - I don't know if my computer can handle streaming that well).

As it was, I had forgotten where we were, so I hadn't been waiting for the fallout.

The only thing I want to know (other than anything Scott-related, but not spoilerish) is whether - if they are cancelled - they will get the chance to wrap up. And they can't know that either.

And come to think of it - oh never mind, Ellie and Awesome *were* there.

How about - what's the deal with Anna?

And did you know that the CIA (or is NSA?) lady is the wife of Dr Phlox from Enterprise? I don't know if I've mentioned that. It probably was never relevant to anything.

I so hope that NBC doesn't cancel it.
And I have a friend who was trying to squeeze 4 shows in this slot - Gossip Girl, House, Chuck and some hourlong something I forget

Pamela Jaye said...

Dan has an interview with Josh and it looks like they are shooting Scott's eps currently, based on the comment:

Scott Bakula, thus far, has been terrific and just reminds you every day of why that guy has always been a great actor.

Pamela Jaye said...

did anyone mention that Mo Ryan has an interview too?

Dan had a link.

markp said...

Sarah and Chuck kept talking about what it means to be a spy, as if Chuck was a spy. And Sarah and Casey left Tyler with Chuck as if he was equipped to detain a guy. And in the ending Sarah and Casey were leaving Chuck alone as if he could take care of himself. It just seemed weird. I can understand why they'd retool the show that way since Chuck always saves the day, but he's not an agent. He has no training in anything. I guess next week's episode will answer whether they intend to keep up this approach, but maybe it is a question you can ask at the Con. Has Chuck been promoted to honorary spy on the show?

Michael said...

Here's how the NYCC describes the "Chuck" panel, 11:15am Sunday:

Chuck co-creator/executive producer Josh Schwartz and co-creator Chris Fedak, along with cast member Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker), make their first appearance at New York Comic Con for a Q&A to discuss the second season of the popular action-comedy and to screen an extended trailer created especially for the NYCC audience. All of the footage is from the second half of the season and will be seen here for the first time. This glimpse into the future of Chuck will include the likes of Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula, lots of action, a bit of romance and maybe a few other surprises. Airing Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC, the one-hour series stars Zachary Levi as Chuck Bartowski, an everyman whose life is thrown into disarray after his friend, a CIA agent, sends him an e-mail that results in the world's secrets being embedded in his mind. Overnight, this mild-mannered computer genius has a new career as the government's most vital secret agent.

Anthony Foglia said...

I tried the 3-D for as long as I could, but it hurts my eyes. Maybe it's because I wear prescription glasses, and glasses on top of glasses doesn't work. I might try a little on NBC.com, instead of the standard-definition DirectTV KNBC feed.

Oddly, I thought the 3-D of the donut was one of the few good 3-D effects. And the 3-D here was much better than in the Super Bowl ads. They didn't look 3-D at all.

Another NBC show gets a new credit sequence for its post Super Bowl airing. Just some extra background images, that I hope they only use for the 3-D episode.

dez said...

I hated how the glasses gave everything a sickly pall

I noticed that pall, too, and I watched in SD without the glasses (never could find a pair--sold out everywhere I checked--hope that translates into high ratings for the show!).

Man, Jeff can be a disgusting person, can't he?

Zachary said...

I watched the episode with the glasses on and was disappointed with the execution. Other than the obvious effects, nothing popped out. Of course, that didn't prevent me from watching the opening sequence 5 times in a row.

The various references had me laughing my head off, especially the Zajuateneo is Mexican for Philadelphia. I guess it would have been too much for it to stand for Pittsburgh. I saw the AD one coming a mile away, but laughed anyways.

Jeff is one disgusting man. I hope that was a new urinal cake and not a used one.

Since YS is the #1 reason I watch the show, you can call me:

Sarah Slobberer. :)

Stylist Mick said...

There was a similar running gag in "Bachelor Party" (possibly the most underrated movie of Tom Hanks' career) where a couple's romantic getaway kept being interrupted by the surprise appearance of a naked, terrified Cole, who was dropped from a hotel window."

Maybe I'm a closet stoner but I thought of the scene in Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams when Cheech escapes the badass Mexican boyfriend of the chick he had sex with... except he's naked and gross.

Cameron said...

That had to be a Chris Martin pardody. HAD to be.

The Back to The Future shout-out at the end was great, but I expected Casey to tranq Chuck for some peace and quiet while they saved the world.

Pamela Jaye said...

we may need to start "What Alan's Going to be Watching"

I did Chuck, then I came here, then - of all I had - I actually watched Jon & Kate Plus Eight (no comment)

And then, House - cause I heard the promo while trying to set something up earlier.

But no! It has to be HIMYM (and honestly, I should have known better - I haven't cared about House in quite a while, until about 2 episodes ago)

but hey, it's only ... nope, I ended Big Bang early and I'd have to see that first.

I could watch Chuck again... (I could also try to not kick a sleeping duck off my bed by accident)

Undercover Asian Man said...

I don't normally watch this show. I did for the first few episodes of Season 1 and the premiere of Season 2 but found the stories very repetitive. I watched this episode strictly because of the 3D gimmick, so from the perspective of drawing in new viewers, it was successful in getting me to try it again.

Watched it on a 1080i HD screen, and the 3D effects were merely OK. I found the scene where two people were sitting across from each other and the desk between them extended towards me to be good, and the morning scene with the sister and her boyfriend had good depth too, but otherwise there were too many scenes where depth perception didn't really matter (like two characters just talking to each other). The red/blue makes everything appear psychedelic and I could feel my eyes and brain tiring at the 30 minute mark. I did stick it out and watch the whole thing in 3D, but I do wonder if the headache-inducing nature of the glasses did more harm than good for those new to this show.

As for the show itself, it is very much the same as when I stopped watching, but executed much better. Yes, the spy stuff is so simplistic that they always solve it in 24-48 hours of part time work. Yes, Chuck and Sarah are STILL pining at the camera for each other whenever they can. Yes, the Buy More crew are still over the top wacky and uninteresting. But the woman who plays Sara has gotten much better at acting as a spy, and the action and comedy seemed to move better.

According to Alan's write-up, this episode was kind of an exception in that the Buy More crew did NOT play much of a role in the spy case, and that is how I remember it being when I stopped watching. What I saw tonight made me wonder why the even bother with the Buy More, other than slapstick comedy. It is completely two different shows going on in parallel, and they don't even pretend Chuck and that short guy are best friends anymore. Do they ever do scenes together? The Buy More is completely superfluous to the show and, unless you really like the characters from the Buy More (I don't, they are too one-note), I don't see why fans would want them to stay.

Chuck could be more interesting if they dropped the whole Buy More charade anyway. I never understood why they couldn't give Chuck a better phony job as cover instead of making him keep a real one with real demands and real working hours when it really doesn't provide Chuck good cover (danger seems to come anyway, like the guy bringing in a grenade to the store). Wouldn't the show be much better if Chuck decides to embrace the spy world and become a trainee? They could keep his bumbling and incompetence while he trained with Sarah as his teacher, and then the spy stuff could last more than a virtual day or two and have more interesting cases. Having the central characters' lives revolve around the Buy More is the story telling albatross around the neck of this show.

So my question for Josh Schwartz, even though I am not a fan and probably don't deserve a question, is: Have you ever considered having Chuck leave the Buy More behind and embrace becoming a junior spy? It could reinvigorate the storylines and cut down production costs by limiting the cast to those core character people care most about.

I probably won't watch more Chuck since I've already seen the remaining episodes. Without spoiling things, I can tell you that they are all the same as the ones I've seen in the past, save for some slight name changes for villains.

Pamela Jaye said...

definitely better the second time.

dvlman said...

I can't see 3D. I got the glasses to check if anything's changed, but I just saw a half amber/half blue picture and a lot of blurry stuff. Oh, well.

I had one of those '90s 3D pictures on the wall of my apartment in college, but I never saw the picture inside it even once. In three years. It was incredibly frustrating.

ap said...

For the Chuck panel, can you ask the creators/producers who picks the show's music? Beyond the more noticeable music, they've had some great indie songs backing episodes including artists like The Republic Tigers and Bon Iver. (I've heard at least three songs finishing out episodes that I recognized from Paste Magazine's CD samplers.)

Pamela Jaye said...

thanks, Michael, for the Comic-Con update. I've passed it on, on my site and the Bakula Board I hang out on.

Hopefully there will be a good turnout.

yeah, that will be a question from me, for Alan - how was the turnout?

Setting aside what I had to do to my DVR to get all my shows tonight - what about those *less* motivated? That timeslot is just brutal!
Hey! Let's put House up against Chuck! Who's stupid idea was that?
(sadly - in a way - I have just started to be interested in House again - for the first time since Survivor and the Amber Arc. Before that, I hadn't been interested since I don't remember when. Season 1 I guess. Maybe when Stacy left. gee, I hope that didn't spoil any House fans)

Pamela Jaye said...

Sarah and Chuck kept talking about what it means to be a spy, as if Chuck was a spy. And Sarah and Casey left Tyler with Chuck as if he was equipped to detain a guy. And in the ending Sarah and Casey were leaving Chuck alone as if he could take care of himself. It just seemed weird.

Thank you!

I thought those things at the time but forgot by the time I got here.
Chuck is to be protected at all times *and* many, if not most, of the show's cases come from something to do with Chuck (either being in danger or flashing on something). Cases aren't usually "assigned" (and probably shouldn't be - it's a bit of a distraction from Guard Chuck Duty.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

What I saw tonight made me wonder why the even bother with the Buy More

Again, this episode was an exception. The majority if episodes this year have in some way tied the spy and Buy More stories together at the end, often with the Buy More characters inadvertently providing Chuck with the solution to a spy problem. And several episodes ("Chuck vs Tom Sawyer," "Chuck vs. Santa Claus") took place almost entirely at the Buy More, with lots of interaction between Chuck and the other characters, including Morgan.

Bobman said...

I had one of those '90s 3D pictures on the wall of my apartment in college, but I never saw the picture inside it even once. In three years. It was incredibly frustrating.

It was a schooner.

Anonymous said...

The couple in the elevator wasn't the one by the poolside in "Chuck vs. the Seduction".

They were the couple in the room above Sasha Banacek's.

Chuck surprised them when he climbed up on their balcony instead of jumping off Sasha's balcony which Roan Montgomery told him to do.

Anonymous said...

The question I'd like you to ask is whether the producers fear moving Chuck and Sarah's romance forward.

The way Schwartz and Fedak seem to be playing with the couple, it's become a distraction. Apparently the next few episodes are going to have the romance on the back burner, so to speak, so I wonder why they couldn't have moved them dramatically forward and played it down in the upcoming episodes.

Chaddogg said...

Another cool pop culture reference: I believe the elevator/hotel they were in for the fight scene with Chuck hanging from the outside of the elevator was the same hotel for the final shootout in "In the Line of Fire."

Alan Sepinwall said...

The couple in the elevator wasn't the one by the poolside in "Chuck vs. the Seduction".

They were the couple in the room above Sasha Banacek's.


Whoops. I had forgotten that Chuck surprised two different couples in that one episode and mashed them up in my head. Will go fix now.

belinda said...

"No touching!" was a definite nice touch. :D

Questions that are terribly worded:-

-Do the Buy More gang do a lot of ad-libs for the show?

- I can understand why there seems to be a huge decrease in the male bonding between Chuck and Morgan this season, but I do miss the times when they just hang together as really good friends. (Which we do get a sense of, but Chuck's always off in the spy stuff and Morgan with his buy more gang. When would we actually see Chuck work at Buy More and have a long-ish conversation with Morgan?

- Ever since Anna made it into the opening credits as a regular cast, it seems like she's suddenly all but disappeared from the Buy More. Will Anna be back in the show regularly ever?

Jennifer said...

I think Anna's pretty much gone due to lack of budget, I seem to recall reading it somewhere that they only can afford to have her in once in a while.

I watched it on Hulu, 3-D version (the one that popped up in my queue, I didn't know there was a 2-D). I never saw the dang glasses anywhere. I will second the "eh, it's a little fuzzy, but not bad" effect.

As for the episode itself...meh. I just wasn't into doing Chuck 1.0 for the noobs, I guess. It was unfortunate timing that they had to go there right now. And I don't really give a shit about "the 3-D episode" whenever a show does one.

Who noticed that they flat out call Chuck a spy in this one, though?

Marsha said...

3D glasses hurt my eyes and I didn't see anything in the show that made them necessary. Although the opening credits, which I'm assuming were NOT supposed to be in 3D, looked awesome - because of the red/black/white color scheme I guess?

Otherwise, Alan, you summed it up for me completely.

KM said...

The episode was fun as usual! I watched the whole thing without 3d glasses since I couldn't find one from where I live but I still enjoyed it. I might watch the 2D version on hulu again just so it will be in better quality for my eyes.

Oh and on the NBC site Chuck wont be on next week? (I hope its wrong) I dunno the ratings for this episode but I'm sure NBC is expecting that it will be better than the show's average. So why will NBC take Chuck away again right after promoting the hell out of the show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Very good news (sort of): according to the early Nielsen numbers, "Chuck" did its best demo numbers of the season, and one of its best demo numbers ever, despite increased competition from "House" and the shockingly still-viable "The Bachelor." And the numbers didn't appreciably drop at the half-hour mark.

It still finished fourth in the timeslot, but if it can find its audience in spite of the competition all doing what they do (the CBS comedies also did well, as usual), then I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about renewal.

You never know what's going on at NBC these days, and, of course, the numbers may be artificially inflated by the Super Bowl ads and the 3-D, but at least the promotion worked, where massive promotion during the Summer Olympics didn't generate any significant ratings increase for any of NBC's shows.

We'll see how the numbers are next week, but this is a promising start to 2009.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh and on the NBC site Chuck wont be on next week? (I hope its wrong)

No, it's on next week. Like I said yesterday, it's running straight through from now until April.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Actually, maybe it isn't on next week. Let me look into this. Bizarre.

MattB said...

Is there any actual source or basis for these cancellation rumors (a statement from someone at NBC, or anything like that), or is all the talk here just simply based on the fear of it being cancelled?

Alan Sepinwall said...

There aren't any "cancellation rumors." The show has a full-season order (and is produced by an outside studio, making it difficult for NBC to cut back on it the way they can and have with NBC/Universal shows), and it does what it does in its timeslot (albeit better than usual last night). Barring something strange, it's going to make it through the end of this season.

What people are speculating about is whether NBC will renew it for next year. And there are several factors that have people uncertain about the show's future:

1)The Jay Leno deal takes away five hours of primetime real estate next season. That means both new series in development and current shows on the bubble have five fewer potential landing spots.

2)The ratings, while steady, are modest. Again, even on a strong night like last night, it finished fourth, albeit in a killer timeslot.

3)NBC doesn't own it and therefore doesn't make as much money on it as they do on NBC/Universal shows. (On the flip side, "Chuck" costs them a lot less than a show they produce in-house.)

4)Also, Angela Bromstad, the new president of NBC entertainment, came from the NBC studio, and she has an emotional attachment to shows she developed there (including bubble shows like "Life" and "Friday Night Lights") that she doesn't have with "Chuck." She's not the final decision-maker, but I don't know that Angela's going to be fighting hard in the room for "Chuck" come decision time.

So there's a lot of reasons for the uncertainty. I remain hopeful, but I've been burned plenty of times in my career falling for shows like this.

barefootjim said...

I really liked the fact that Chuck confronted Sarah in this episode, without it being dragged out for several episodes.

And how great would it have been had Tyler called Chuck "Charlie" all night? It would have been not just a "Lost" reference, but a Peanuts shout-out as well.

Zachary said...

A few questions for the Comic Con panel:

Yvonne, what was it like to use your natural accent in "Chuck vs. The Ex?"

Chuck and Josh, any chance we can see the entire speech as an extra on the DVD?

Chuck and Josh: What's the deal with Anna?

drake lelane said...

I actually liked the 3-D, but you really have to have it in true HD (at least 720p for smaller tv/monitors, 1080p for larger widescreen tvs,) otherwise it will look a bit fuzzy (due to the extra lines of visual data to interpret).

Even watching it on the higher quality (480p) stream via HULU at the presented dimensions (640x360) was a fun experience. (Do not go fullscreen.)

I have noticed as well that NBC's sked for next Monday is Chuck-less...

Andrew said...

For the Chuck panel, can you ask the creators/producers who picks the show's music?

Alex Patsavas is the music supervisor on Chuck (a role she also filled on The OC). And Chuck does use some very inspired musical choices.

Marty said...

Butterman...anyone get the reference? If have a vague memory of Paul Gleason saying it in one of his roles, but I can't place it. Or I could be way off base...

Pamela Jaye said...

Actually, maybe it isn't on next week. Let me look into this. Bizarre.

The networks are trying to drive Alan nuts ;-) (is Scrubs still on tonight?)

thanks for those encouraging ratings - whatever they were - i can never sort them out as every network finds a way t say *they* won.
Hopefully we can keep some of the newbies, and maybe they'll even promote Scott like they do with their stunt casting? It could be "the Sexiest Chuck Ever!"

(my friend kept all the NBC promos for Quantum Leap - which I, not being into the show, ignored - she showed me them, after I got into the show (and met her) and I, having seen the episodes in question, found them vastly amusing. *All* of them seemed to be "The SEXIEST Quantum Leap Ever!")

Pamela Jaye said...

Oh good, it's Alex. She does the music for Grey's and who knows who all else. She's very good, and I believe, everyone is trying to gt their music to her.
And Apparently she's very very good cause Grey's sounds like Grey's and Chuck sounds like Chuck.
I guess I could wikipedia to see what else she does.

Who does Mad Men?
West Wing and Once and Again both got Snuffy what's his name and TWW was always good.

drake lelane said...

Patsavas also does Mad Men... but it should be pointed out that not all music is picked out by her and staff. Often times it's a writer/director/showrunner who will have a song in mind and it's the music supervisor's job to secure the rights. David Chase picked the majority of the music for The Sopranos, for example, and likewise his former staff writer Matthew Weiner has his hand in a lot of Mad Men music choices.

Anonymous said...

Question for Yvonne:

-Is there anything (romantic) going on between yourself and your co-star, Zacahry Levi?

(They'd make the cutest couple ever. ^-^)

Question for Josh & Chris:

-Will there be another Chuck/Sarah kiss? And by kiss I mean a proper kiss, and not just a peck.

sarabones said...

Question for Yvonne:
- Why are you so hot? (hahaha)
- Any upcoming projects for her?
- How good is to work with Zachary? And with Adam?

Well, I think I don't have no more questions to make LOL

Oh! Tell her to visit Chuck's board on www.fanforum.com .. To visit her thread.. She'll be pleased but also freaked out xD

No touching said...

"...which I thoroughly enjoyed, and the same goes for Alan's breakdown, as usual."

So sorry to hear about the breakdown. I hope you get better soon.

Wasn't there a House scene, maybe a dream sequence, where House is at a bar and orders "Beer. Beer brand beer"? Or the label on the bottle just says "Beer"?

My "Medium" 3D glasses did absolutely nothing to improve the quality. It was better without the 3D glasses.

Zach Haldeman said...

Chuck's ratings last night were practically the same as Heroes (a difference of .1 mil), and since NBC's probably gonna renew that one, it'd be rather rude if they didn't renew Chuck as well.

Mae said...

I think when it comes to ratings for Chuck, we should begin to speculate based on the next episode's ratings (w/o the gimmicks and added promotion from it). I hope the show maintains their new viewers from this past episode.

Pamela Jaye said...

yes, the bar where House wasa picked up by Amber had lots of Beer Brand beer

Antid Oto said...

Wasn't there a House scene, maybe a dream sequence, where House is at a bar and orders "Beer. Beer brand beer"? Or the label on the bottle just says "Beer"?

The first place I know of the gag is in Repo Man, where there's not only Beer brand beer but Cereal brand cereal, Food brand canned food, and Amyl Nitrate brand poppers.

Anonymous said...

As for comic con, I was wondering about the multiple movie references meaning Die Hard = Versus Santa Clause, My Favorite Year = Versus Seduction. How did this start? Did one writer do it once and now they all try? Personally, it would all go over my head if it weren't for this column and the comments, so its not necessary to get it to enjoy the show, but obviously many people get a kick out of it.

KM said...

True ^. I was born during the mid 80's and have seen only a few movies from that decade (Thank you HBO for those Molly Ringwald movies and Back to the Future). So I don't really get most of the movie references but it did not hinder how much I enjoy the show. Alan's reviews are a big help just to get to know what I missed or what I was able to get right.

Nathan said...

Question for Yvonne at NYC Comic Con:

You have been living in the United States for 2 years now. What is the most embarrassing cultural mistake you have made since living in America?

Pamela Jaye said...

from the interview between Dan and Josh:

How'd you react when you heard "House" was now also moving Monday nights?

I drove to the train tracks and considered laying down on them. I was very depressed. I didn't understand why Kevin Reilly would do that to us. He developed the show. But, you know, it made sense from their perspective and Preston Beckman at FOX has always made scheduling moves to hurt my feelings, whether I'm on FOX or not.

Anonymous said...

No touching!

This episode was worth it for that line along. My favorite Bluth-ism.

Alan Sepinwall said...

For anyone still reading at this point, I got to the bottom of the "Chuck" scheduling thing. Though the original plan was to have the show run without pre-emptions for the rest of the season, an Obama primetime address on Monday night is bumping the next episode to February 16th. That's unfortunate, since the show might lose all the momentum it got from the Super Bowl promos and the 3-D episode, but you can't fight City Hall, or the White House.

The good news is that this is going to extend the season by a couple of weeks. NBC will pre-empt (or show a rerun) one other time so that every new episode of Chuck airs on the same night that there's a new episode of Heroes.

The Rush Blog said...

As much as I really like Sarah, she really did not have an excuse for killing Mauser. She had committed cold blooded murder over a possible future. There was no certainty that Mauser would have carried out this threat. Sarah didn't know if he would have succeeded. Neither did Mauser.

The interesting thing is when Sarah made excuses for herself, she pretty much bulldozed her way through Chuck's protests . . . especially after he brought up the fact that she had shot and killed an unarmed man. Now that Chuck has accepted her excuses, he has pretty much made himself an accessory to Sarah's act of murder.

filmcricket said...

Alan, if you're still reading this at all, I have a couple of questions for the panel:

-what is Fulcrum's end-game with the Intersect? They appear to want to capture, rather than kill, Bryce (and Chuck), but they blew up the new version of it.

-do Sarah, Casey and General Redhead know that Bryce updated Chuck's files, so to speak?

-are we ever going to see any kind of emotional fall-out from Tony Todd's death, considering he was Sarah's mentor?

-is Chuck ever going to get any kind of self-defence training, given that - as this week amply demonstrated - Casey and Sarah are apparently okay with leaving him alone and unprotected?

Not Really a Feminist said...

I think all the slo-mo sequences are great, but a quick question for Strahovski – her beauty’s obviously an asset to the show, both for storytelling and marketing purposes, but does she ever feel like the focus on her looks is overdone or exploitative? And is there anything she’s been uncomfortable with or had to veto?

Anonymous said...

Sarah Walker is a character on the British show Coupling ... can you ask if they got her name from that show?

Fulcrum Double Agent said...

Questions for Yvonne Strahovski at NYC Comic Con:

1. Zach once left a "special present" for Joshua in his trailer. What pranks have you played or have been played on you on set?

2. You once stated that you have "man hands." List some other fun facts about yourself.

3. What is your strangest or most memorable encounter with a fan? A proposal from a fan? A request for an autograph/pic in the rest room?

Pamela Jaye said...

Sarah Walker is also a character on Brothers & Sisters

Poetry_in_Motion said...

? for Yvonne:

Your character, Sarah Walker, has several secrets regarding her past life--such as her real name. What is one secret that none of your co-stars knows about regarding your past life in Australia?

Grace said...

@ Nathan, that's a pretty good question!

Q for Yvonne: In an episode last season, you briefly had the chance to use your Polish. Can you tell us how to correctly pronounce your surname (ie. not your stage name)?