Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Chuck: Chris Fedak talks about the rest of season two

As promised last night, I spoke today with "Chuck" co-creator Chris Fedak about the revelations from last night's episode, where the rest of the season is going (don't worry: no real spoilers, except for last night's show), and what, if anything, fans can do to help influence NBC to order a third season.

How long ago did you decide that Chuck's father would be the creator of the Intersect?

We were on that page last season. At the earliest consideration of the show and the idea of who Chuck is, we thought about the mythology and asked ourselves: is Chuck Peter Parker or is he Luke Skywalker? Is he someone who randomly stumbled into this, or someone who was destined to get this power? For Chuck Bartowski, even though his father's kept him away from it, that is the family business. It was a decision we made early on, going back to the conception of the series.

Well, while most of the reaction to last night's show has been positive, there have definitely been people saying they'd much rather you stuck with the Peter Parker model.

I think the conceit of our show, going back to the Hellmouth logic of "Buffy," is in some ways there's a whirlpool of espionage that surrounds Chuck. It only goes so far -- there won't be a time where you find out that Ellie or Captain Awesome are spies as well -- but there are things about his backstory, the idea that there was this larger story involving Stanford and Bryce and Jill, and Chuck is in some ways the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of that story. Our story is about a guy who, in most spy stories, isn't the hero of the story, but in this crazy tale, he is.

How does knowing what we now know about Chuck's dad change the series? Or does it?

I don't know if it exactly changes the series. Chuck is still a regular guy, other than his gifts of intelligence. He has regular guy dreams: to be with the girl he loves, to have a family. In some ways, the spy life is still pulling away from being the regular guy. I think that he does have potential. People talk about the fact that Chuck is slowly but surely getting better at this spy life, his skills are improving. We've always looked at the show as the origin of a hero. We're getting the first taste.

Well, there's that scene last night where Chuck's dad shows him that the Intersect is more powerful than he had realized, which is a staple of a lot of Joseph Campbell-style hero stories.

That's a big moment. Since Stephen Bartowski was the designer of all the cool stuff in the Intersect, we knew that he would know more about the way it works. In the script, there's a term we use called the Feistel code, Chuck has the ability, when he looks at that monitor, he can see the code and figure out how to get the door open. There's definitely kind of secrets and possibilities within that knowledge.

Without spoiling much, what can you tell me about the rest of the season and how it's going to end.

We're ending the season with a big game-changer that essentially redesigns the show for next season. Pushes us off into new territory.

(Some spoilers for next week's episode, "Chuck vs. the First Kill," redacted.)

Then episode 221 is "Chuck vs. the Colonel." For episode 221, we thought the episode is so big, has so many huge things in it, from an emotional as well as espionage in it, that we were worried people would thin it was the season finale. It's a huge episode. Our final episode, "Chuck vs. the Ring," is even bigger than that. There's even a point where you see an actual kitchen sink fly through frame.

If "Chuck vs. the Ring" winds up being the last episode of the series, how do you think the fans will react?

They're going to burn their living rooms. They're going to destroy their television sets. There could be chaos across the country.

My feeling is I always love endings that get you excited about the next part of the story. Even if, God forbid, we weren't brought back for the season, you would know there are great adventures out there going on for Chuck Bartowski, but it's not something I can wrap my head around. I want to be able to tell those stories.

Do you have an idea on what those stories will be?

We have most of the season broken. One of the things we really work on in the show is breaking out the seasons from a story perspective, from a one big story perspective. We definitely have a template for the whole show, how we would want to end season three. We've pitched it to the network and the studio and they love it.

What's it going to take for the show to come back, then?

It's the television gods in some ways. We're going to have to work with, hopefully our fans and critics can keep the drumbeat going, helping people realize how much people enjoy the show. NBC has been a real ally of the show. They're big fans of it. It's not like it's been one of those relationships where we've constantly been at odds with the nework. They love the story we're telling. There's a lot of good wishes and good feelings towards the show.

You said before that you like to break each season from the perspective of one big story. What would you say the story of seaso two has been?

I think the story is a kind of boy becomes man, in the simplest sense. Chuck, from the get go, has realized he wanted his old life back. He's wanted a life that other people could have, but being a spy has forced him down another road. With the realization that his father created the Intersect, and all that he's managed to do with Sarah and Casey, maybe there's a bit of a hero in this guy.

There was that game-changing episode a few weeks ago where Chuck takes the "Tron" poster off his wall and we realize he's been secretly working all this time to get the Intersect out of his head. How long ago did that come up?

At the beginning of seasons, we get the staff together and start talking about the general shape of the season. The "Tron" poster was something we talked about at that first meeting, as well as Chuck putting on the glasses in episode three so Bryce Larkin could give him the Intersect software upgrade. We knew we'd want Jill coming back into the story. Then we had the second half, which we knew would be focused around the return of Chuck's dad. And we knew we would finally have the Ellie and Awesome wedding. We knew we would have Ellie and Awesome getting married -- how that would affect Chuck, and Chuck trying to bring dad home. In next week's episode, we also have an escalation inside the Buy More story, with Morgan and Emmitt and Big Mike. Changes inside the Buy More are coming that are almost as big as the ones happening to Chuck.

Speaking of the Buy More, can you talk about the challenge of finding room for those stories every week?

There's three sets of stories. There's the Chuck spy story, the Buy More story and the Ellie and Awesome story. Based on the Chuck story, we figure out how the B story is going to fold into it. Last night was such a big Chuck story that there was very little Buy More in last night's episode. I think that that made sense. But there was also the Ellie and Awesome story was essentially the B story of that episode. Usually, we like to make the stories thematically tied together, so Morgan is having an issue inside the Buy More that Chuck is dealing with, be it trust, or growing up, or making life choices.

Fulcrum now knows that Chuck works at this Buy More where they've lost so many agents, that he was Bryce Larkin's roommate in college and dated Jill at the same time, and now they know that his father created the Intersect. At what point is someone in Fulcrum HQ going to do the math on this?

I think if you look at it from the Fulcrum perspective. Because we have so much story to tell in each episode, what we don't do is the scene where you cut back to the bad guy lair and hear them discussing their plans. Every time they've sent an agent inside the Buy More, they've lost that team; they look at the Buy More as a CIA station, probably everyone inside that store is a spy. In our next couple of episodes you're going to start seeing the Fulcrum plan come into focus.

Is there anything fans can do to help the show come back?

We're always looking at how fan reactions are to how episodes end.. I'd say just get the word out, tell friends and family to watch the show, as well as making their voices heard. Fans can be so helpful in getting the word out, letting people know how great the show is.

Well, do you think there's still the possibility of sending lots of one item to NBC, or did the "Jericho" situation kind of ruin that for fans of every other show?

Our fans are a creative bunch out there, so if they have any great ideas, go for it. Obviously, the "Jericho" fans took nuts and ran with that. Maybe there is a great idea, so yeah.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently this season?

We couldn't be happier with our season. Working on "Chuck," and with Josh and our writers and our cast and crew, it is a lot of fun and a great show to work on. We couldn't be happier with the season that we've created. We just look forward to doing more episodes in the future.

47 comments:

Zack Smith said...

Great interview! I was sort of enjoying Season Two as an all-out Alamo stand for the series, but the last few weeks and this talk convince me they could top themselves next year.

I was curious to find out about how last night's incident with the webcams might affect Chuck in the real world, but you covered a lot of ground with the interview overall. Did Fedak mention anything about that, though?

Justin Finnegan said...

If I had to pick anything to send to NBC to support Chuck, it would be Nerds candy-- serving as a tribute to the Nerd Herd, as well as a sly reference to the shows constant homage to '80's pop culture.

Matt said...

I love how excited and unapologetic Fedak is about his show and the choices that have been made. I'll join the choir and say that this season has been one of the most consistently enjoyable seasons of television I've ever seen - and I hope that NBC realizes that they've got a good thing on their hands with this show, and lets it go for at least another season.

Rachel said...

Great interview, Alan. I'm looking forward to the last few episodes of the season even more now. I feel confident that Chuck is coming back.

I just wish the term "game-changer" would be banned from any discussion of TV shows.

amysusanne said...

Great interview!

I know it's usually just BS spin, but I like to think that NBC really *does* love "Chuck" and that maybe that'll get us at least one more season. Afterall, this is the network that loved "Ed" and "American Dreams" and neither of those shows ever had huge numbers, just network support and small but loyal fanbases.

Pamela Jaye said...

I have to ask this before I forget it.
Does Hulu post ratings? Or most watched? Or anything?

Relatedly, a friend watched Chuck for the first time last night (she usually watches House - which, yes, I have not gotten to (i'm getting spoilerred on *facebook*)). Really liked it and plans to watch the next eps on Hulu, so she'll be counted. Will she? I know no one is counting me watching on NBC - my DVR is homemade...

Dio said...

"If I had to pick anything to send to NBC to support Chuck, it would be Nerds candy-- serving as a tribute to the Nerd Herd, as well as a sly reference to the shows constant homage to '80's pop culture."

If you want ideas on how to help Chuck you can go here!

http://chucktv.net/about-2/chuck-campaign-watchbuyshare/

Great interview! I'm glad Chris says that NBC loves the show and all. It gives me a little tiny winy bit more hope for another season, even tho, numbers usually speaks louder for network.

55 said...

"Chuck is in some ways the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of that story"

Wow, props on the Hamlet reference.

How about everyone send in their Subway receipts? (the sandwich store, not the mode of transportation)

cgeye said...

"going back to the Hellmouth logic of "Buffy," --

I KNEW there was Hellmouth flava about everything wrapping inevitably around Chuck, felt it since the nest-of-Stanford spies ep. Now it's official, but how will they deal with Ellie, Awesome, and everyone else not a spy in Chuck's life? Do they get co-opted, dead, protected, witness-protected?

That tension between the spylife and civilian life is the theme of this decade, and I'm praying Fedak, et al. don't frak it up as 24 did soon after Jack's daughter joined CTU.

As for saving CHUCK, if it's hit its target audience we won't be able to avoid campaigns for it -- some of those dudes know how to hack OSs, too...

Karen said...

I love this show so much; it just gives me great pleasure to read its creator talking about it with such fondness and intelligence and passion.

I will be VERY VERY ANGRY if there is no season three.

dark tyler said...

How long ago did you decide that Chuck's father would be the creator of the Intersect?

We were on that page last season.


So were we.

I think the conceit of our show, going back to the Hellmouth logic of "Buffy"

That's an amazing example, especially since neither Buffy's mom or dad had anything to do with magic. Quite the very opposite, in fact.

the idea that there was this larger story involving Stanford and Bryce and Jill, and Chuck is in some ways the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of that story.

This one though is very cool, indeed.


Very informative interview, Alan, thanks.

May said...

I religiously read your Chuck write-ups but have never felt compelled to comment. Thanks for the interview; interesting to see Buffy, Spider-man, Luke Skywalker, and Hamlet all involved. I love that they breakdown everything *before* the season instead of flying by the seat of their pants. It shows.

I really will go ballistic if Chuck isn't renewed.

Kate said...

Great interview!!!
Thank you!

J said...

is Chuck Peter Parker or is he Luke Skywalker?

Thanks for the interview. And I guess I'm sorry I fall on the wrong end of this? I would prefer tighter scripts and a looser concept; Chuck was important to me as a regular, underachieving guy realizing his potential (not as, like, Jesus, but as a 21st-c worker bee), and introducing Chosen One stuff really dilutes that.

I was more than willing to suspend belief that stuff was always happening to him because (a) they would send him out on missions and (b) because without it there wouldn't be a show. Destiny is dramatically self-important. It's not fun. (Lost is an exception because no one can figure out the goals.)

Anonymous said...

Chuck's Dad created the intersect? That's too much. Alan, I DVR'd this show last night based on your advice, but this is just ridiculous. If the writers had set up for this I would be on board, but it's too much of a jump in logic that Chuck ended up with it. And "destiny" is such a cheap cope out. I won't be watching last night's episode after all. And I won't be supporting a season 3 if this is how the writers are handling the story. Fedak should be banned from the mythology.

Anonymous said...

I agree with J. Fedak has been ruining this show and that's why the ratings continue to decline. Season One was perfect. Chuck as a "chosen one" is outlandish, at best. Must everyone be a Luke Skywalker... can't Chuck just be John Q. Public?

When Fedak is sitting around thinking what went wrong, I submit this interview and episode.

Anonymous said...

Well, while most of the reaction to last night's show has been positive, there have definitely been people saying they'd much rather you stuck with the Peter Parker model.

I think the conceit of our show, going back to the Hellmouth logic of "Buffy," is in some ways there's a whirlpool of espionage that surrounds Chuck. It only goes so far -- there won't be a time where you find out that Ellie or Captain Awesome are spies as well -- but there are things about his backstory, the idea that there was this larger story involving Stanford and Bryce and Jill, and Chuck is in some ways the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of that story. Our story is about a guy who, in most spy stories, isn't the hero of the story, but in this crazy tale, he is.


And the reason he can't be more Peter Parker is... ???

amysusanne said...

>>Chuck's Dad created the intersect? That's too much. Alan, I DVR'd this show last night based on your advice, but this is just ridiculous. If the writers had set up for this I would be on board, but it's too much of a jump in logic that Chuck ended up with it.<<

Obviously people are split on this one as far as what they *wanted* to happen, but I don't understand what you mean when you say that it would be an acceptable way to go if the writers had set it up that way. Ignoring that he and Schwartz both say they did, the majority of the posters here have seen that reveal coming for quite a long time. Love it or hate it, I don't think it's something that came out of nowhere. The assumption for a long time was that Dad was "involved", then when Orion became a thing, the leap was that *he* was Dad. Not a lot of folks were surprised by it when it finally came to be.

Dio said...

You don't always have to follow your "destiny" if you have one. Most boring stories tend to go that route where the hero choose to blindly follow it, but we all know Chuck doesn't want to. Of course if the show continue in season 3 he will have to continue to be a spy, but not necessarily because it was his "destiny". Everyone has a "skill" and eventually follows a path, but it's what they do with it and why they do it that is interesting.

Anonymous said...

Amy, I did see it coming, which almost made it worse because it made it so easy and predicatble. I guess I was just hoping they wouldn't go there. I actually stopped watching/caring after the Jill is a spy thing.It's all such a 180 from the pilot and set-up... too much of a stretch for me, sorry.

In fact, the whole show is too much of a stretch... from Buymore to Chuck's ex's to now Chuck's dad. I actually like the episodes where Fedak isn't involved, the non-mythology episodes. But I'm afraid this whole mess with his dad has screwed all that up. I miss Chuck as the everyday guy, not the next "chosen one." Sigh... Sorry guys, I was willing to give it another chance, but I think it's over for me.

amysusanne said...

That's the way I see it. Chuck not only wants out, but Dad was apparently more than willing to help him get out (at least wrt the intersect) so I think it's wide open. What Chuck wants, what Chuck gets and what part Chuck plays in this whole "destiny" thing doesn't have to follow a strict outline of how these things are supposed to work.

Anonymous said...

Amy, it's not so much what I wanted to happen, like I said I stopped caring about this show really after season one, but what I didn't want to see happen... which was something so force that it is stupid, IMO.

amysusanne said...

Previous post was obviously in reply to Dio.

Anonymous, (I'm sorry, I have no idea which anonymous you are, so I'm not sure what your previous point was), I respect your opinion on that completely. I like it. I assume that I would accept it if it went the other way, but I probably wouldn't like it as much.

Though I don't really understand why Fedak is taking the biggest hit for the mythology when Schwartz was not only part of outlining the season, but also likes to run his mouth (in a good way, imo) excitedly about the mythology of the series.

Pamela Jaye said...

I hadn't had a chance yet to read this interview and then my friend Kay called and it was like she was reading this to me and I was reading GMMR to her... (and then suddendly we were giggling about crop circles that she says were my idea (but not Chuck related))

also the Bakula fans are ecstatic about the promo for online eps of Quantum Leap which they all already have on DVD (and so do I - but we really want to be "counted somehow)

I've digressed. but not as much as usual.

Pamela Jaye said...

are Tron posters hard to find?

someone tell NBC that the big hit series sequel to the movie Mr & Mrs Smith is actually Chuck. Spies & romance! (never saw the movie, don't like the stars ad have a grudge due to Scott's series of the same name. in fact, after QL & the Pretender I took a big chance with Chuck, trusting NBC. Then again, I dd with Journeyman too. Thought they might be going for a trifecta. I just didn't watch Heroes)

Brian said...

It's interesting that the writers have waited until now to really kickstart the mythology of the show. I'm happy about it because the middle of this season was really sagging with all the Chuck-Sarah romantic anguish. Even if you disagree with the choice to make Chuck's dad the designer of the Intersect, it's still an interesting choice, and one with potential to take the show in surprising directions, which is more than can be said of the 'shipper drama (seems like they're finally taking a cue from The Office, which got damn good at backgrounding the Jim-Pam stuff once it threatened to become saccharine or distracting).

It seems like the writers are pacing themselves well and we'd probably be in for a truly Awesome third season. My only concern is that the most recent ep, which is the show's most mythology-heavy episode yet, was also the least funny ep of the season. The question is, can they balance heavy mythology with comedy? I didn't laugh out loud once during this episode, even though I really enjoyed it (although I did emit a "HA!" at Bakula's "Oh boy").

David said...

I thought th dad angle was great. It offers a view into the tough choices people have to make and the consequences of those choices. It's not just the hero that can suffer, but those around him. I know other shows have done this, but having his dad having made the choice to protect family over self and the consequences of that choice on the family further complicates the decisions Chuck mustake. It also adds some idea of what's to come in Chuck's life unless he can somehow avoid the result that his dad ended up with. If you merely want everyday guy becomes reluctant hero, rent North by Northwest. One of the bestovies of all time. A TV series, however, has to lastlore than two hours and requires more depth which is what this storyline offers.

A question for Alan: did you get the feeling that Fedak thinks that there is a real chance at a third season, or was he stating the company line of hope against hope?

Brian said...

Also, I was kind of shocked at how good Bakula was. Honestly, he's never had a role this juicy and he really sunk his teeth into it (Quantum Leap was more playacting than acting, and obviously his work on Enterprise was strictly from hunger).

JackiWhitford said...

Alan -

This is an awesome interview. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

I really like that Chris is so balanced and confident in the work his team has done.

Hopefully he will get the third season that Chuck (and us fans) deserve.

Pamela Jaye said...

Alan (or anyone),
there are probably three different Chuck threads by now and trying to figure out where to ask this...

When are the upfronts this year? Or is NBC going to do that stupid In Front thing? Or are they just going to pick a random date and then not tell us one way or the other.

Translation: how long is the not knowing going to last (at the longest)?
(I'd search for the answer here, but as I said, three threads and I don't know what NBC is calling it)

David said...

Pamela, I believe up fronts for NBC are May 5.

Pamela Jaye said...

thanks David

i've been so stuck between Chuck and the Gilmore Girls DVD that I haven't even watched House! Darn!

Q Ball said...

It's clear that Fedak is the driving force behind the mythology of the show and direction of the series.

I will be ecstatic if this show can transform from a fun show with great music to a must-see show in the same vein as Lost and Buffy.

I know people think this Chuck's Dad reveal has changed the how for the worse, but I honestly think Chuck is still the same reluctant hero he's always been. Just because his dad and ex-girlfriend are more involved with the Intersect than Chuck originally thought does not mean he is "the chosen one."

I feel this is a very good direction for the show. Just because there is starting to be some depth to Chuck does not mean the humor and charm of the show is gone.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fedak has been ruining this show and that's why the ratings continue to decline. Season One was perfect.

This kind of comment boggles my mind for two reasons:

1)Fedak co-created the show and, with Schwartz splitting his time with "Gossip Girl," is predominantly responsible for so much of what you loved about the first season.

2)Season One was "perfect"? Really? Really? I liked the first season quite a bit, but that was a show that was still just finding itself when the strike hit. Season two has been vastly improved in almost every way: better integration of Spy World and Nerd World, funnier jokes, better villains and/or guest stars, better dramatic moments, etc.

I'm not saying the chief creative force of a good show can't also be blamed when the show goes bad -- Lord knows I've piled on Shonda Rhimes and David Shore of late -- but you seriously preferred season one?

Anonymous said...

Great interview Alan. It sounds like Chris Fedak is cautiously optimistic about a season 3. I hope they get it, so that they can tell all the stories they have left to tell. I think he's right about the chaos that will occur if the show doesn't get renewed.

Alan, do you think the CW might pick up the show if NBC drops it. I've heard rumors.

OldDarth said...

Indeed the Second Season is far superior to the first. If one does not like that mythology the show has chosen that is fine. But it is a subjective choice and its unfair to then say the show was ruined by it. Especially if others like the choice or enjoy the show regardless.

The early reveal of PapaB is great and now allows time for Chuck to process this new information and reassess his life in light of it. Again the choice is obvious for Chuck if the series is to continue but it does not negate the drama of that journey.

It will be a treat to see Chuck juggle his everyman qualities against the cold environs of the spy world. All this, while helping Sarah step out from behind her shell and reveal her inner self as they build a relationship together.

Great fun and well worth watching.

Alan - when will you release the redacted portions of the First Kill? There is precious little in the way of info about this next episode and any sanitized nuggets of Intel you can throw our way before next Monday would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Lou

dark tyler said...

Alan, I can't speak for the rest of the people who prefer season 1, but since you asked, that's why I do:

The Buy More stuff has been an ongoing annoyance, the romantic angst is obvious and repetitive, and the huge plotholes have started to become a problem from the moment the show kinda starts to take itself kinda seriously with all this destiny stuff and Chuck as a chosen one who has everyone around him become a spy.

It's not that I feel it's ruined or anything, since I never loved it as much as most people here do, but I really don't see how it got that much better.

But, better guest stars, definitely. The only way they'd top this year's roster for season 3 is if they'd get Steven Seagal. (And have him be a complete Regular Joe.)

Anonymous said...

i love this show! it's one of the only decent shows left on tv and it's waaayyy too soon to end the whole series! chuck has a lot of potential with its storyline and nbc would be crazy not to give chuck not only a third season, but several more seasons to follow.

Michelle said...

Fans should send PINEAPPLES to NBC. :)

Pamela Jaye said...

we're trying to save the show, not clear the building!

just kidding. my first reaction to pineapples is Danica McKellar on HIMYM.

Jennifer said...

No, pineapples are for if anyone ever tries to cancel Psych. Or perhaps Life, but you'd have to do all kinds of fruit. I vote for the Nerds candy, myself.

Anonymous said...

Someone suggested (and I dont remember which site I saw it on) that we send sunglasses with "Chuck season 3 renewal complete" or something to that effect written on them. Whatever it is, we have to send it before may 5th!

Pamela Jaye said...

regular sunglasses, or 3D?

I loved the person who watched the ep on Alan's suggestion, and then went back to catch up on the rest of the season (though I've forgotten his/her name...)

Pamela Jaye said...

it was Lane

anyway,
10 Reasons to Watch Chuck (video. let's do our own promos! cool!)
http://tinyurl.com/dkx7d4
Awesome, so far. (I keep having to do something else)

Anonymous said...

Great interview and love the show.

CHUCK is one of the best written/acted/directed/edited/produced shows to come along in a long time. I still enjoy going back and watching my season 1 dvd to see how they changed..how Chuck/Sarah/and Casey have changed. Looking forward to Season 2 on DVD and looking forward to Season 3.

This is the only show that our whole family watches. Something for everyone. It doesn't hurt that it's like your watching an action packed movie in every episode.

To the people of CHUCK we salute you. P.S. Thanks for giving an unknown Aussie a chance...I can't imagine the show without Yevonne. Zach and Adam too for that matter.

brett said...

I loved last night's episode, "Chuck vs. The Colonel." I was especially happy to hear the song "Answering Machine" by Malbec during the scene when Emmett orders Morgan to fire the morons. There's a full version of the song at displacedbrett.wordpres.com, does anybody have a link to a video clip of the scene? Thanks

Nevin Lyne said...

I will gladly drop another iTunes season pass payment if Season Three (or 4, 5, etc.) are done. One of the few shows we love to watch, and really would like to see Chuck continue on for awhile :)

Thank you!