Monday, April 27, 2009

Reader mail: Saving 'Chuck,' actor/producers, and more

Technical difficulties prevented the posting of today's reader mailbag column until a couple of minutes ago, but it's up now if you want the address of Angela Bromstad at NBC, or to see video of Zachary Levi taking a bunch of British "Chuck" fans to Subway (I'm on my way there this evening), or to hear my take on where "West Wing" went wrong.

38 comments:

Lane said...

I bought a Subway sub for lunch today in honor of "Chuck", and went on subway.com and left a comment that I did so and to thank them for their advertising support of the show. I think that might be more effective than leaving a note in the comment box of the store, which probably will either a) sit there for a year or b) get thrown out without being mentioned to the powers that be, whereas the website is the corporate body instead of a franchisee.

Grunt said...

See Alan, I actually think that the West Wing returned a bit at the end of Season 6 with the beginnings of the Santos/Vinick storyline and then really got going during season 7.

And while I agree the second season was pretty damn extraordinary I actually think that the first season had it's ups and downs.

aaron said...

@Grunt
West Wing actually had a season 7? I quit watching during season 5 cause I couldn't take it anymore... but I agree with Alan, Season 1&2 was some of the best TV drama ever.

Long live Chuck. I'll be glad to eat Subway tomorrow night but doubt it goes very far with NBC.

HarrySTruman2 said...

can't wait to catch Chuck with "Evil Chevy Chase"..

BF said...

If you're wondering, "Crime. Boy, I don't know..." was when West Wing decided to kick it's own a##. Before that, the "villains" of the WW Universe were Republicans who occasionally had a good idea (Donna's surplus), tactically brilliant (Felicity Huffman's character) and even won their fair share of battles on the merits. But when Sorkin & Co turned the opposition into a bunch of bumblefooted chowderheads, there was no more drama. No more intrigue. No more interest.

Stephanie said...

I purchased my subway sandwich and left a comment on subway.com mentioning Chuck. I haven't yet written my letter to NBC, though. Must get on that.

Malcolm said...

I agree with Alan's assessment of The West Wing. However, I consider the 3rd season to be up there with the first two.

The greatness of the first few seasons bought enough good will to soldier through the (still very watchable and entertaining, but weakened) subsequent seasons until Vinick/Santos took off.

I disagree, however, in saying that The West Wing was still a notch below the great HBO dramas. For me, those first two seasons were on par with anything that television has ever offered, network or not. But a giant part of the appeal of WW for me is my own politics/policy addiction.

Adam said...

Re WW: I think it's easy for us to say Sorkin should've found a way to remain entertaining, but his desire to be responsive to 9/11 was understandable. Still, it just made things so relentlessly serious.

Everything else was dominated by the MS probe, the conclusion of which was inevitable -- he wasn't going to resign, but something was going to happen.

But mostly, it was a missed opportunity, as BF suggests, because Bartlet's reelection wasn't good television. Governor Ritchie was not (as Walter Sobchak would say) a worthy f**king adversary, but just a prop to take shots at Bush, which made that storyline neither the light/fun balance to the foreign policy stuff not terribly interesting. They did a much better job with the second presidential campaign.

When Josh redecorated his apartment to serve as "Tahiti," that was awesome, but there was just so little of that light touch otherwise.

Shari said...

I'm off to buy my Subway now, and I've preordered my Chuck S2 DVD. I'm already bummed about losing Life (barring a miracle), so if Chuck goes too I'll be unconsolable.
Lane, I think you're right that commenting at Subways website is probably wiser than the comment box at the store.

Mike said...

I just wanted to thank you again Alan for being a constant voice in the support for a third season of Chuck. I have been going to Subway quite frequently including today for lunch and later for dinner, leaving comments thanking them for their advertisement and support for a great show.

JD said...

Like Lane, I went to Subway's website to leave them a note to thank them for their advertising support of Chuck this past season. I still plan on going to my local Subway to purchase a sandwich in solidarity with the fan campaign to save the show, though.

Anonymous said...

hey alan, FYI, when I tried to come to your site just now, Firefox prevented me and told me I was risking a possible phishing attack if I came here.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Huh. I'm using Firefox without a problem.

ap said...

I agree with leaving comments on Subway.com. I did the last week and will do that again tonight when I buy another footlong.

Pamela Jaye said...

The silly guy at my Subway never heard of Chuck, does not watch TV, plays video games with friends. If networks want to know where the viewers went...
(and Chicken Bacon Ranch footlongs are $7 something)

JustMe said...

One reason I thought it fell off a cliff in season 5 because every week was ****CRISIS IN THE WHITEHOUSE!!!!****
There was a flood or a fire or a hostage situation or solving social security in 48 minutes or else AMERICA as we know it would END!

Some of my favorite episodes in the first two seasons were episodes where very little earth shattering happened. Not that there weren't stakes or that they weren't important to the characters, but that they weren't imminent life or death. At first, the post-Sorokin writers couldn't understand that lower key episodes were ok. And I stopped watching before they figured it out.

(That was one of the problems I had with S60. Sorokin fell into the same trap, in a universe where it made even less sense.)

JEMaher said...

"Chuck vs. the Footlong"

So, here's a YouTube of Zach Levi leading a 600 person march on Subway in support of Chuck.

http://www.mediabistro.com/agencyspy/television/good_luck_nbcs_chuck_or_chuck_v_the_footlong_115022.asp

One of the nicer guys working in the film business

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDtePZ1MFT0

Zachary Levi goes to Subway to serve his loyal fans and support his show's sponsor!!!

Very cool!!!

Sonia said...

When Big Mike was salivating ove rthe Chicken Teriyaki Footlong, I had to have one. They are delish. I'm leaving a comment on subway.com. I SO hope this isn't the last Chuck ever...

Jeff C. said...

Just finished my footlong chicken teriyaki from Subway. Very good. I left a note at subway.com.

I agree that the first season of West Wing was a bit uneven. In part I think it's because Sorkin was juggling the show with the also-brilliant Sports Night (which actually suffered more from the split workload). But season two was one of the best seasons of any television show anywhere, ever.

WWWeaves said...

I too, just ate a footlong chicken teriyaki from Subway. And I took my Landlady. (Rather she took me, it's my birthday.) Now NBC, give me a present, more Chuck!

Whichever season of the West Wing had Mary McCormick saving the world was the one that went off the rails. It got better again later, but never as good as it once was. Only Aaron Sorkin could have written episodes about the census methods and the graduated income tax and made me care. I really loved that aspect of the show and it got lost later.

amysa said...

I don't eat at Subway a *lot*, but I'd say I get in there once a month or so. I went to do my part at lunch and noticed some "Chuck" signage at the register that wasn't there before. It was nice to see. My Subway doesn't have comment cards. The one my mom (who got in on the "Save Chuck" action as well) went to didn't have them either. So, I went online and did the same as others have. Of course, they have no way of knowing what's what and who really bought food, but given how Subway's enjoying their free publicity it can't hurt. Like others, I've given up on the possibility of more "Life", but I'm holding out for "Chuck".

Anonymous said...

I love Chuck but I hate Subway. So bland.

Jenn. said...

I'll do my part. Subway sandwich for dinner.

Matthew L said...

I quit watching season 5 of The West Wing when they had the episode with the characters of Sesame Street on the show. I have as much attachment just couldn't believe what I was watching.

I came back in season 6 to a degree, and it had improved, but I generally didn't mind if I missed an episode or two (which was easy, because here in NZ, by that point it was airing about 11.30pm). It wasn't really appointment viewing until later in the season, once Santos came into the picture and the election storyline started. (Although I was annoyed by the result, since I felt very strongly that Vinick was actually the better candidate. Funny thing about television, you find yourself unhappy with a fictional election result that leaves a person in the White House that you didn't like, even though you never actually see any of his time as President and it actually makes no difference to the show who wins.)

fgmerchant said...

I just got back from subway, and they don't even have comment cards available! I asked if they had one and the lady gave me the dirtiest look you have ever seen, then walked away to answer the phone. I didn't bother to explain that it wasn't against her, it was for Chuck.

Jordan said...

I stopped watching West Wing somewhere in season five. The wheels really fell off without Sorkin.

Speaking of the President in prime time, does anyone know how Obama's press conference on Wednesday will affect schedules? Because really, Scrubs needs to be messed around with a little more before it can ride off into the sunset (of repeats on comedy central).

Jimmy said...

Alan,

Do you think Chuck's availability on Hulu might be hurting it in the long run?

I know for most of Chuck's run, I'd watch the CBS Comedies (Big Bang Theory and HIMYM, for those who were unaware) live, even though I enjoy Chuck more, because I knew that if I missed Chuck, I could just catch it on Hulu the next morning.

For the last half of the season - I've been watching Chuck live, simply because I've been unable to wait and see what's going to happen next.

The CBS Comedies in comparison, aren't as easily accessible. HIMYM is streamed through CBS.com, but the feed quality is poor, and nearly unwatchable compared to Hulu. Big Bang Theory isn't available on CBS.com.

When I went to watch Chuck on Hulu, it would always be in the top five, if not the most watched show on Tuesdays. I'd be interested to see the figures and see how many people stream Chuck the next day.

Really - it's the same with all NBC and FOX shows. They're readily available, for free, on a wonderful, high quality online service... so I don't feel bad missing Chuck, The Office and 30 Rock.

ABC has a better quality stream, but the player is buggy and crash prone - so I try to catch those live, and CBS shows are poor quality and often inaccessible.

Mark B said...

Speaking of the President in prime time, does anyone know how Obama's press conference on Wednesday will affect schedules?

The schedule on ABC's website shows the next episodes of Scrubs and Better Off Ted airing next Tuesday at 8, with the Scrubs finale on Wed. as originally scheduled.

Kenrick said...

Jimmy, unless you have a Nielsen box, I'd say it doesn't matter at all what you watch on TV. It will not affect the ratings. If anything, watching it on Hulu can only help I'd say - 'cause it is supported by ads and I'm sure NBC can gather data from it about how many views it gets.

I've heard that Tivo is considering selling their user data on what shows people record?

Anyway, unless something has changed that I'm not aware of, I have no influence on which TV shows get my support when I watch them live, which sucks.

Jimmy said...

Kenrick,

I agree that the Nielsen system sucks - it's outdated, especially given advances in technology... but the question remains - does the ease and quality of NBC's online streaming (which is to be commended, IMO) in comparison to the other networks have an effect on their live ratings? If so, is it detrimental?

Alyssa said...

My husband and I just ate Subway for dinner. I filled out a comment card at the store AND online to cover all my bases.

I can't wait to watch the finale tonight, hopefully it's just a season finale...

Jordan said...

Thanks Mark

bsangs said...

The West Wing remains one of my favorite shows of all time. Even during the "down years" (seasons 4 and 5) - and I still watch the Bravo repeats.

I think, more than anything, what hurt WW was 9/11 and Sam's departure. (If you'd told me 20 years ago that something would suffer from Rob Lowe's leaving, I'd have thought you were high!)

The stunningly bad "Isaac and Ishmael" episode - Sorkin's ode to 9/11 - began the decline. And I couldn't believe how much I missed Sam when he left.

As somebody said above, "Boy, crime, I don't know..." was also a cringe-worthy lowlight, one I'm betting Sorkin regrets. It went from inelligent to petty with a single line. Not coincidentally, I think that's about the time the ratings took a turn for the worse.

But if asked to list my top TV episodes of all-time, Season 2's "Two Cathedrals" might be number one or two on that list. Bartlett's speech in the church still gives me chills.

Zach said...

Im clearly in the minority here in finding season 7 was the strongest and most moving by far.. Smits speech in the Undecideds made me cry like a baby, and just about every moment Alda was on the screen simply blew away everything that came before.

I found that WW benefited hugely from Sorkin's exit. The Sorkin material aged *extremely* poorly, on viewing now it comes off as so intensely shallow, self important and fatuous. Rob Lowe especially was a locus for this at almost all times, although Sheen and Bradford became increasingly intolerable very quickly, until it was just Sorkin's voice prattling out his pearls of wisdom in all three voices in rotation. If not for Allison Janney and Richard Schiff the whole thing would have been unwatchable.

Sorkin is a real tool about his women characters, not too put too fine a point on it. Rewatch The Crackpots And These Women again for Sheen's speech at the end: just, so bad. He displays this just bizarre need to always, always undercut every tremendous female character, finding an unbroken stream of ways to call consipicuous attention to their Girl Ness.. with most unsubtle emphasis on the Girls Just Dont Understand Serious Business routine.

He has Donna and Margaret drop endlessly clueless, 'cute' remarks, to be set wisely straight by Josh or Leo. He has his women fall fully dressed in a pool. Appear on live TV with "no pants of any kind". Be made "your bitch" by the president's teenage body man. Pine endlessly and openly for their boss, whine about christmas presents, and make endless bad judgements about men. Drink pink squirrels in a bathrobe and be accused of trying to pee in the Oval Office closet, for christs sake? And on, and on. Abby sulks and wont have sex with Jed because he forgot the name of the woman she was having a statue dedicated to. Margaret is some kind of dork savant, all the time. Lily Tomlin gets high on DRUGS before her job interview for christs sake! _*LILY TOMLIN!*_ All of this countered by exactly.. wait for it.. zero such demonstrations of sexualized frailty, for the male counterparts. So bizarrely disrespectful of the caliber of female actors he had to work with here. Its just so profoundly embarassing.

One can only hope Sorkin was prat enough to try that routine on Anna Deveare Smith, even once.

It doesnt mitigate to know Sorkin must certainly have not meant to be malicious.. he dresses all this situations up as some weird kind of affection or something for the characters. He wants to set them up for rescue by their loving buddies and fans.. The more you watch, the creepier it gets.

Dont misunderstand, I too watched and cheered WW avidly the first time around, as desperate as was the rest of the demographic for some counterpart to the political realities of the time.

Now I think that Sorkin was really the John Philip Sousa of his time: his material is rousing, emotive, martial, intensely stirring in real time.. and on closer examination jingoistic, simplistic, self-important, and actually pretty dangerous in its rock-hard vanity.

Fun for a football game.. really uselessly self limited as commentary. On the whole a very flawed body of television work.

Ariadne said...

I suppose we all have our theories about the West Wing. For me, the last season was almost unwatchable because John Wells made it about his ego and his love of Santos rather than the strong political base of the show. He kept saying that he didn't know was going to win the election but he must have been the only one because instead of the characters I wanted to see, I got massive Santos and Santos marriage scenes. The dice were so obviously stacked, it was painful to watch. Especially since the Santos arguments had holes a Sherman tank could drive through but he always won anyway in a deus ex machina manner. Maybe that's why I'm reacting so badly to David Shore doing the same thing on House these last two seasons.

Wells also lied to the viewers when he said at the end of season 4 that they would be happy with how the Josh/Donna story was going to go. Then he promptly dropped it until a quick and unsatisfying tie-up in the last two episodes of the series. It wouldn't have taken much to please the fans but he didn't even bother trying. Since then, Wells hasn't have a new show that lasted more than a few episodes; I like to think that there's a correlation between lying to your audience and future shows failing.

Zach said...

To be fair, you have to wonder what Janel Maloney's input was into the resolution of that Donna / Josh issue, and to why they pushed it to the very end.. the chemistry there was so very, very conspicuously absent. The kiss scenes were so painful to watch I couldnt stand it even the first time.

Agreed that the Santos arguements didnt stand on their own merits, that part was way weak. The 'live debate' episode was by far the weakest and least interesting for that exact reason.. and most exasperating in their misuse of Alda to fit the Republican stereotype punching bag.

Test said...

Here is one for Subway free of Charge...


'Subway - We saved Jared. Nows it's time to save Chuck.'