Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chuck vs. the (San Diego) Comic-Con

Hey, all. Having sprinted from the "Chuck" panel to the mammoth Hall H for the final "Lost" panel, I'm going to camp out here for a while so I can see the "Iron Man 2" panel in a few hours. (Though if the movie panels in between seem particularly bad, I might bail before Tony Stark and company show.) So while my laptop battery lasts, I'm going to write up some thoughts on the day's first two panels: first "Chuck," then "Lost."

"Chuck" stuff coming up -- and full credit to Fienberg's live-blog of the panel for all quotes -- just as soon as Chris Fedak gives me back my pen...

As you might guess from the above photo (h/t to ChuckTV.net for the screencap) -- or as you might have assumed ever since the Comic-Con announcements started hinting at a special surprise from the cast -- the panel opened up with Jeffster! themselves, Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky, rocking out to Queen's epic "Fat-Bottomed Girls."

UPDATE: Thus far, this is the best version I've seen of the performance, shot by someone up close.

Actually, no: it began with a season 2 highlight reel, followed by a very funny pre-taped video with Josh Schwartz and Fedak in their office a month ago, asking Zachary Levi what he's going to do since they're going to be canceled. Levi is floored by this idea, but Schwartz and Fedak are adamant, when Josh gets a call from the NBC executives. (Fedak tells Josh to say hi; Josh: "They don't know who you are.") Amazingly, they have been renewed, and as Levi bounds out to tell the rest of the cast, Fedak and Schwartz begin to panic: they don't have any ideas for a third season, and in fact only did the "I know kung fu" gag because the assumed they'd never have to follow up on it. As Chris gets his head stuck in a Stormtrooper helmet, Josh suggests one thing they can do that they know will work: Jeffster!

The video cuts out, Sahay and Krinsky (with keytar in hand) storms the stage and the crowd goes bananas for "Fat-Bottomed Girls." So does the cast, who first sprint around to the side of the hall so they can watch themselves, then go on-stage to dance and clap along with the performance. Sahay got incredibly into it, as you might expect, with all the faux-Mick Jagger moves, and by the time I came on stage, the crowd was whipped into such a frenzy that I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get in a few questions.

We opened with a little Jeffster! chat, as Sahay joked that people would probably pay him not to sing in the future; someone in the cast -- I think it was Adam Baldwin -- then slipped him a twenty to confirm the theory. Levi sang the virtues of all the fans who were so passionate about helping to save the show -- Wendy Farrington, who came up with the Subway Finale Footlong campaign, was in the audience and got singled out (and got to pose with the cast for pictures afterwards) -- and Schwartz listed a bunch of media and/or blog types (Mo Ryan, Fienberg, Ausiello, Joe Adalian, Televisionary, Give Me My Remote, ChuckTV.net and me) for their own efforts on behalf of the show.

Schwartz and Fedak were predictably non-commital on what's coming up next season. Schwartz said details on Subway's involvement within the story is TBD, and later said, "Something very emotional and traumatic is going to have happened between Chuck and Sarah" -- and, as the crowd groaned, added -- "But it's gonna be really really good. Is that vague enough?"

Zachary Levi did get dispensation to reveal one thing about the nature of Chuck's new kung fu powers. Since spoiler-phobe Schwartz okay'ed it, and because it's going to be so long till the season three premiere (though Schwartz said several times that they might come back sooner than March, depending on NBC's needs), I'm going to say what it is, but not till the end of the post. So if you don't want to know about that -- or about a couple of other vaguely spoiler-y things -- stop reading before you get to the italics.

There's a new official site, ChuckMeOut.com, that's going to be the place for all "Chuck" news, behind-the-scenes info, etc., that went live this morning. Fedak also talked a little about the season 2 DVD (which right now is tentatively set to come out in early 2010, I guess because they want it to be close to the season three premiere) and said that one of the features would be Baldwin/Casey teaching How to Be a Spy.

I tried not to ask a lot of questions, since I knew the Jeffster! performance would take up some time and the event was for the fans. Schwartz and Fedak kept up the running gag from the clip by acting as if every suggestion the fans offered would be used in the season to compensate for their own lack of plans, and Fedak borrowed my pen to dutifully jot down ideas like:

• Chuck's powers now come with the catch that after he uses them, he can't walk for a half-hour;

• Chuck's dad may have also programmed him with language and other skills. The crowd started throwing out language suggestions, and when several screamed out "Klingon!," Levi (who had the crowd predictably eating out of his hand) said, "Chuck already knows Klingon! Duh!"

• Someone asked if there would be a musical episode, preferably featuring Jeffster! "Now there will be," Schwartz said.

There were also a lot of running gags on the panel: Baldwin took great pleasure in discussing, and eventually goading Josh Gomez to reveal, his bright pink boxer shorts. Baldwin also played into the crowd's predictable "Firefly" love, joking that his internal monologue whenever Casey grunts is "Joss Whedon," and, when a fan asked if there would be "Chuck" action figures, noting that he already had his own action figure. (Levi then did a pantomime of a Chuck action figure beating the snot out of a Jayne Cobb action figure through the use of his kung fu grip.)

Again, not a lot of news (save for the stuff below), but this was largely an excuse for the cast to shower its love on the fans, and vice versa, and everybody seemed to have a good time. Frankly, it seemed like the crowd was livelier for the "Chuck" panel than for the "Lost" panel that followed (though that may just be the hugeness of Hall H swallowing up a lot of the noise).

Anyway, a few things you won't want to read if you're 100 percent afraid of spoilers. Since I'm posting this, it's okay to discuss them in the comments. Stop reading if you don't want to know. Seriously, stop. Now. Stop.

Okay. We all good?

So, the nature of "Chuck-Fu," as one fan dubbed it earlier at the Con: the kung fu abilities and other physical stuff is there, but there's a glitch in the program that means they don't tend to last for very long in any circumstance. Fedak added that the software was designed to be installed in cold, remorseless Bryce Larkin, not big ball of emotions Chuck, and this will also cause problems.

Also, as Ryan McPartlin discussed Captain Awesome finding out Chuck's secret identity, Schwartz added that "Awesome will start to be submerged into the spy world as well."

And in other spoiler minutiae, "The Buy More will still be a part of the show," per Fedak, and Corina, the rival spy from season one's "Chuck vs. the Wookie," will be back, and that Morgan will again try to seduce her.

UPDATE #2: After the panel, Mo Ryan got more out of Schwartz and company about the limitations of the Chuck-Fu.

37 comments:

7s Tim said...

Will the live performance of Jeffster! covering Queen be on the dvd or you think, or am I gonna have to settle for some crappy YouTube version?

de said...

It was a really fun panel. Jeffster! killed. Now I have to go. All glory to the Hypnotoad.

mizenkay said...

Sounds like it was a blast! I followed Mo Ryan in twitter and when she reported Jeffster was doing Fat Bottomed Girls, I about fell out of the chair. Classic!

Hopefully NBC will put up the Jeffster performance, along with other video from the panel like they did last year.

Feinbergs live blog was great to follow along with as well. And even though there were mini-spoilers, which you know I love, heh, I don't think they are really all that telling in terms of specifics. So yay! Thanks again Alan.

Bryan said...

Waiwaiwait: Chuck DVD tentatively set for early 2010? Ali Adler said on Twitter it would be available "sometime in August." This was a little over two weeks ago.

mizenkay said...

Duh, I'm brain-challenged. I followed Mo ON twitter and read FIENBERG. Need an edit feature on this blog thingy. Or I could always preview.

Wondering also about the differing DVD release dates. I understand 2010 in terms of it being closer to the premiere, but what if Chuck comes back earlier as was hinted at on the panel?

Alan what are your thoughts on that? IF it does come back earlier, there is the real possibility of the holiday/dec hiatus interuptus, and of course it'll be off the air for two weeks for the Olympics. So I am conflicted, a straight run of 13 or more episodes...or it comes back early and is possibly interupted twice, losing any steam it may gather.

amysa said...

My nature tells me to worry about the airdates and interruptions and obsess over DVD dates and such, but my brain is just telling me to stop it for today and just keep hitting reload over on youtube in hopes that someone will upload something good soon.

Shari said...

Did poor Yvonne even get to talk? Anyways, sounds like a great time was had by panel and fans alike!

I don't understand why they would wait so long to release the DVD. It seems to me that since we already have such a long wait until the show returns, an earlier release would help to keep Chuck in the public eye. It would be a great tool in getting new fans for the show.

Jim said...

For those of us who couldn't make it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1m3FVR1NtY

Michael said...

Here's the crappy YouTube version of Jeffster and the intro of the cast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1m3FVR1NtY

Alan Sepinwall said...

Did poor Yvonne even get to talk?

Someone asked her a question at the end. And, to be honest, some actors are more eager to talk at these things than others. Levi, Gomez and Baldwin eat up the attention, while Strahovski's a bit more reticent. I suspect she was fine not having to answer much.

Alyson said...

I just want to reiterate my thanks to you, Mo, Fienberg and Televisionary for blanketing the panel for those of us who couldn't be there. Sounds like a great time was had by all. Well done, sir!

Lauren said...

Clip of Jeffster at SDCC '09

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1m3FVR1NtY&feature=player_embedded

Ambaryerno said...

Tell you what, I hope the Bobs have been listening to the SERIOUSLY negative fan-buzz about the "Will They/Won't They" Chuck and Sarah angst dynamic from the first two seasons. They're going to face a fan mutiny, and probably hordes waving torches and pitchforks, if Chuck and Sarah aren't together for real within the first 3-4 episodes.

A LOT of the viewers aren't going to put up with them dragging that out any longer than they already have, and I have to agree this sort of artificial angst is outdated in TV today. Levi was wrong to call it something fans "love to hate." The fans just plain HATE it, and if they try to run with it any further Chuck won't survive for a fourth season.

Bryan said...

I'm feeling bold enough to make a prediction: the Chuck-Sarah angst will not be resolved into a real relationship in the first 10 episodes of the season.

That's not to say that they will be kept apart in the same old ways, and I think they'll continue to write them getting closer (despite constant complications). But there are too many elements of the show conspiring against them being one happy spy couple.

That's part of what made Chuck's decision to upload the new Intersect so powerful: he was just told that Sarah wasn't going to go with Bryce, but then he reflected on his unique ability and duty to become the Intersect-spy, and gave up what he desperately wanted. He went from being an unwitting asset who wanted a normal life and relationship to being a willing agent. Huge turning point in the series. It would cheapen that moment if he got to have Sarah anyway, no complications.

That said, it would also be awkward at this point if Chuck ever went back to the Buy More, and I'm not certain that they'll keep him away.

Another prediction: one of the complications is going to involve Chuck doing something terrible with his new-found powers going almost on auto-pilot. They've been building up by introducing his ability to flash purposefully (cracking the Feistel cipher), adding physical abilities, and showing him becoming increasingly comfortable with doing harm to people (signaling Casey to activate the Fulcrum Intersect, becoming more comfortable with the idea of using firearms, and now kung fu). If, say, Sarah arrives just in time to see Chuck do some cruel-looking violence (esp. without understanding why), that could be a bigger shock than when Chuck saw Sarah execute Mauser.

Man, this season could be really awesome or a huge letdown.

picker-of-nits said...

Not Mick Jagger, but Freddy Mercury for Queen's Fat-Bottomed girls. Thanks for the coverage though.

M said...

The FAUXMANCE is alive and real in season 3. Get used to the idea because it is not changing anytime soon.

P.S.

Yvonne was interviewed by G4TV and they have that video on their site.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not Mick Jagger, but Freddy Mercury for Queen's Fat-Bottomed girls.

I know who sang Fat-Bottomed Girls. But Vik's stage moves were straight-up Jagger.

buzz said...

Congrats Alan!

I'm glad to read and see that everything went well, and that folks that needed thanking were thanked.

Safe Journeys

John said...

Here's a better version of Jeffster but doesn't include the opening video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qp9YA327N4k

BillAtWork said...

I'm depressed. Could they be any more tone deaf. Do they really think that the groan was saying "give us more angst"?

Ambaryerno said...

Bryan,

Like I said though, ANY contrivance at this point to keep them apart longer than the first 2-3 episodes is just going to piss a LOT of fans off, especially since the Bobs said that "Versus the Colonel" would be the turning point in Chuck and Sarah's relationship. The fact that most of the hints so far seem to point towards the same sort of Lou/Bryce/Cole/Jill "third wheel" dynamic we had in the first two seasons is going to exacerbate the fan reaction. And it is NOT going to be positive.

Baylink said...

Nice wrap, Alan; thanks.

I believe it's canon that her name is spelled "Carina", though.

Anonymous said...

I was at 3 other panels today (and three yesterday) and Chuck was the ONLY one to get a standing ovation at both start and finish. That's not just fan-devotion, that's affection, I reckon. :)

imkeh said...

Hi I asked Yvonne the question at the end. I'm not surprised I didn't get to answer but those boys should have let Yvonne have a little go at it. She got 10 words in I think before they all jumped in again. And I asked it specifically to hear Yvonne. Sigh. :)

imkeh said...

I meant, I'm not surprised i didn't get the answer I wanted.

Henry said...

You're taller than I thought, Alan. Great job with the Chuck panel. That's awesome that you got to see the Lost panel. I wished I was so lucky. I just didn't want to brave the looooong line that was Hall H. The Chuck panel was the highlight of my Saturday, though.

Long live Jeffster!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Best amateur video of the Jeffster! performance I've seen.

Mae said...

Allan, do you happen to know if NBC.com will post the whole hour of the Chuck panel like last year?

55 said...

Good lord people, can we let them film ONE episode before we start judging the next season?

Alan Sepinwall said...

For those who want to know, Mo Ryan got more details from Schwartz and company about the limitations of the Chuck-Fu.

Xenaclone said...

I hope TPTB also [as I believe was suggested at the panel] give Casey some romance. I'm thinking it might be the missing Mama Bartowski [given that she and Stephen are at least separated]. A late 40-something smoking brunette with brown eyes. Then it's a question of 'Who will win her - Casey or Stephen?'. That could be really good!

If not that, then a female agent undercover. MI5 agent; play up the culture clash humour!

The only remaining question is - why hasn't anyone signed Adam for his own name-above-the-title blockbuster yet? He may not want that of course, but he'd be awesome [GGG] as an action hero type on the big screen. He's got the acting smarts that a lot of other big muscled actors lack. Heck, give him a big rom com with lots of snarky dialogue. While we're at it - two words - 1.Captain 2.America. YES!!!

OldDarth said...

Wow! Mo this interview will bring out the pitchforks and torches.

Totally disagree with everyone in the interview about the romantic tension stuff. And new love interests? Puh-lease!

The dynamics of Chuck's dilemma with control of the new Intersect and Sarah being his kryponite and spinach is very cool.

Too bad they just don't get that a show with Chuck and Sarah working together as a team in every sense does not kill any level of tension in the show. There is enough in the spy world to keep the heart pumping.

The static from these relationships is a distraction and an albatross because it deflects the viewer's attention from the main storyline where it should be.

Sigh.....

LoopyChew said...

I'm hoping the holidays release of S2 is off and we get a late Summer/early Autumn release of the S2 discs.

Also, I'm hoping for some more Jeffster! performances on disc, but I doubt they've got the budget for it.

dez said...

I tried not to ask a lot of questions, since I knew the Jeffster! performance would take up some time and the event was for the fans.

I thought you did a good job moderating the madness. A couple of other moderators in panels I saw kept stepping over the answers from the panelists, and it was frustrating to watch. I liked that you guided things but also stayed out of the way when the stars were talking :-)

Speaking of Levi, et al, liking to talk at these things--you should have seen Mark Hamill at the Batman video game panel. Luke Skywalker is a chatty mofo.

Henry said...

I was sitting right behind Wendy Farrington! I didn't even realize she was the girl who started the Subway campaign. I just thought I'd throw that out there...

cgeye said...

Since BURN NOTICE won't be coming back until Winter, most likely... and a certain Maj. John Casey (did the promotion stick?) might have a bone to pick with a Mr. Westen concerning sources and methods.... and it would be all in the NBCU family...

JOHN CASEY - MICHAEL WESTEN CONFRONT!

Rebecca said...

Just putting it out there...I was the "Chuck-fu" fan. Glad to see it is catching on!