Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chuck season 3 is... awesome

So, Chrismukkah has come right on time in the Sepinwall household, where I just finished devouring a care package of the first five episodes of "Chuck" season three. (In case you missed it, NBC released the new key art poster yesterday.)

The short version: if you're somebody who bought a Subway sandwich on the night "Chuck vs. the Ring" aired, or if you somehow hate sandwiches but love "Chuck" anyway, or if you're just a fan of TV shows that are both fun and awesome, then you'll be pleased with what "Chuck" will have going on when it returns on January 10. I'm typing this blog post with a goofy smile plastered across my face, and I suspect it's not going away for a while.

A slightly longer, mostly spoiler-free (save for some premise and guest-casting stuff that spoiler-phobic creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak have been fine putting out there) take coming up after the jump...

So Chuck now knows kung fu, and a whole bunch of other cool spy stuff, but the essence of "Chuck" hasn't changed. It's still a show about an ordinary guy who has stumbled into life as a spy, and his new superpowers aren't reliable enough to suddenly turn him into another Captain Awesome. (Awesome, meanwhile, is struggling to deal with his brother-in-law's secret identity.) He's still Chuck Bartowski, for good and for ill, and while his abilities and position in spy world have evolved, they don't take away from what made the show so entertaining in the first place. (At the same time, he gets to be just assertive and competent enough on occasion that it could sway people who've said they would like the show if the lead was less of a wimp and/or bumbler.)

The guest casting remains top-notch, with good use of the likes of Vinnie Jones, Armand Assante and Brandon (Superman) Routh, to name just three of the familiar faces who pop up in these early episodes. The music's pretty kick-ass, too, both the ironic stuff (Emmett Millbarge's taste in power ballads is about what you'd expect), and the usual Schwartz/Alex Patsavas indie rock selections. (Jeffster!, alas, does not perform in any of these five episodes, but I'm sure that's coming.) There's action, and comedy, and romance and the usual buoyancy we came to expect from the show last season. We lose Anna Wu for budgetary reasons, alas, but Morgan, Jeff and Lester all pick up the slack nicely.

Looking forward to discussing this all in more depth on Jan. 10 and 11 (don't forget: three episodes are airing over those two nights, in a "24"-style roll-out), but just in case anyone was worried that the show would somehow lose its mojo after a late season run that featured stuff like Jeffster! crashing a wedding and Casey kicking ass with a radiator, don't freak out. It's the show you remember, just with some occasional tactical upgrades.

44 comments:

forg/jecoup said...

Can't wait. Feel bad Anna Wu is gone. But I hope she'll go recurring at least

OldDarth said...

Great to hear Alan. Looking forward to reading your Chuck reviews again!

Mae said...

First five episodes?!!! Wow I can imagine what it must be like at your house right now. I'm glad that it didn't loose it's mojo after a fantastic season 2 finale.

Piku said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Magnus Anton Lekay said...

Darn it, WB. Where is my screener?!

Glad to hear you dig it, Alan.

amysusanne said...

I'm sad that Anna's gone, but glad Emmett's still out there irritating people.

I can't wait. The lack of Chuck in my life has been painful.

Burkey said...

First of all, I'm incredibly jealous.

Second, what do I have to do to get the episodes early? ^-^

@ Season 3, do you feel confidant that this is the best season yet?

gladly said...

Armand Effing Asante! Perfect casting. I can't wait.

HautieTx said...

It is ridiculous how excited I am about the new season of Chuck. I have watched season 2 at more than once in the last 90 days.

(Yes I recorded them on VHS tapes as they aired... I am a geek.)

I like knowing that Emmitt is returning but I hope that doesn't imply Big Mike is gone.

Is it too much of a spoiler to want to know if the "Orange Orange" is still in business?

J. Pitts said...

would season three be a good jumping on point if I have never watched the show before?

M3 said...

May the Grinch steal your care package :D
Dear Santa, two words, Chuck s3

Alan Sepinwall said...

would season three be a good jumping on point if I have never watched the show before?

I'd say season 2 would be more ideal (though, in a case of bad timing, the DVDs won't be released until five days before season 3 debuts). But while you'll miss out on some character details, some of the relationship stuff with Chuck and Sarah, and some running jokes, it's not that complicated a show to jump into at any point. Chuck's a nerd who became an accidental spy, he's in love with the gorgeous blonde who works as his handler, etc., etc., etc.

RSR said...

All this Chuck excitement has me extremely distracted from finals studying. Great to hear it's living up to expectations! Looking forward to reading much more come Jan 10th!

nycfan said...

Alan,

Glad to hear the positive review, and I can't wait for January 10!

Regarding the Chuck and Sarah relationship, critics and fans alike have raised concerns that the show can only go to the "will they, won't they" well so many times to keep them apart without it seeming contrived. Schwartz has repeatedly mentioned, including at the Comic-Con panel, that the tension remains this season.

Having watched the first 5 episodes, do you feel the writers have been able to maintain the tension in the relationship in a way that does not feel contrived?

I am interested to hear your general thoughts on this without spoiling anything.

Thanks!

Rob

MCB said...

J. Pitts, if you're interested in catching up, a bunch of Chuck episodes are online -- some on Hulu, some on TheWB.com. You should be able to watch a considerable backlog before the premiere!

And can I just express my annoyance that the Season 2 DVDs weren't out for Christmas? I had so many people on my gift list who would have loved it!

Heather said...

AUGH. Don't tell me these things. I still have to wait you know! SO GLAD I caught up this summer. Awesome decision.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned the indie music, which is one of my favorite things about "Chuck." Care to give us a little teaser of some of the songs that might be used, Alan? You don't have to give us context. ;)

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'll give you one song, which is my favorite of the ones I Shazam'ed (and also used the best within the show): "Model Homes" by In-Flight Safety.

Xenaclone said...

The season 2 DVDs were out well before Xmas in the UK. No, I don't know why. We got season 1 DVDs first as well [shrugs].

The trailers alone look...ahem...awesome [G]. Would be nice to have a bit more of Casey in the trailers. I'm glad season 3 is living up to hopes and expectations, however.

LaU* said...

I am so jealous right now.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to echo nycfan's question about romantic tension. If Chuck and Sarah are once again back to square zero, I'd like to know so I can brace myself for impact.

25 days until the rest of us get goofy smiles plastered on our faces, too!

dan said...

Xenaclone said...

The season 2 DVDs were out well before Xmas in the UK. No, I don't know why. We got season 1 DVDs first as well [shrugs].

-----

yeah, i saw it out the blue on amazon in like october and ordered it immediately, dont even think virgin1 had finished showing it at that point

came with glasses so i could actually watch that episode in 3d

cant wait for season 3 now, especially now i no its still good

Marc said...

Hi Alan, thanks for the report! I can't wait for Chuck to return, and me living in Spain, this is a looong time! All the promos are awesome, I hope this time there will be no need for fan movements. I hope Chuck gets Season 4 for sure!

Jill said...

Thanks for the music spoiler. I downloaded it already. It's the first of many Chuck songs I download this year. Can't wait until January.

Nicky R said...

What I wouldn't give to watch the first 5 episodes already, you are one lucky man I hope you know that :) Thank you for the synopsis I cant wait till Jan!!!

JFox said...

Alan, in your review of Chuck vs the Ring you wrote:

Frankly, it's all I can do just to keep from watching the sequence for the 50th time so I can finish writing the review. DVR technology may cease to exist, and I'm still going to have this episode saved at Keep Until I Delete status just so I can watch it whenever I'm having a bad day.

I still have mine saved and I watch it every couple of weeks. Counting the days til season 3!

Grunt said...

I absolutely can not wait until January 10. I know I'm going to have to fight my husband AND my father for control of the TV that night and I don't care.

I remember someone (was it Linda Holmes, I forget) talking about how there are some shows you "mainline" (i.e. wait for the DVD and then watch every episode) and some shows you "drip" (watch once a week). This is a show I would mainline if I could, but I have no choice but to drip. I'm happy I'll get to do a mini-mainline of it.

Did that previous paragraph make sense? Probably not.

Wendy said...

For those who need to catch up SyFy is going to be airing select episodes from S2 on January 7th. http://www.thrfeed.com/2009/12/chuck-marathon-to-air-on-syfy.html

Thanks for the article Alan...we're lucky to have you in the club of Chuck love.

Jason said...

Alan, any non-spoilery details or comments about how Subway has been "integrated" into the proceedings?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jason, the Subway deal wasn't finalized until partway through production of the season, so there isn't any Subway in these episodes. It'll come up later.

Mo Ryan said...

If it helps at all, there are 8 episodes of Chuck on Hulu -- the Season 1 Pilot and 6 good/representative eps from Season 2. If you are new to the show and like what you see on Hulu, you should check out the marathon on Syfy Jan. 7.

Just got my Chuck screeners today and have only seen Ep 1 of Season 3 so far (but the night is still young). My intellectual critical reaction: God, I love this show.

Word verification: Dolloof. Chuck + Dollhouse = doofus + doll. Dolloof.

Mo Ryan said...

Realize my math didn't quite add up in the previous post. There are 8 eps on Hulu, but 2 are different versions of same ep -- Chuck vs Third Dimension in 3-D and not in 3-D.

So really, 7 eps.

Matt in Raleigh said...

Hey Alan do you mind if I borrow your screener? I promise not to post it.

Anonymous said...

Well, Julia Ling was being wasted on Chuck anyway as Morgan's gf. Hope she can parlay the role into something bigger. True Blood? Community? NCIS? Any other show, basically; ratings-wise, the show is good quality popcorn tv.

Karen said...

I'm really sorry to lose Anna Wu--she was terrific. But if she's gone, and Morgan's there....does this mean they're no longer together and he's not pursuing his dream of being a Benihana chef in Hawaii? Tragic!

I'll be out of the country from January 4th through January 21st. My DVR had BEST NOT fail me.

Sigh.

Legrandvon said...

Are we sure this picture is not on the set of Survivors?! Can't wait for the season to begin!

Ryan said...

@Karen

The good news is that even if it does all of the episodes you missed should still be on Hulu by time you get back.

Pamela Jaye said...

ah, how the tables turn. my BF who does't watch Network TV (henceforth BTWDWNTV) called me to say - the screeners are out! people are talking! and I said Has Alan? :-) (and then she reas it to me along with Darth Razorback who was, at least from what I heard, amazingly spoiler free but still good)

All this after the news that House is returning early :-(

Hopefully everyone is as bore with the 13 show as we are.

amysa said...

Sorry, Fox, but if it was your goal to get me to watch "House" instead of "Chuck", you failed. Seems pretty pointless to randomly bring "House" back for a week only to pull it again with, I'm assuming, the goal of stealing away from the *massive* "Chuck" audience? Please. Both Fox and the handful of "House" fans that seem to want "Chuck" to fail for whatever reason, need to get a grip. Nevermind that it could hurt "House" for no reason. Didn't the ads say that they weren't returning until February? And since Fox doesn't tend to advertise anything that's not Idol, that ep could come and go with casual viewers not even noticing.

Wait...what were we talking about? Oh, yeah..."Chuck" is awesome, can't wait, counting down, blah, blah, blah.

On the subject of Julia, I saw pics on her facebook from an upcoming ep of "The Deep End", so she's booking jobs this season. Hopefully she'll be on shows that I actually want to watch.

Finn said...

so stoked, can't wait. Love that is sounds like the show continues to evolve and improve.

Mike said...

Aww.... I need to borrow someone's screener... not to post, but to watch. My hard-drive copies of Chuck S1 & S2 are getting kinda fragmented with repeated viewing...

Anonymous said...

I can't wait, although I'm a little disappointed there will only be 13 episodes this season

Anonymous said...

Had never watched Chuck before. Based on Alan's comments these past two years, as well as Mo Ryan's fondness for the show, I downloaded the first two seasons off iTunes. Have spent the quiet moments over the holidays catching up on this show, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Looking forward to Season 3.

KittieDanger said...

I am addicted to Chuck, it's my Monday night guilty pleasure! I am also looking forward to a performance by Jeffster, I wish I could've booked 'em for MY wedding!