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.