Television Review: Chuck - Pilot
by R.J. Carter
Published: September 12, 2007
Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is a bright college graduate who's woefully lacking in ambition. As Chuck puts it, "I'm working on my five year plan, just need to choose a font." He's employed as part of the Nerd Herd technical support team for Buy More (located next to the Large Mart) with his equally slacker friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez), and is desperate to avoid his sister's attempts to hook him up with other women -- ever since his girlfriend left him for his college roommate, Bryce, who graduated with honors and became an accountant.
Except Bryce didn't become an accountant. He's a secret agent with the CIA, and he's decided to go rogue, downloading an entire computer's worth of data off a new Homeland Security program designed to detect patterns in data provided by both the NSA and CIA. As he makes his desperate escape, he is forced to email the downloaded data from his palm pilot... and ends up sending it to Chuck. When Chuck opens the email, he stares hypnotically for hours at the display of images that flicker across his monitor, each with data encoded into them. The data then becomes encoded into Chuck's brain and, without knowing why, he knows things based off the most trivial bits of news broadcasts -- like the best traffic route to take to work because of a phased police deployment along the main thoroughfare. He can also recognize an international hit man on sight, even though he's never heard of the guy before.
Naturally, both of our government's top spy agencies want this data back, and they track Bryce's email to Chuck. However, the computer Chuck used to download the email was fried, leaving no trace of the data. As CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) takes the soft approach to investigating Chuck (becoming taken with his nice-guy personality in the interim), the NSA's John Casey (Adam Baldwin) takes a more stone-cold tack, operating under orders to grab Chuck -- and kill Sarah if he has to.
When both agents learn where the data ultimately went -- into Chuck's head -- they argue over the best methods to get the data out, some of which certainly don't appeal Chuck. But when he puts together the last piece of a puzzle his back-brain has been working on, he blurts out that an assassination plot is going down tonight. This is when they all realize Chuck's brain is more than just the hard drive -- it's the computer itself, running the software and matching patterns. Working together, the three of them foil the plot and form an uneasy working relationship, which Chuck has to keep secret from his friends.
Stuck in the Middle. Chuck must defuse a bomb
under pressure from the CIA's Agent Walker and
the NSA's Agent Casey.
(L-R: Strahovski, Levi, Baldwin)
Baldwin's performance as gung-ho Agent Casey is very reminiscent of Robert_Culp's I Spy and Greatest American Hero roles. In fact, the latter has more than a few parallels to Chuck: a super hero with abilities he doesn't know how to access, paired with a by-the-book secret agent and a potential love interest who also knows the secret (although Sarah proves she can be pretty bad-ass in her own right, taking out a cadre of NSA agents in a dance scene that's right out of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith.")
Chuck requires plenty of suspension of disbelief for anybody who's ever tried to send or receive large attachments via email. However, once you've swallowed the premise, Chuck is an enjoyable action/comedy that ought to appeal to fans of "Office Space" and "Clerks." Director McG knows what he's doing with this genre, and the music by Tim Jones adds an extra kick to the already high energy level. It's funny without being overly so, dangerous without being underly so, forming the perfect blend for an action/comedy that has the potential for a decent run, being attractive to the sci-fi and spy-guy crowds while still being accessible to mainstream audiences.
Chuck premieres September 24 on NBC at 8:00pm, 7:00pm CST.
Read our complete look at the Fall TV season at Network Programming Falls Into Place for 2007/08 Television Viewing Season