Chuck (2007-2012): Gone But Not Forgotten

Secret Agents. We love them. What’s not to love? They go to exotic locations, seduce beautiful women, use insanely cool gadgets, drive awesome cars, and just kick ass. I don’t know about you, but I wanted to be one when I was growing up. But the thought of doing a push-up at the time was as hard as skydiving. So I grew up, and the closest I ever got was asking for a vodka martini shaken, not stirred, at a bar once….which I immediately spit out on the floor.  So yeah, I was never going to be James Bond.

But then I found a show that made me believe that in another world, a schlubby loser like me could be a superspy. What was the show? Well, it was Chuck, of course. 

Yes, Chuck, the show about that Best Buy… Uh, I mean…. “Buy More”, Geek Squad… damn it… I mean “Nerd Herd” employee. A regular guy who accidentally gets a spy database downloaded in his brain inadvertently turns him into a super spy. Sure, he wasn’t the best secret agent in the world, but his adventures made many people live out that fantasy. I mean, he not only got to do all the awesome spy stuff, but he also fell in love with a beautiful CIA agent who wound up seeing how wonderful he was. 

This show was special not just for the writing and performances but also for the relationship with its fans. A relationship that is so amazing that people still talk about it to this day.

Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak created Chuck. Schwartz is responsible for one of my favorite shows of the 2000s, The O.C., a show about a boy from a poor neighborhood who a rich family takes in. But I don’t want to get too much into that because this video will be over 2 hours long. Maybe we’ll do a video on that show another time, but back to Chuck. The series’ other co-creator was Chris Fedak, a  writer/producer that has gone on to make many of my favorite canceled shows. Fedak is very talented, and I hope one of his future projects sticks.

In an interview with the Hulu Blog “The Green Room,” Fedak said quote

“The show is a mash-up. It’s a combination of one part “The Office,” one part “24,” and one part “Alias.” When you mash those shows together, what happens? What we were excited about is if you built the show like something like “The Office,” where you essentially met all these characters and you loved them, and then how terrifying it would be if Sydney Bristow or Jack Bauer came into the office because you knew, when those people showed up, that someone was going to get shot, and someone was going to get tortured, and someone was going to get killed. That’s where the initial germ of the “Chuck” show came from.” 

As Schwartz and Fedak developed the show, it turned into a series about Chuck Bartowski a computer technician who works at the local Buy More, a parody of the Best Buy store. Chuck is still recovering from being kicked out of Stanford and having his girlfriend leave him for his college roommate Bryce Larkin. It turns out that Bryce is now a CIA agent who steals a top-secret project called “The Intersect,” a computer program that merges the CIA and NSA databases and inserts them in a person’s brain. Bryce steals the intersect and, before he is seemingly killed, e-mails it to Chuck. The Intersect downloads itself into Chuck’s brain, so now he has the entire government database in his noggin. This gives him the power to see government intel and piece information together so he can predict terrorist acts, identify foreign spies, find crime cartels, etc. 

Throughout the series, Chuck is partnered up with John Casey, a no-nonsense NSA agent with a permanent scowl, and the beautiful badass CIA agent Sarah Walker.  Other characters on the show are Chuck’s overprotective sister Ellie, her boyfriend /future husband, Devon “Captain Awesome” Woodcomb, and his best friend, the pathetic yet lovable Morgan Grimes.

The casting of Chuck was excellent, but after all these years, you can only think, “how could anyone have played these unique and interesting characters? “ So at the time, casting Chuck would have had to be done very carefully. One bad choice would have tanked the show before the pilot even aired.  

Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski was cast as Chuck’s love interest, the badass CIA agent Sarah Walker. Strahovski had been acting in Australia for a few years when she flew to L.A to become a more mainstream actress. Before she left Australia, Yvonne sent in her audition tape for Chuck. Strahovski had begun to audition for other roles, such as the failed Bionic Woman reboot. She was quickly called in for a screen test with Zachary Levi, and six months later she moved to L.A and was filming the show. Sarah Walker started as a simple love interest for Chuck. She was a badass CIA spy who was set up to fall in love with the big-hearted nerd with the super-powered brain. But what was impressive was the way it was written, most shows are pretty heavy-handed with this type of scenario. But, on Chuck, it felt very organic. Sarah’s cover was Chuck’s fake girlfriend. At first, Sarah seemed to see Chuck as someone she would want to protect, but toward the end of the first season, it was clear she had fallen for him. 

Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski’s chemistry was amazing. You could tell they were friends, and it was easy to believe that they would fall in love. As the series continued, Sarah was fleshed out to be a former con artist and government assassin. She was very careful about who she opened up to. So the love triangle she had between Chuck and her former partner Bryce Larkin was fascinating. Bryce was the first person she ever opened up to, he was Chuck’s former roommate and friend, and this is the reason why Chuck’s safety was so important to her. The multi-talented Matt Bomer played Bryce. You may know Bomer from his roles in White Collar and Doom Patrol. He is an incredible actor. He can sing, act, and kick ass, and I have no resistance to saying he looks like an angel. I swear, if you told me that Matt Bomer was a celestial being, I would totally believe you. 

Adam Baldwin was cast as NSA agent John Casey. Baldwin had made a splash with the public on another fan-favorite show called Firefly. Firefly is yet another victim of Fox’s executives of original programming, I would go into a rant on Fox’s past decisions on their shows, but I have done that many times before. I couldn’t find a concrete reason as to why Baldwin was cast as Casey many fans cite his work on Firefly and Angel may have been the reason for how he got the role. But others say it was his role in Independence Day that did it since the character is a lot like John Casey. All I know for sure was that the character was made specifically for Baldwin.

Casey was a no-nonsense Jack Bower type of soldier who had no qualms about killing to accomplish his mission. In the pilot, he kills Bryce with no hesitation to stop him from stealing the intersect.  As the series progresses, Casey begins to slowly warm up to the rest of the team. Surprisingly even caring for Chuck’s lovable loser best friend Morgan. One of my favorite Casey scenes was when he uses his former teammates from his time in the Marines to organize Chuck’s sister’s wedding at the last minute. It was a badass scene and still gives me goosebumps when he rappels down from a helicopter to save the day. It’s later revealed that Casey faked his death under orders leaving his wife, who he had not known was pregnant with his child. His daughter Alex grows up and, years later, ends up falling in love with Morgan. I didn’t like this storyline. I just couldn’t see Adam Baldwin as a father of a 20-year-old. He just doesn’t look that old. Yes, I know he could have had her when he was 18 or 20 years old. I don’t buy it.

Chuck’s best friend was the lovable loser, Morgan Grimes. Morgan has been Chuck’s best friend since they were six years old. He supports, maybe to the detriment, Chuck 110%. He is a loyal friend, he’s there to give words of encouragement and is willing to take a bullet for him. Joshua Gomez played Morgan. Gomez brought this sincere devotion and geek love into portraying Morgan. Levi and Gomez had great comedic timing. They would drop geek knowledge that would tickle the average viewer of the show. It’s impossible to think of anyone else playing Morgan than Joshua Gomez. Not only does Gomez have excellent comedic timing, but his chemistry with Levi just enhanced every scene they were in. It’s nice to know that Gomez and Levi remain close friends to this day.

Rounding out the cast was Chuck’s overprotective sister Ellie played by Sarah Lancaster, and her boyfriend/future husband and father of her child Devon “Captain Awesome” Woodcomb, was played by Ryan McPartlin. Both these characters were fleshed out throughout the series. Ellie’s relationship with her estranged father and mother just pulled on your heartstrings. She had to grow up fast by practically raising Chuck.

Devon was a character that took an interesting turn throughout the seasons. At first, he was written as a typical “bro” like character. But, he was multi-layered. He never came off as arrogant. He loved Ellie and truly cared about Chuck and Morgan. He never looked down on them but sincerely liked them and considered them friends and family. He would even go so far as to ask, of all people, Morgan for advice. Yes, it usually led to a disaster, but it was sweet that he valued their opinions. This is so funny since originally, Devon was supposed to be in only a few episodes before he was revealed to be an enemy spy. However, he became so popular with the fans that this was dropped, and McPartlin was made a series regular

Finally, Chuck could not work without our star Chuck Bartowski. Casting for Chuck took a while. I mean, who could you cast as the perfect combination of leading man and goofball? They met with a big number of actors trying to find the perfect choice. At one point, Chris Pratt was considered, but when Zachary Levi sat down and talked, they knew they had their Chuck

It’s funny, during an interview, he said that he was almost in the Broadway musical production of Young Frankenstein, but he had to give up the opportunity because the pilot for this show got picked up as a series.

Levi has always said that playing Chuck was not hard for him since he says Chuck is just him playing super spy. At the beginning of the series, Chuck was a very smart and sad guy. He had never recovered from his friend getting him expelled from school and sleeping with his girlfriend. But then he gets the intersect downloaded into his brain. He finds a new purpose in his life. One of the perfect examples was when a father and his daughter went to Buy More to fix their video camera. It turned out the father screwed up and didn’t record the recital. So Chuck comes up with a solution.

The first season had Chuck’s adventures using his creativity to get out of dangerous situations. The first season began to build the foundation between the character’s relationships. Specifically the relationship between Chuck and Sarah. In the second season, not only did Sarah and Casey’s back stories were expanded upon, but the Buy More employees started to have more scenes. Two of the most fan-favorite employees were Lester Patel, played by Vik Sahay, and Jeffrey Barnes, played by Scott Krinsky. Lester and Jeff were two of the funniest characters on the show. They were always coming up with stupid schemes that would blow up in their faces. However, they did form one of the most iconic tv musical duos of all time. Jeffster. Jeff and Lester’s performances were always a highlight of the series.

The idea for Jeffster came from a causal comment made by Sahay to the writers when he said that Lester’s had a rock star look by pointing out his hair and swagger. Jeffster has proven to be a huge hit outside of the show.  They even performed for fans at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con.

It’s funny, but there was originally going to be yet another character on the show. In the pilot script, there was supposed to be a second love interest that would be featured in the series. At least, that’s what was planned for the first season. A character called Kayla Hart was in the pilot and would have served as Chuck’s second love interest. Actress Natalie Martinez was cast and even appeared in some promotional material for the series. But they cut the character because it would have complicated the show. Plus Chuck‘s co-creators and showrunners, Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz, said that it wouldn’t have been believable that Chuck would have had two love interests.

From the start, the show struck a chord with geeks everywhere. It’s easy to see why, as it was unashamed to declare its geek love. 

You have to understand it we were still in the process of saying that geeks were cool. Things were beginning to change with the public, and Chuck just embraced that. This endeared the show to pop culture fans and created a devoted fan base. 

Critics and fans fell in love with the first season, but the second season became rocky with the network.  The series’s ratings began to suffer during the second season. It had to go up against programming like Dancing with the Stars, House, and How I Met Your Mother. If that wasn’t bad enough, the writer’s strike began, and then-presidential news conferences preempted the show. It was the perfect storm for cancellation. 

This leads to the most famous aspect of the show. Toward the second season, Chuck was going to be canceled. When word got out, the army of fans went on the offensive. They created letter-writing campaigns and a well-coordinated social media protest, but it was the last aspect of the methods of saving the show that was the most impressive. Subway had done some product placement on the show a few times when a fan named Wendy Farrington saw this, and she came up with an idea. Wendy ran one of the most popular Chuck fan sites. She told fellow fans to buy a 5-dollar sub from Subway to show them that Chuck could bring in revenue. Subway saw an increase in revenue, especially when a clip of Zachary Levi making Subway sandwiches at a London Convention went viral. 

Another fan initiative was called “Have a Heart, Renew Chuck,” in which fans donated a total of 17 thousand dollars for the American Heart Association

The press quickly took the story and ran. The Hollywood Reporter, NPR, and even Time Magazine covered the story. It was one of those rare instances when both critics and fans joined together to save a tv show. It became so huge that even Nestlé sent more than 1,000 packs of its Wonka Nerds candy to NBC after Josh Schwartz made such a suggestion to fans in an interview with The New York Times. 

So Chuck was renewed and finally ended the series in the fifth season.

Looking back, Chuck was not only a great show but also the perfect example of fans and shows symbiotic relationships. Many TV shows that I watch don’t have intimacy anymore. Maybe that’s why some of my favorite shows nowadays have such a short shelf life. For better or worse, that intimacy is not there. The Chuck fan community is something to be admired and envied. Not only did they share their love of Chuck, but also got the people behind the show to give the love back to them. I wish I had the kind of passion and creativity that the Chuck fans had. 

Now should Chuck come back? Well, there’s a good chance it will. Zachary Levi has been campaigning for years to make a Chuck movie, and with his recent popularity as my favorite superhero Shazam, it may happen. On an episode of the Michael Rosembaums podcast “Inside You,” Levi said that he is close to making his dream a reality.

But, even if it doesn’t happen, the series had a great run. It wasn’t like other canceled shows. It didn’t end with a cliffhanger like I sadly have had to cover in the past. It didn’t have multiple storylines crammed into three episodes, as I have also seen many times before. It had a good ending leaving the characters with a sense of closure but with an open possibility of having further adventures.

Currently, the entire series is streaming on Amazon Prime. I highly suggest you check it out before it’s gone. So put on your best nerdy shirt, get a bowl of popcorn from your star wars bowl, and sit down to watch the most loveable and nerdiest superspy to grace our tv screens. You don’t even need to flash any government secrets to know that Chuck is worth a watch.

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/chuck-gone-but-not-forgotten/

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