@ April 16, 2009

I watch lots of television, and not all of it is good. Did you know I watch American Idol? I do. I watch that shit. Did you know that I watch The Hills with the Suze, and I actually enjoyed the last episode? Sure, I enjoyed it because somebody finally got punched in the goddamn face, but still. The point is, while I watch some of this shit, I need to be careful with what I recommend. If I actually recommended that you watch American Idol, would you ever listen to a word I had to say again? Of course not. You'd be a fool to.

So some shows come on my radar, and I watch them, but they don't quite reach the level of a "Watch" recommendation.  Heroes, even in its pretty good first season, never reached that level. House never reached that level. Jim and I wrote sloppy love letters to 24 earlier this season, but I never officially christened it with a "Watch" recommendation. There is a whole history of shows that I have watched, but never even considered recommending.

Chuck has always been solidly in this category.  The premise: Chuck Bartowski, a mild-mannered nerd works in Best Bu...uh, Buy More, for the Geek, Nerd Herd. His former Stanford roommate, Bryce Larkin, who was responsible for getting him thrown out, has moved on to becoming a super spy.  Bryce steals government data from a super-computer called the Intersect, and then, in the plot device to end all plot devices, uploads all that information into Chuck's brain via a series of encoded images.  Now, everytime Chuck sees something that the Intersect recognizes, he "flashes", and he suddenly knows everything there is to know about the object/person in question.  Hilarity ensues (doesn't it always?)

I enjoyed the first season for what it was. The blond is super, super hot. Adam Baldwin is always fun. The actor who plays Chuck, Zachary Levi, is incredibly likeable.  My biggest problem with the show when it first started was that it was trying too hard. The pilot episode was covered in so much flop sweat that I had to take a shower after watching it. Look, Chuck has a Tron poster in his room! He walks around with his shirt untucked! He makes lots of pandering-to-geeks pop-culture references! I wanted to grab the show by the shoulders and shake it: "I'm watching, okay! You can stop trying so hard, please!" 

But I realized something recently: Chuck has become my second favorite show on TV. (Sorry, Chuck, you aren't passing Lost so easily.)

I'm not exactly sure how or when it happened, but since the beginning of the second season, Chuck has taken its game to another level.  After some reflection, I came to the following conclusions as to why:

Chuck has started telling a cohesive story. Or; in the beginning, there were stand-alone mission episodes with little episode-to-episode continuity. Now it is continuity-tastic.

Chuck (the character) has grown as a character. For more on on the perils of character-development (or lack thereof) re: American television, see my 3-part conversation on House with Jim.

The show has incredible guest stars. My two favorites: John Larroquette was amazing as a former spy and world-renowned ladies' man, and Scott Bakula in a recurring role as Chuck's dad.

As with all shows I enjoy (RIP Pushing Daisies), there is a good chance that the current season will be its last.  You could start watching now, but I would suggest you start with the Season One DVD.  Because of the strike, season one was only 13 or so episodes long (I'm too lazy to check), its fun-if-light, and you can watch with the confidence that there is some greatness ahead of you.


I've watched the last two episodes, and I'm surprised that you would give this a watch recommendation. It's, from what I've seen, kind of a bleh show. Fun concept, good cast, but the writing is just unispired. The whole Bakula/Chase thing was clumsy (hey, we were roommates and I was the bad genius who built the Quantum Leap machine and he was the unscrupulous asshole who stole it from me!), and the Big Mike 'Godfather II' moment was groan-worthy.

It's certainly not on the level of Pushing Daisies or Lost, or even good seasons of 24.

I've got Damages in my netflix queue. It better be better than this.

If you just jump in on the last two episodes then you've missed some of the history with the character's that made some of those moments much more enjoyable. My whole point with this recommendation is it started out being just kind of a fun, goofy show, but over the course of the series it started building on itself, creating some really satisfying and fun mythology/continuity. If you watch two episodes then you miss all of that.

Yes, the Big Mike Godfather moment was kind of groan worthy - the Buy More bits are always the most likely to induce groans. But there were other bits in that episode that you probably didn't enjoy as much as I did because you didn't have the history with the characters.

If you jumped in on the last two episodes of Lost, having seen no previous episode, you would be very confused about why it's lasted more than a half season.

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