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Chuck - Pilot episode reviewed

Chuck

Review by Jack Foley

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the pilot episode of Virgin 1’s newest import Chuck from writer Josh Schwartz.

What’s the story? Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is an average computer geek until files upon files of government secrets are downloaded into his brain. He’s then forced to team up with an uptight CIA agent (Adam Baldwin) and a beautiful NSA agent (Yvonne Strahovski) to act in place of their computer and starts to lead a double life.

Was it any good? It was great fun. Chuck combines some genuinely funny comedy with explosive action and boasts some instantly endearing characters. Pilot episodes always struggle to find the right balance between introducing the many characters and setting the plot in motion, but Chuck‘s first hour managed to entertain and pose enough questions to keep you watching. It’s light fun with loads of pop culture references, but it’s also a great way to unwind on a Monday night, after that first day back at work.

Digging a little deeper: Chuck is clever because it mixes genres to seamless effect. Zachary Levi’s hero is an endearing geek who is awkward with girls and unaware of his own charisma – so it’s fun to see him cope with the demands of being a super-spy as well.

In the first episode alone, he and fellow geek (or nerd, as they prefer to be referred to) Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez) attempted to take on a would-be thief at Chuck’s home to hilariously silly effect. Everything that Morgan threw at the masked thief bounced back and hit Chuck where it hurt. Call me silly, but it’s exactly the kind of slapstick fun that appeals to my sense of humour (especially when it’s done right).

Strong, too, were Chuck’s attempts to woo women. Early on, at his sister’s party, he attempted to seduce by recalling his college heartbreak, while with Yvonne Strahovski’s shapely Sarah Walker he had to supress the temptation to appear boring. Levi clearly has the measure of his character, combining that everyman quality with something a little more loopy.

But the series appears to have been cast well. Strahovski’s CIA agent is both sexy (we liked her underwear scenes) and intelligent and – quite possibly – a little more than the ally she seems, while Adam Baldwin’s Major John Casey is suitably straight-faced and a nice foil for some of Chuck’s wilder extravagances. Likewise, it’s not clear whether he’s a friend or foe.

The action scenes – in this case directed by executive producer McG (of Charlie’s Angels fame) – are slick and exciting, providing further proof of why the best American television ranks alongside most movies in terms of being able to combine clever script-writing with spectacle.

And the pop culture references are fun to spot and almost always spot on, with The Terminator (the fourth installment of which McG is about to produce and direct for the big screen) and Spaghetti western stand-offs two of many accurate sight gags.

The best thing that can be said for Chuck‘s first outing, however, was that it fairly zipped along and left you wanting more. Suffice it to say, we took to Chuck in a big way and wish him good luck for the remainder of the series…

Chuck airs on Virgin 1 on Monday nights, at 10pm

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