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Chuck: Season 1 - Review

Chuck: Season 1

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HIT US TV show Chuck comes from the creative minds of Josh Schwartz (The OC/Gossip Girl) and McG (Charlie’s Angels) and anyone who caught it earlier this year on Virgin will know what to expect – fun entertainment that mixed spy spoofery with nerdy humour and characters worth caring for.

Zachary Levi emerged as the perfect actor to play the eponymous hero, a computer geek who finds himself catapulted into a new career as the government’s most vital secret agent. Combining an endearing everyman quality with some fleeting action man credentials, he was a consistently endearing and even humorous presence who was always great fun to be around.

But then the whole cast of Chuck fit comfortably into their roles – whether it was the hopelessly sexy (and frequently undressed) Yvonne Strahovski, as a government babysitter and potential love interest, or the straight-laced Adam Baldwin, as a fellow government agent assigned to protect their asset.

Notable too were Joshua Gomez, as Chuck’s frequently hilarious layabout friend Morgan Grimes, and Sarah Lancaster as his sister Ellie, who got to share some genuinely touching scenes with him.

The fun began in the pilot episode when Chuck innocently opens an e-mail subliminally encoded with government secrets, and unwittingly downloads an entire server of sensitive data into his brain.

With the fate of the world seemingly lying in the unlikely hands of a guy who works at an electronics store (The Nerd Herd), Chuck is forced to lead a double life fighting computer viruses and international terrorists.

Much of Chuck‘s success lay in the clever way it traded on familiar spy set-ups (from True Lies to James Bond via 24) and then placed them within an everyday context.

Hence, Chuck could be fighting terrorists one minute and juggling Nerd Herd responsibilities (which mostly involved looking out for his friend, Morgan) the next.

The action, when it arrived, was suitably outlandish and boasted some pretty high production values – but it was always underpinned with a nice line in humour and peril that made each new mission worth tuning in.

Levi, in the title role, also proved a revelation and no matter how predictable some of his scrapes became, you always ended up rooting for him given the charm he brought to each of the first season’s 13 episodes.

Early highlights came in the form of episodes entitled Chuck Versus The Tango, in which director Jason Ensler had fun paying homage to True Lies, and Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp, in which Chuck has to make good on a mission screw-up while Morgan attempts to save his own job by entering a sales competition.

Later on, as the characters grew more familiar and the will they/won’t they scenario between Levi and Strahovski hot up, there were also some fun love triangles to entangle – firstly, involving the ex-love of Strahovski’s Sarah and Chuck’s presumed-dead best friend, and latterly involving Rachel Bilson’s recurring character Lou Palone.

An episode entitled Chuck Versus The Truth was a definite series highlight that developed the Chuck/Sarah dynamic in tantalising fashion, while season finale Chuck Versus the Marlin drew things to a suitably satisfying finale that posed several intriguing questions for the future.

Chuck may not be ground-breaking in what it has to offer, or totally original in concept or design, but it does provide effortlessly feel-good entertainment that’s easy to watch and even easier to like.

Season 1 aired on the Virgin 1 channel on a Monday night and offered the perfect way to kick back and take it easy on what is traditionally one of the worst days of the week.

It has a nice accessibility about it that makes all 13 episodes worth revisiting time and time again. What’s more, with the prospect of a second season looming large, this first season looks set to mark the beginning of yet another great American series.

Certificate: 15
Episodes: 13
UK DVD Release: August 18, 2008