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So, a nerd named Chuck has managed to end up with the entire contents of a sooper-sekrit NSA/CIA intelligence database downloaded into his brain; the original got destroyed at the same time. Each of those agencies have sent a top field agent to keep tabs on him (in both a good and bad way). Various hijinks ensue.

Superficially, Chuck has certain similarities with Reaper - the nerd in a dull job, the comedy-sidekick slacker friend, the secret life to complicate things. For me, there are some important differences that mean it makes somewhat more compelling viewing. The lead character is more sympathetic - Chuck may be in a dull job, but he's not a total layabout, and faced with the right sort of task (anything techie) he's highly competent. The two agents are interesting characters (in particular, Adam "Jayne Cobb" Baldwin is good value as the NSA agent) and the slacker friend is actually often amusing, rather than just being a jerk.

It's not all good - I've yet to see an episode that doesn't involve totally gratuitous shots of (blond female CIA agent) Sarah with minimal clothing1. At least ST:Enterprise could wave the (pathetic) excuse that the scripts were so bad that the decontamination grease scenes were there to pull viewers in, and they made a nod in the general direction of equal-opportunity nudity.

Chuck doesn't need such gimmicks - the programme itself is plenty good enough on other grounds - and I resent being the target of such a blatant attempt at audience-capture-by-libido. It often breaks the pacing, too - there are times when the plot is fizzing along nicely, and we cut to a 30-second scene of Sarah getting (slowly) dressed for whatever's coming next, leaving me thinking "Yes, ok, she's hot. I noticed that already. Can we get on with the story, please?".

Back to the upside: the writers obviously know that the general premise is just a teensy bit silly, and play into it. The scripts so far (four episodes in) are snappy, and there are hints that it's even going to develop more depth of characterisation than would normally be expected for something so superficially glossy. The fight/stunt coordinators are earning their keep2. It's obvious that the budget isn't that big, but it's equally obvious that they're making pretty good use of what they've got.

Overall: Chuck is fun. I am currently making time to watch it.

1OK, episode 4 doesn't (much) - but they've got a (redhead female DEA agent) guest star, so there are totally gratuitous shots of her in her undies instead. For the purposes of this discussion: same difference.

2Yes, I know it's not the most realistic ever. See "silly", above. But it is choreographed, shot and directed well enough that the cast don't look like slow-mo robots carefully lined up to miss each other by a good foot or so, the audience can generally see what's going on, it can occasionally raise a smile as someone gets thwacked with some improbable object being used as an improvised weapon3 or Chuck looking terrified4 and they have the good sense to keep the fights relatively brief.

3UK Telly Censors' scissors notwithstanding [fx: glares at whoever hacked episode 4 to ribbons. I mean, so someone got hit in the face by a thrown plate. I don't see how that justifies removing the whole shot, given the (not-obviously-cut) fight the other week with people getting hit in the face with pieces of broomhandle, or that good old US TV standby, death by shooting, in the pilot]

4His skillset doesn't include combat. He knows it, and reacts accordingly.

Chuck at IMDB. Which reveals that it's confirmed for a second season.


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