Mania Grade: B
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- Episode: Pilot
- Starring: Zachary Levi, Sarah Lancaster, Adam Baldwin, Yvonne Strahovski
- Produced By: McG
By Stephen Lackey
September 27, 2007
Zachary Levi as Chuck in CHUCK: Pilot.
OK, let me get my early concerns about this series out of the way first; McG isn’t exactly someone I would trust to bring me anything of quality, on film or TV and also I really didn’t want to see another show or movie where straight laced “not in the know” creators try to do geeks. Ultimately, McG brings a cinematic quality to the action sequences as he directs the first episode but he leaves the script in more capable hands. I think he’s learned a lot working on Supernatural. As far as creating the geeks in the series, I felt like I was watching an episode of Family Guy in a way because there are all these nods at my demographic. The nods however go a long way to building the main character. He’s a 20 something slacker who hasn’t really been able to find his place in the grown up world and add to that an addiction to Call of Duty.
So, he’s your basic slacker working in an electronics store tech department until one day he gets an email from an old college roommate who’s become a secret agent. The email is full of classified information that imprints itself into Chuck’s brain when he opens the email. The original server that the information is on gets destroyed making Chuck a valuable asset to both the NSA and the CIA. This set up may actually be the weakest part of the series. In the early press for the show, the description said something like “the information is downloaded to his brain”. Now you tell me, doesn’t that just sound dumb? It feels like it came from some writer who is still working on an old Olympus typewriter or maybe a DOS machine and thinks he’s really computer literate. At the end of the day, I guess, it doesn’t matter how the information gets into Chuck’s brain. What matters is that it’s there and the show creators seem to be doing some pretty funny things with the premise.
Agents from both organizations appear in Chuck’s life. One agency makes the standard choice by sending in a hard nosed agent played by Adam Baldwin. Baldwin is a pro at playing the tough guy and he has geek cred due to his run on Firefly. The other agency makes a much more clever choice by sending in a female agent who Chuck of course finds quite attractive. Things get crazy for Chuck when she asks him out while still pretending to be just another customer.
The pilot episode is mostly a set up for Chuck’s future participation in secret agent matters and it’s energetic, cinematic, and quite funny. Now, my question is when TV directors come in to take over future episodes of Chuck will they be able to maintain the same level of cinematic presence in the action scenes as McG was able to do with the pilot? As I said, McG’s not exactly Steven Spielberg, but he does know how to shoot action scenes. The humor in this episode is based around a lot of geek stereotypes but the show didn’t just rely on that humor. There are plenty of other moments that are just clever scenes not only because the show has nerds in it. I expected to enjoy the series but I didn’t really expect it to be as good as the pilot was. So, I’ll keep my eye on this one for a few more episodes and see where it goes.