To begin, I must admit I am a novice in Chuck world. My mother is the real aficionado, so I had her fill me in on major plot points before I began my trek through Season 2. In saying this, she tossed out the opinion that season 2 is way better than Season 1. This, of course, is hearsay that should not be considered legitimate criticism and thus must be taken with a grain of salt (although my mom is pretty awesome). Just trying to present the facts…
What’s not to love about a show that winks at dozens of its predecessors while still managing to create a tone and style all its own? From Tron posters, to escape-to-Zihuatenejo fantasies, to reminiscences of Heathers, to the inclusion of Rush, Chuck may not always feel cool, but it certainly feels culturally relevant. The references may not be as epic as Abed’s Breakfast Club reference in the first episode of Community, but Chuck easily dances between the reference-y and the fantastical, maintaining a nice balance. Even when the result aren't totally convincing, they're always a good time. The greatest trick that television ever pulled was finding a formula that works. And just like that…any cheesiness is gone.
Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is a college dropout, a freeloader in the home of his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), and her fiancé, David “Captain Awesome” (Ryan McPartlin), and a loyal hourly-wage minion of the local Buymore (you guessed it, a Best Buy knockoff). In his spare time, and often otherwise, Chuck works as the keeper of the Intersect, a computer program designed to be inputted into agent’s heads to give them access to government files and secrets. With these secrets implanted in his head, Chuck must pull a John Nash -- minus the schizophrenia -- working with his CIA protector Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and his NSA handler Casey (Adam Baldwin) while maintaining his role as the level-headed, ever-positive employee, family member, and friend.
This concept is mostly a positive for the show, allowing Chuck to move between two worlds, which in turn allows the audience to live out their geek fantasies through Chuck’s spying and provides them with loveable characters they can relate to (characters who, apparently, all work at the Buymore). Chuck’s various missions also allow the producers of the show to bring in a profusion of guest stars. Chuck is constantly going on these missions and meeting new people -- err enemies -- who tend to be quasi-famous celebrities rather than random unknowns. This season features Gary Cole, Michael Strahan, Ben Savage, Jerome Bettis, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jenny McCarthy, Chevy Chase, Andy Richter...and a very wet Nichole Ritchie, who fights Sarah in a shower.
On that last note: herein lies a problem that I can’t just let Chuck slide by with. As a viewer, I want to let Chuck be fantastical, fun, and sometimes utterly ridiculous. And I applaud that they are continuously straddling the line between the innovative and the inane. But the hardest part of being a great writer is being able to censor oneself. And when there is a show that frequently features cage fights in the stock room, and females battling out like they’re having shower sex, and Buster Bluth…you can tell the writers aren’t trying very hard to straddle the fence. Or else they keep falling off in the wrong direction. Or else their pant legs are stuck to the fence and slowly ripping until they will eventually fall off in the wrong direction. See, I know how hard it is to censor. But with Kung Fu looming in the future of Season 3, Chuck needs to get its shit together, right quick, or else Sarah and Chuck will be forced into their cozy future together much sooner than expected.
Chuck averaged roughly four million fewer viewers last week than Fox’s Bones. Yet, the listing price on both DVDs is quite similar. Would I rather see Hodgins wax scientific about everything from love to crime solving? Yes. Would I rather see Bones perplexed in her own genius way about whatever emotional issue has presented itself this week? Of course! Bones doesn’t need silly features to capture my wallet. But those marketing Chuck seem to have realized the futility of an expensive price point without a few extras. Thus, the listing price on Chuck: The Complete Second Season comes from the extra episodes (there are 22), the ridiculous amount of disc extras, and (I’m hoping) the cost of manpower needed to come up with the slogan on the front of the box: "Not Shaken. Just Nerd."
The special features are gimmicky. Shocker. If you buy the copy at Best Buy, you get a cute little comic book. The disc also features a 3D episode, complete with two pairs of complementary 3D glasses. If you are watching as a family, you’ll have to plunder through your drawers for those leftover Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience glasses . The 3D episode would have been more exciting had it been a new episode and not just a random episode in 3D, but there you have it.
Other features include: dating advice from Captain Awesome (excellent), a section called “Truth, Spies, and Regular Guys” about stunts and the like (informative), and advice from John Casey on how to be a spy (creepy and off-putting).