Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review

Here’s a few things about Chuck you might need to know or maybe you just forgot...

Chuck was average guy until he ended up with the Intersect in his brain -- every scrap of intel from the U.S. military, CIA, NSA, and more. It’s also got a collection of skill sets that let him do everything from safecracking to taking on a room full of Russian mercenaries in hand-to-hand combat. Now, with his secret-agent girlfriend Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), his NSA handler Casey (Adam Baldwin), and his BuyMore best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez), Chuck’s out to protect the free world and find out whatever happened to his mom -- a spy know as Frost who vanished while investigating an international arms dealer named Volkoff.

One thing Chuck has always had going for it -- this show gets awesome guest stars. Linda Hamilton as Chuck’s mom, Timothy Dalton as her neurotic CIA handler, Robert Englund as a mad scientist who invents a “fear toxin,” Dolph Lundgren, Summer Glau, Ray Wise, the Old Spice guy -- and a dozen more past that. Plus, as an added bonus, when you’ve got this many big names it’s easy to hide a secret identity in plain we eventually find out. Twice.

The real heart of this show, though, has always been the relationships between Chuck and his friends and family. While the main arc this season is the hunt for Frost and Volkoff, just as important is Chuck’s quest for the perfect way to propose to Sarah. It’s part goofball, part touching, and it’s got a resolution that’s so beautifully understated that I challenge anyone to watch it and not get a little misty eyed.

Not to say the show is perfect. Four seasons in, Chuck has definitely found its strengths, but still clings to its weaknesses. While some of the product placement is a bit blatant (yet still not as clumsy as it was on Heroes), the biggest is the BuyMore, Chuck’s civilian cover. While it was a fine use of time in the early days, it’s painfully clear how much Chuck, both the character and the show, has outgrown this setting. It’s still good stuff, but usually feels shoehorned in more than an actual part of the story. Jeff and Lester (Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay) are funny, and sometimes even a bit touching, but more often than not you’d really rather be hearing about the Volkoffs, the mysterious Agent X, or even just Casey’s attempt to reconnect with his daughter.

For a show that’s so notoriously fan-friendly, this set feels a bit bare, with no commentaries at all from cast or crew. What is here hasn’t been set up in the most convenient way. Take, for example, “Buy Hard: The Jeff and Lester Story.” It’s a series of five short webisodes about how Jeffster spent their summer (as well as a shameless tie-in to the release of Halo Reach). But there’s only one episode per disc, so to watch this story you need to change the disc in your player every five minutes and sit through the WB anti-piracy message every time. Each disc also has a block of “Declassified Scenes,” but they’re all lumped together. There are no headers to explain where they fall in the episode, or even which episode they’re from. The booklet tells you if a given episode has a declassified scene, but that’s your only clue.

There’s an original feature called “Spying on the Cast: Operation Gomez,” which feels a lot like Joshua Gomez goofing around with the EPK crew and a few things he borrowed from the prop department. It’s just more of Gomez hamming it up the same way his character Morgan does.

There’s also a feature on Zachary Levi directing an episode. It’s a nice reminder that Strahovski is Australian and Baldwin is a lot more articulate than his characters, but it’s not terribly informative about what Levi brings to the position or how much extra work it involves. You just come away with the sense that the cast and crew of Chuck love their show, love working together, and are willing to put in extra effort to help Levi succeed because they all like him.

Then again, that’s probably a good lesson for any director to remember.

Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season is still a must-buy for fans of the show, or just anyone who enjoys fun, well-written television.

Length: 817 min.

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Release Date: 10/11/11

Starring: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Ryan McPartlin, Bonita Freidericy

Directed by: Robert Duncan McNeill, Gail Mancuso, Norman Buckley, Michael Schultz, John Scott, Allan Kroeker, Anton Cropper, Zachary Levi, Jay Chandrasekhar, Milan Cheylov, Peter Lauer, Patrick Norris, Paul Marks, Fredrick E.O. Toye, Kevin Mock

Produced by: Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, Nicholas Wootton, Robert Duncan McNeill, McG

Written by: Chris Fedak, Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc, Nicholas Wootton, Kristen Newman, Henry Alonso Meyers, Craig DiGregorio, Max Denby, Phil Klemmer, Alex Katsnelson, Amanda Kate Shuman