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Wednesday, 23 of May of 2018

Tag » Chuck

Podcast 001, pt 4: “We Miss Mad Men, Chuck Has No Stakes (wah)”

“Dude, do the right thing.”

Somebody call the wahmbulance! Matt and Nick harken back to two weeks ago to briefly discuss the Mad Men finale before using the deftness of its narrative craft to chastise Chuck for being a bunch of wusses when it comes to pulling the trigger on plot points. Is it fair to compare Mad Men and Chuck? Not really. Do we unfairly use it against Chuck anyway? Of course. We never said we were fair people.

Also: Dexter Season 4 spoiler at 3:41. You’ve been alerted!

Podcast 001, pat 2: “It’s Still Halloween Somewhere (but just barely)”

“What was that accent?”

And just barely slipping in before the witching hour on Halloween (on the West Coast anyway) are some thoughts on this week’s Halloween episodes. Some of the things we reference:

Chuck – “Chuck vs The Aisle of Terror”

“I love our little give-and-take. Classic Ross and Rachel.”

Dr Wheelwright in the nightmarish vision of Atroxium-dosed Chuck.

Nothing can be scary anymore unless it’s a technique developed in Asia.

Dear Chuck, pick a tone. Stick with it. Love, Nick

The highs and lows in this episode have been good (for this season anyway) but, when they start robbing effect from each other, that’s when you know your tone is off. With some of the episodes of late, I was just getting used to conceding that Chuck was going to become the Big Bang Theory of hour-long dramas: broad, broad comedy with a hot girl to anchor it. The spy stuff was going to be the buzzing bee that gave it separation from the rest of its broad comedy brethren, maybe even a bit of heart.

But then some of the Chuck’s mom stuff was good, if eye-rolling material at times. The stakes were raised, the deception and double-crosses created tension, and we had yet another time where the B-story fed into the A-story. People, this had the makings of continuing the good they did last week.

And then it went goofy. The stakes were blunted. And I think it was because they didn’t want to have to decide between their slapstick idea and their real drama. “We can do both, right?”

As I see it, no.

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Chuck – “Chuck vs The Couch Lock”

” — if you have the mana to battle the other plainswalkers.”

Casey exacts revenge on Morgan admitting he's dating his daughter.

Special buddies.

This episode would have been way better if it incorporated a Sharktopus. SyFy bastards of science aside, though, I didn’t hate this episode as much as I’ve hated most of this season.

The same problems are still there. The false cliffhangers and the lack of stakes hang like a dark cloud over (however minor) character development and a couple callbacks for the true believers. And, let’s face it, it was a Casey episode so we had a lot of him to look forward to.

But of everything that happened in this episode (and there are a few key plot points), I think the most important revelation of all was the many times that Chuck finally admitted: “This is all my fault.” Yes, Chuck. And it always has been.

Now, I’m not blaming him for getting the Intersect stuck in his head (although putting v2.0 in back in is all on him) so the entire problematic of the series is not his fault but many of the screw-ups, the pain, the suffering, is on the back of one Charles Bartowski. I’ve made the case several times before, and I’ll say it here: Chuck is a jackass.

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Chuck – “Chuck vs The Coup d’Etat”

“I’ve never, ever heard smooth jams.”

The Generalissimo invites Devon and Ellie to a gala on Costa Gravas.

“Please come to my fantasy island, now with less socialism.”

Can we go ahead and call this show Morgan already?

He’s all that’s left for me on this show, the only one that has any obstacles or intrigue. Sure, everyone’s story in this episode was vapid and trite but Morgan’s stands out because there exists at least a little bit of tension. Besides, I think Chuck and Sarah might work better as secondary characters.

Alas, the name of the show is Chuck so we watch these two idiots work a flimsy thread and carry it out to the its illogical end. I know I’ve said this several times before but I think I’m actually going to have to listen to myself this time: this show doesn’t want to be what it was. It used to be a spy show about a guy that tries to reconcile his stagnent yet contented home life with a fantastical, dangerous, and exciting one that abandons his family. Season 4 is far, far away from the life of intrigue and struggle (such that it was in the balance with the goofy and the cartoonish). Chuck this season would rather be a broad comedy burdened with an hour-long format and this mythology people seem to keep coming back for. It’s a romantic romp with this spy thread to push it along. Ladies and gentlemen, no episode this season has screamed it out loud more: the ‘shippers have won. And maybe it’s time I accepted that there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Chuck – “Chuck vs the Cubic Z”

“Jenny-Sarah, how did you end up with such a goofball?”

Morgan sighs with his failure as Buy More manager and Big Mike looks on with concern.

It’s hard to be the only character working this season.

Dear People of Chuck:

What are you doing? I know that you’ve lost some writers, some good (Rosenbaum), some mediocre but affable (Adler), and that you’re entering this season with a new look for a story, but it’s like you’re running scared and low on inspiration.

Season 3 offered a lot of depth in character, given the duality Chuck has to suffer with the Intersect, not only losing his humanity to his career but also his sanity to his government-sanctioned affliction. Sarah wrestled with her identity as it’s defined by Chuck’s gaze (has she ever had her own identity?) and Casey found out he has a daughter. How is it, with all these interesting arcs, that Morgan is the only developing character left in the series?

I get the pressure you must be under, trying to limp through this season, hoping that the talent remaining can carry you through Four and make a go of Five (though, with multiple projects running at the same time, you might be hoping for some fall out to regain focus). I also understand that Three started just as weak (“vs The Three Words” and “vs Operation Awesome” almost turned me off the series) but came around in the middle just before the mini-season at the end (except for “vs The Honeymooners,” aka the “Stranger in a Strange Land” of Chuck). So maybe I’m being reactionary and I need to wait it out for a couple more weeks before making accusations. But, for right now, I have to tell you:

This season suh-hucks.

This episode is indicative of that. It leans on season three like a crutch and does nothing with it. The only person that seems to be working at all in this series anymore is Josh Grimes. And even the Buy More sequences are weak sauce. The Chuck and Sarah stuff, though only three episodes in, is already getting repetitive. But, the worst part about this season so far: there aren’t any stakes. Because you squashed any attempt at suspense in the first episode. So why do we care?

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Chuck – “Chuck vs The Suitcase”

“Rumor has it that you’re pregnant. Is there room in that womb for two?”

Sarah finally puts down roots by stocking the closet.

Sarah, once again, caters to the male fantasy. And that’s okay.

I toyed with the idea of forgoing the entire plot of the show in order to tie in Bronson Pinchot’s all-too-short appearance in this episode to the major threads of the series. Like that Pinchot was reprising his role as Balki and that he was a Greek spy, his cover being a rural farm boy from Mypos. That was, in fact, the last surviving member of the Ring and a major player in the Russian syndicate Chuck is trying to topple. The knowing look from him being more than just blip of a homoerotic gaze. Oh, it was going to be grand.

Instead, I’m actually going to talk about the show and how, though some things change, the quality of the threads are still the same. Like how the most interesting is still Casey and Morgan. And how Chuck and Sarah are dangerously close to becoming annoying sit-commie blandness. And how the reintroduction of Jeffster will reinstitute the Buy More as what we all feared: the unrelated comic punchline to the series.

That being said, I’m glad to see those boys back, even after their Halo:Reach escapades. Read more »

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Chuck – “Chuck vs The Anniversary”

“Desolation. Frostbite. Must be Russia.”

Casey, Sarah, Chuck, and Morgan ride a bus to safety.

The gang’s all here.

Previously on Chuck: Chuck whined a lot about his feelings, was challenged by Superman-gone-rogue, finally got the girl, committed the cheesiest episode of the series, went a little batty, had his dad come up with a fix with a ridiculous name (the Governor) to combat his battiness (the calming effect of which is reminiscent of when Harry pushes off in Requiem for a Dream), implicated everyone he knows into his dangerous profession, watched a horrific family event, wrecked the Buy More, let his friends take the rap for it, and was bestowed with a posthumous mission to find his mother. Oh, and he quit the gym. I mean the CIA.

Hope that wasn’t too spoilery.

I shouldn’t have come in with expectations. But here’s the thing about Chuck: any audience member that pays any attention to the massive clues they drop knows exactly what’s going on. You knew who Orion was by mid-second season when Sarah and Chuck were discussing their daddy issues. You know where Shaw was going to land when they kept dropping evil audio tags to his scenes. While the show on an episode-to-episode basis isn’t necessarily predictable, the seasonal arcs are.

With that in mind, I was a little excited about how this season might go. They set Chuck up to have his own secret-secrets outside of the CIA/NSA, the Buy More was gone, Morgan was under the tutelage of our favorite hatchet man Casey, and they could start building on the Chuck and Sarah dynamic (only to challenge it with a possible rogue status). Lots of intrigue cooking, simmering, becoming a nice broth. But sadly, it was not to be.

When did Chuck become the Psych of broadcast?

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What to Look Out For This Week

As you’ve probably read a thousand times today in your friends’ Facebook statuses and uninspired tweets, Labor Day marks the end of summer. But that means it’s only the beginning for television. The fall season is fast approaching and, with it, a slew of new content to watch, consume, and make you feel good about life/hate the hacks that trick you into watching stuff on the picture tube. Here at Monsters of Television, we hope to help you cut through the garbage and check out the things we’re looking forward to this week.

Mad Men – “The Suitcase”

I know this aired on Sunday night but the episode is that good. If you haven’t caught it yet, set your DVRs for the re-runs this week. Then read the reviews (including ours).

Gilmore Girls

You’ve heard me mention it about a hundred times on this site, between Parenthood reviews and any opportunity I can fit it in (it’s like Lost with Matt), but it’s time you caught up. ABC Family will start the re-run cycle of Gilmore Girls this Tuesday and play the entire series in order from the beginning. Stick with it. It’s good. Swear, dude. Well, until Season 3 and then it goes bad for a while. But come back for late season 3, early season 4. I defy you to deny Lorelai Gilmore. Starting Tuesday, 5PM on ABC Family

Warehouse 13 – “Where and When”

Bridging the gap between the end of summer TV and the beginning of the fall season, Warehouse 13 continues blending historical fiction with science fiction and adding to the reasons why Syfy might actually be able to compete with network and cable original programming. Allison Scagliotti (who plays Claudia Donovan, a student of the Veronica Mars school of snark) teased via her twitter account: “Ever wonder what would happen if #Warehouse13 ate an episode of #MadMen? Tune in tonight for a blast from the past.” Tuesday, 9PM on Syfy

Hellcats – “A Word Full of Strangers”

Stars Alyson Michalka and Ashley Tisdale aren’t just trying out for the competitive cheer squad, they’re gonna have to prove to the audience that they can step up from their Disney Channel pasts. Keeping with the CW staple of very pretty pretty young people and a Top 40 soundtrack, Hellcats is hoping to help land its network at the top of the pyramid. Will it stick the landing? Wednesday, 8PM on The CW

White Collar – “Point Blank”

The summer finale looks to explore what’s inside of the music box, a lazy plot point that has meandered through this season, ranking in importance just under what happened to Kate (something Neal has only had a casual interest in this season). Interesting in the promo is Neal’s use of a gun, which, as any viewer knows, is the mark of dubious characters in the series. 98% of me says that it’s part of a con but part of me thinks it might be the act of a desperate man (plus, Alex comes back — hooray!). Tuesday, 10PM on USA

Psych – “One, Maybe Two, Ways Out”

So Psych’s summer finale probably won’t finish as strong as the season finale (or probably most of the episodes coming up on the latter half of this season) but it should be a fun romp, especially now that they’ve introduced the possibility of Shules (though odds that something important in that relationship will occur here: slim). Wednesday, 10PM on USA

Terriers – “Pilot”

The pedigree is strong with the writer of Ocean’s 11 and Shawn Ryan from The Shield. Donal Logue appears to be playing the character I wanted Jason Lee to play in Memphis Beat, a detective down on his luck, sinking to rock bottom, hustling, trying to make it all work. It looks good and has a lot of potential, even though FX is throwing a ton of marketing behind it (which, as we know from Paul Blart, Mall Cop, that means they’re not sure the show can sell itself). Wednesday, 10PM on FX

Nikita – “Pilot

Remember when USA aired an action show about a highly trained operative with vague ties to the government? No, no, not Burn Notice. Le Femme Nikita! Yeah, it aired on USA from 1997 to 2001 (right before the network’s retooling began), and has no been remade with the ever awesome Maggie Q. No doubt some things have changed, but as long as there’s conspiracy and ass-kicking, it’ll hopefully be entertaining. Thursday 9PM on The CW

Chuck Presents – Buy Hard: The Jeff and Lester Story

While not necessarily something that’s going to air on television, the people at Chuck did the thing we hoped they would by making a webisode series based on Jeff and Lester going on the lam. (Un)fortunately, they used this opportunity to also tie in some sponsorship so the series will serve as a paid advertising for Halo: Reach. You can catch the web series all this week on the Warner Bros. page for Chuck.

Chuck – “Chuck vs The Subway” and “Chuck vs The Ring, Part II”

“Muah ha ha.”

Shaw waves at Chuck from the subway train.

Where does one buy villainous trenchcoats?

The spy procedural is based on the “unreliable witness.” Espionage, as a genre, involves a number of “agents” that can turn coat on a dime or, at the whim of the show’s authors, reveal themselves to have always been a double agent without precedent. No character can be trusted with anything. In fact, not even what the audience sees can be trusted since, often, what they see is a biased version of what is actually transpiring. Nothing is reliable, not even what the viewer can testify to seeing. The abilities of spies have risen to superhuman in order to either (a) cover up narrative holes or (b) make an audience believe that this network of subterfuge, obfuscation, and coolness is believable. Spies are the new superheroes because, with a gadget or some sleight of hand, maybe even the opportunity to slip off a dress at a moment’s notices, anything is possible. For reference, see Alias, Burn Notice, or Dollhouse (though the latter has its own complications with the supernatural/extraordinary).

Chuck started like a children’s version of the spy procedural: many of the tricks of the spy trade but with this elementary element that even a goofball can do the job, if a bit clumsily. Chuck as a character is proof that spies have been elevated to something that has normally needed a cape and underwear-on-the-outside-of-the-pants to designate its superiority. We have been led to believe that he is a normal guy given extraordinary power and that is the only way he could possibly compete on the same level as his fellow agents (Walker and Casey) that received “ordinary” spy training. The thread of Chuck’s normal life kept it grounded and almost made it a parody of all those spy procedurals that take themselves so seriously.

But Chuck has been growing up over the past season and a half and has reached a sort of awkward adolescence. While the ending to Season 3 packed a few punches, it is constantly wrestling with the spy procedural genre and that which kept it grounded, a thread that was spinning out of control, the two halves of the show diverging intensely. At the end of this episode, the show seems to have made a choice. And I can’t say it made the right one. Especially since it goes into next season with what might be some heavy intra-network competition.

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