Case Number 14942

CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (BLU-RAY)

Warner Bros. // 2007 // 556 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // November 10th, 2008

The Charge

He's the secret. She's the agent.

Opening Statement

There must be some sort of ill-conceived plot by executive producer/co-creator Josh Schwartz to try and be responsible for a lot of television shows on Monday nights. Chuck airs at 8pm on Monday nights, and one of the competing shows in that timeshot is another Schwartz show, the teen soap Gossip Girl. But even though both shows air against each other, Chuck is the one that's available on Blu-ray, so ha! How's it look?

Facts of the Case

Schwartz and Chris Fedak came up with the idea for the show, which is a little bit unique. Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi, Less Than Perfect) is a repair technician for a service department that looks and smells like the Best Buy Geek Squad, but bears no resemblance to it whatsoever. He works with his best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez, Without a Trace) and lives his with his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster, Everwood) and her boyfriend Devon (Ryan McPartlin, Living With Fran). An old college friend (who turns out to be a spy) sends Chuck an email before he's killed. Once opened, it unleashes all the government agency secrets and intelligence, absorbed by Chuck's brain through various images he sees. Chuck is eventually located by agents Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski, Headland) and John Casey (Adam Baldwin, Full Metal Jacket), who become his handlers. He provides them with intelligence to conduct missions, but also has to keep his newfound intelligence a secret from his friends and family, while forced to maintain a fictitious relationship with Sarah, even though she has no feelings for him.

The Evidence

The show manages to take a self-professed geek and put him in circumstances that might be a little beyond his comprehension or grasp, but they are really cool. Maybe it's me, but does it appear a little bit like the writers seem to avoid wanting to embrace full geek status? There's a lot of pimping of Call of Duty, but we only see Chuck and Morgan playing Gears of War once. Let's actually see how big of a geek Chuck and Morgan are, rather than taking it for granted, or seeing it in the walking wounded that are employed by the Buy More companies.

There are a couple of occasions where Chuck seems to fall into predictable and even sitcom-like circumstances which you can easily get tired of as the season progresses. Wow, Ellie gets occasionally mad because Chuck keeps secrets from her all of a sudden. And Chuck and Sarah naturally become a little closer to one another, but the "will they or won't they" gets a little tiring, especially when your lead actor looks like the illegitimate love child of Zach Braff and John Krasinski. The fun part of the show is Baldwin, who seems to be channeling his "animal mother" persona, toned down several notches of course.

On the technical side of things, the 1.78:1 widescreen presentation uses the VC-1 codec and even at its peak it doesn't look that good. Blacks look crushed and inconsistent and noise is prevalent throughout many of the images. There's no background dimensionality and the foreground image detail is inconsistent. To put it mildly, this is the furthest thing from high definition. I can't imagine it looks this bad during HD broadcast. And in Warner Bros.'s continuing nod to I don't know what, there's no lossless track, only a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. There are some directional effects in the rear speakers sometimes and the dialogue is fairly consistent in the center channel, and the subwoofer activity is prominent when needed. All in all the soundtrack does what's expected of it.

The supplemental material is a little bit underwhelming, and I'm presuming that some of it has to do with the writers strike, but still, if you want to spread the word, it might be a little beneficial. On discs one and two, a combined eight deleted scenes (7:50) are peppered through the episodes, and aside from one funny scene, the rest are forgettable. Disc two also has a piece titled "Chuck's World" (14:51), where Schwartz and Fedak discuss their opinions and casting ideas for each of the roles on the show, and the actors share their thoughts on the characters, while you see them goofing around on set, and watch audition footage of them when they get the parts. The cast also share their thoughts on the show runners, and vice versa. Disc three has a couple more deleted scenes (2:06) that induce yawning, while the gag reel (7:16) is slightly funny, if you can get around all the pre-take mugging for the cameras. "Chuck's Online World" (5:29) is basically some webisodes with Morgan, Jeff, and Anna, while they're all in character, and these are quite boring. And "Chuck on Chuck" (26:56) might sound like a naughty piece at first, but then you realize it's Levi, Gomez, Schwartz, and Fedak in a roundtable of sorts as they play and talk about their favorite scenes from the show. Note the facial hair role reversal of sorts between Levi and Gomez, which is a little disarming. This is a nice piece and probably the closest things are ever going to get to episodic commentaries, but the vibe gets a little tiring after awhile, and it makes you want to turn off the only really lengthy and moderately worthwhile extra on the set.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I hadn't seen Chuck before doing this review and, for the sake of full disclosure, I haven't watched an episode since, but the strike does give them a little bit of leeway. There's still some character development that can be done to find out more about Sarah and John individually, and by not going the easy way out and pairing Chuck with Sarah, there's certainly friction there that's being capitalized on in a Jim and Pam kind of way. So, while it doesn't need fixing, the Chuck creators can certainly tweak a couple things to make this appointment television.

From the perspective of the discs themselves, I said the same about Supernatural on Blu-ray. Both shows are being released on the same day, two months after their standard definition release, with no new supplements. Warner Home Video seems to be trying to pull some sort of bait and switch on the consumer here, which is potentially troubling.

Closing Statement

As a show, Chuck is decent in stretches, but a little redundant and not too original in others. As a high-definition, multi-disc set, the supplements are light and moderately worthwhile, but the technical qualities are a disappointment. If you're a fan of the show, you should probably stick with the standard definition set, as there's no substantial upgrade to Blu-ray. If you're unfamiliar with the show in general, give it a spin. Think of it as Alias, with less violence and a guy who likes video games. That's cool, right?

The Verdict

Warner Bros. gets community service for this substandard high definition release, but the cast and crew are sentenced to time served, with the court to return at the end of Season Two for a more defined judgment.

Review content copyright © 2008 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 80
Audio: 82
Extras: 32
Acting: 88
Story: 86
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (German)

Subtitles:
* English
* Danish
* Dutch
* French
* Norwegian
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 556 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* "Chuck's World"
* "Chuck on Chuck"
* Gag Reel

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0934814/combined

* Official Site
http://www.nbc.com/Chuck/

* Wikipedia: Chuck
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_(TV_series)