Case Number 18094

CHUCK: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON

Warner Bros. // 2008 // 1034 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // January 15th, 2010

The Charge

Not Shaken. Just Nerd.

Opening Statement

Chuck, the story of an average nerd sucked into a world of guns and intrigue, blew the roof off in its sophomore season. Explosions and fights were bigger, the sexual tension was hotter, the Buy More nerds were nerdier, and the one-liners had people reaching for their remotes to catch the scenes they missed while curled up in a ball laughing, struggling to breathe. Amazingly, Chuck almost didn't survive its second year. Despite surpassing all expectations in turns of sheer entertainment, high production costs coupled with stiff competition left the show on the renewal bubble. A grass roots campaign saw fans rushing to Subway -- one of the show's sponsors -- the night the season finale aired, and the show got a last-minute reprieve.

Warner Bros. now brings us Chuck: The Complete Second Season, to which we can say nothing more than, Thank you!

Facts of the Case

Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) heads the Nerd Herd at the local Buy More. He was adrift in life, living with his successful older sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her impossibly awesome boyfriend/fiancé Devon (Ryan McPartlin), until he wound up with the combined intel of the US Government imprinted on his brain. Thanks to an encryption known as the Intersect, when Chuck sees something, it can trigger a "flash," as the Intersect retrieves and correlates the intel. CIA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin, Serenity) and NSA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski, The Canyon) are always close, not only to protect Chuck, but to act on Chuck's flashes.

Now Chuck lives a double life, balancing Buy More mediocrity with global espionage, desperately looking to remove the Intersect and return to his nice, boring life. There are only two problems: If he gets rid of the Intersect, he also gets rid of Sarah, and he really doesn't want that to happen. Also, Fulcrum, a rogue organization within the CIA, is searching for the Intersect, and they won't be nearly as understanding as Casey and Sarah. In the midst of all this chaos, Chuck has a quest of his own -- Ellie and Devon are engaged, and Chuck has promised Ellie that he would find their long-lost father to walk her down the aisle. Plus, Chuck gets contacted by some loon calling himself Orion, who claims to have invented the Intersect...

You get all 21 episodes (particularly good episodes marked with an asterisk):

* "Chuck Versus the First Date"
The team recovers the Cipher, a key component for the new Intersect, from a Fulcrum agent (Michael Clarke Duncan, The Whole Nine Yards). Chuck, emboldened at the prospect of returning to a normal life, asks Sarah out. Casey is ordered to terminate Chuck when the new Intersect is activated. In the scariest development of the episode, Lester becomes the Buy More assistant manager.

* "Chuck Versus the Seduction"
Chuck must get some sensitive intel from the Black Widow (Melinda Clarke). To train Chuck in the art of seduction, the team tracks down a legendary agent (John Larroquette). Morgan give Devon some suggestions for a romantic night with Ellie. Yeah, that'll end well.

* "Chuck Versus the Break-Up"
Fulcrum has intercepted an update for the new Intersect. Bryce Larkin (Matt Bomer, White Collar) and Sarah pose as a married couple to get the chip back, leaving Chuck out in the cold. The Buy More is invaded by bullies from a sports store (including ex-NY Giant Michael Strahan).

* "Chuck Versus the Cougars"
Someone from Sarah's past (Nichole Richie) recognizes her, forcing Sarah to go to her high school reunion. Grosse Pointe Blank, anyone?

* "Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer"
Chuck flashes on a Buy More customer: a terrorist looking for, of all people, Jeff, who reveals a secret from his dark, twisted past. Emmett Milbarge (Tony Hale, Arrested Development) arrives at the Buy More as an efficiency expert.

* "Chuck Versus the Ex"
Chuck encounters his ex-girlfriend, Jill (Jordana Brewster, The Fast and the Furious). He flashes on one of Jill's associates, and must reconnect with Jill to pursue the lead.

* "Chuck Versus the Fat Lady"
An attempt to find a list of Fulcrum agents interferes with Chuck's attempts to rekindle his romance with Jill.

* "Chuck Versus the Gravitron"
Chuck is abducted by Fulcrum. As Thanksgiving (and Black Friday) approaches, Big Mike appoints Morgan, Jeff, and Lester to guard the Buy More.

* "Chuck Versus the Sensei"
Casey's former Sensei (Carl Lumbly, Alias) has become a rogue agent. Ellie must face Captain Awesome's parents (Bruce Boxleitner & Morgan Fairchild).

* "Chuck Versus the DeLorean"
Sarah's con artist father (Gary Cole, American Gothic) shows up. His latest con involves a sheik with possible terrorist ties. In other news, Devon gives Morgan some money to help pay for a new apartment, but Morgan instead buys a DeLorean.

* "Chuck Versus Santa Claus"
It's Die Hard at the Buy More, as the gang, including Ellie and Devon, are taken hostage by a couple of thieves. Reginald VelJohnson (Die Hard) appears as Sgt. Al Powell. Swear. To. God.

* "Chuck Versus the Third Dimension"
In a special 3-D episode, Sarah and Casey kidnap an international rock star (Dominic Monaghan, Lost) to foil a plot to murder him. Non 3-D is the standard presentation; the 3-D version is included as an extra (2 pairs of 3-D glasses are included).

* "Chuck Versus the Suburbs"
Chuck and Sarah go undercover as a married couple and encounter some odd neighbors (Andy Richter, Andy Richter Controls the Universe & Jenny McCarthy, A Substantial Percentage of My Adolescent Fantasies).

* "Chuck Versus the Best Friend"
While helping a depressed Morgan spy on Anna, Chuck flashes on her new boyfriend; Jeff and Lester beg Ellie to hire their band, Jeffster, to play at her wedding.

* "Chuck Versus the Beefcake"
Chuck gets jealous when Sarah gets cozy with an MI-6 agent. Jeff and Lester weasel their way onto the Buy More hiring committee; Morgan starts sleeping at Ellie and Awesome's apartment.

* "Chuck Versus the Lethal Weapon"
Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and an MI-6 agent go after a scientist developing Fulcrum's new Intersect.

* "Chuck Versus the Predator"
A scientist may be able to remove the Intersect from Chuck's head, but the cost may be too steep. The Buy More crew takes on their snobbish Beverly Hills counterparts.

* "Chuck Versus the Broken Heart"
General Beckman sends a new agent (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactica) to assess Sarah's relationship with Chuck. Morgan, Jeff, and Lester plot to crash Awesome's bachelor party.

* "Chuck Versus the Dream Job"
Chuck tracks down his long-lost father (Scott Bakula, Quantum Leap) and gets a real job working for one of his idols (Chevy Chase).

* "Chuck Versus the First Kill"
To rescue his father, Chuck needs help from an unlikely ally; the Buy More crew scramble to head off Emmett's evaluations.

* "Chuck Versus the Colonel"
Casey pursues Chuck and Sarah, who have gone off-grid to rescue Chuck's father. Morgan's most recent screw-up makes him Public Enemy #1 at Buy More.

* "Chuck Versus the Ring"
Chuck finally rids himself of the Intersect, but now must protect Ellie from Fulcrum on her wedding day.

The Evidence

Chuck's first season was pure, tongue-in-cheek geek wish-fulfillment. Season Two takes everything that made the first season so much fun and cranks it up to eleven. Sometimes twelve. Jacked up action, smoldering romance, family conflicts, employees from hell...we get it all.

You want a dad who's a studly ubergeek? Chuck's dad is none other than Scott Bakula in full Sam Beckett mode, not Jonathan Archer. Bakula even drops an "Ohhh, boy."

Movie references? You get movie and pop culture references that would make Quentin Tarantino weep with envy. John Larroquette guest stars in an homage to My Favorite Year (which happens to be one of My Favorite Movies). There's a truly perverse riff on The Godfather: Part II. And of course, the season finale (I won't spoil it).

All those quarters you wasted in the arcade? Chuck saves the world by playing Missile Command.

Hot babes? Not only do you have Yvonne Strahovsky, Jenny McCarthy, Melinda Clarke, and Jordana Brewster (really, you're doing damned well right there) but you also get Tricia Helfer as a CIA agent...who goes undercover at Devon's bachelor party...as a stripper! ZOMGBBQBRAINASPLODE!!!!

And the cherry perched atop this wondrous geek confection is the sublime majesty that is...Jeffster.

The silliness works because it is wrapped around a warm, gooey center of genuine emotion, such as dealing with an older, successful sister who can't understand why Chuck's not making more out of his life. Or his attempt to find his father so that he can walk Ellie down the aisle. Or the eternally star-crossed romance between Chuck and Sarah, with their chemistry approaching Scarlett O'Hara/Rhett Butler territory. The over the top action makes the mundane reality more real -- and more important.

The cast shines, as the characters evolve. Zachary Levi captures a Chuck who is growing a bit more comfortable in his role as intelligence asset. He still sucks as a covert agent, but he realizes the government needs him, and he's not above using that as leverage, usually to help out Ellie. Adam Baldwin steals the show at almost every turn. Not only does he get most of the best lines, but little facets of his character are revealed at the oddest moment, such admitting to being a choirboy with perfect pitch. Yvonne Strahovksi doesn't get too many one-liners, but rather the thankless job of playing straight (wo)man to both Levi and Baldwin. Drop-dead gorgeous, she has the amazing ability to go from incredibly sweet to incredibly deadly in a heartbeat. The supporting players are all strong, with Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay emerging this season as genetic defects Jeff and Lester. The wide array of guest stars acquit themselves well, from seasoned pros like Michael Clarke Duncan and John Larroquette to stunt casting like Nichole Ritchie.

Video is solid, with slightly oversaturated but intentional coloring. The audio is clear and, while the surrounds don't get nearly the workout you might expect, there's great dynamic range and a strong bass. Extras are plentiful, but weak: There are some deleted scenes, none of which really add anything. The bulk are fairly superficial, but there's a decent gag reel, as well as a featurette on the season's action sequence that's almost good -- mostly shots of various action sequences, with only a small amount of actual "Here's how we did it" info. This is a show that cries out for a commentary track or two and, since the set was released relatively late, it shouldn't have been a big problem to get a couple of cast members together. And what about a Jeffster music video or two? So many missed opportunities.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The Buy More plots are uneven, occasionally coming across as little more than filler. The entire storyline with the scheming Emmett just doesn't work. And while Jeff and Lester's antics reach epic proportions, a side effect is to marginalize Morgan, who appears almost frighteningly normal in comparison. Almost. Sarah Lancaster is sorely underused, particularly in the first part of the season.

Closing Statement

Realizing the show was on the brink of cancellation, producers Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak threw just about everything but the kitchen sink into the latter part of the season. The result was a stunning finale, but that finale places the show squarely in front of the shark tank, and the court fervent hopes the show turns aside.

Regardless of how the Season Three develops, Chuck: The Complete Second Season is awesome.

The Verdict

"Oh, Chuck me." The series is not guilty, but the extras are definitely not awesome.

Review content copyright © 2010 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 91
Audio: 90
Extras: 78
Acting: 92
Story: 91
Judgment: 91

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* Chinese
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 1034 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* 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)