Tag Archives: Chuck

Chuck Me Mondays: Season One, Episode Two – “Chuck vs. The Helicopter”

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“Chuck vs. the Helicopter”

Season One, Episode Two

There was a time when I wasn’t sure if Chuck was going to work, and I’ll admit right now that Chuck vs. the Helicopter was the beginning of this feeling. As I noted last week as we started this Chuck Me Mondays project, I really liked the pilot, but this episode kind of lost me due to a few little plotting quirks, some of them the result of the traditional post-pilot adjustments and others a problem of definition. It may seem odd now that we’ve seen two seasons worth of the show, especially the amazing work in season two, but there was a time when Chuck was really struggling to find its footing.

That said, there are plenty of things to like about this episode that, if suffering from a bit of a necessary but offputting crisis of character, nonetheless send the show on the right path moving forward.

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The Final 3 Episodes: Pushing Daisies – “Water & Power”

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“Water & Power”

June 6th, 2009

“It’s like putting your faith in the idea of someone before really knowing who they are.”

The above quotation, pulled from the episode, was my personal reaction to Pushing Daisies. I was “all in” from the moment I heard the premise of the pilot, pretty much, and was even more excited based on that episode. And there is something dangerous about that like, for example, having to deal with the fact that it was on the air for about 1/8 the amount of time as According to Jim. But the one thing that Pushing Daisies, as a show, never did was to displace my faith in any violent fashion – I was disappointed by its short end, but its quality rarely faltered, and that is something important to remember as we continue our journey through these final three episodes.

When you enter into a bittersweet series of episodes like these, knowing that the show has been canceled and that not all resolutions will be possible, an episode like “Water & Power” is a real microcosm of that feeling. As soon as the episode begins with a shot of a young Emerson Cod, you realize that this will be the show’s last chance to give this character a proper sendoff, especially as it relates to his search for his missing daughter. It was a recurring bit of story that was never actually a storyline: we saw the book he made, and we were there when he told Ned for the first time, but it’s never actually been the central point of a mystery of the week.

But, of course, it never will be again either: although the episode allows the issue of young Penny to emerge as the purpose of the show’s narrative, it doesn’t resolve the storyline in some sort of final way, and leaves the door open for all of the things we know the show won’t have. It introduces a few highly compelling recurring guest stars, for example, but we know the show will never get to see them return, and since it doesn’t offer any real finality for Emerson and Penny it feels like yet another chapter that, while satisfying for what it could have been, isn’t all that satisfying for what it ended up being.

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Chuck Me Mondays: Season One, Episode One – “Chuck vs. The Intersect”

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Chuck Me Mondays:

“Chuck vs. The Intersect”

[As any fan of Chuck knows, the good folks at Chucktv.net have organized a scenario whereby everyone, all at the same time (Mondays at 9pm, it seems), watches the entirety of Chuck’s first two seasons between now and the show’s return later this year. It’s a great way to keep the hype alive (Twitter hash tag #ChuckMeMondays shows it all!), introduce new people to the show, and just revisit a really fun series. For me, I’ve blogged about many of the episodes already: in those instances, I’m going to link to my original review and then offer some retrospective thoughts based on having seen the first two seasons. In instances where I haven’t reviewed the episode (like next week’s “Chuck vs. the Helicopter”) I’ll try to offer a bit more of a substantial review. Anyways, onto our first edition!]

Chuck’s pilot was something that really excited me upon first viewing: having been able to see the episode ahead of its premiere, I was quick to offer my thoughts to my (much smaller than the present) readership in terms of how much I was looking forward to the series.

Pilot Preview: NBC’s Chuck [August 2007]

The O.C. remained a credible formula for Josh Schwartz because he balanced the oversexed teenage promiscuousness with witty and sarcastic banter, and those two parts stayed relatively intact following its demise. And so, like the sensible and smart man he is, Schwartz took the oversexed teenage promiscuousness and channeled it into “Gossip Girl” for The CW, and took the witty and sarcastic banner and found a home for it on NBC.

The resulting show is Chuck (Premiering on Monday, September 24th at 8pm on NBC), an action-thriller comedy series that places Schwartz’s sharp dialogue into a setting more acceptable for the Seth-like viewers the show is trying to reel in. The result is a series that is sharp, funny, and certainly one of the most potential-filled pilots of the 2007 Fall Season.

I think I leaned a bit too heavily on The O.C. comparisons, as the show certainly evolved beyond its geek appeal, but the point stands that the pilot emphasizes the way the show uses its witty banter for good and not evil, and never falls so far down one of its many outlets (comedy, drama, romance, etc.) to create an unbalanced pilot.

But having reread that piece, and rewatched the episode in question, I do have some additional thoughts on the pilot that I wouldn’t have been able to have with no idea of what was in store. Now, there will be some light spoilers here, but I’ll try to keep most of them in a “Plot” section at the very end of the main portion of the post.

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The Final 3 Pushing Daisies – “Window Dressed to Kill”

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“Window Dressed to Kill”

Season 2, Episode 11

“The more you face your trauma the more power it has over you.”

I had meant to make a note of the return of Pushing Daisies to readers ahead of time, considering that ABC certainly isn’t promoting their 10pm Saturdays burn-off of the remaining three episodes of the show’s second season, but part of me wasn’t quite looking at this as a real event. I haven’t seen an episode of Pushing Daisies in over five months, and while some got to view the episodes online (their aired in the U.K.), and others got to see them screened during PaleyFest (I was unfortunately at Coachella that day), I’ve been entirely free of the exploits of a certain Pie Maker, the Alive Again Avenger, my favourite private dick and the subject of tonight’s episode, Olive Snook.

I don’t think I realized how much I missed them until I faced that fact tonight, watching a fantastic hour of comic/dramatic television knowing that there are only two hours left to go, and that after that these characters will fundamentally cease to exist outside of a comic book or whatever other form Fuller keeps the series alive in. These characters deserve more than what they received from ABC: the show, canceled in favour of ABC’s plentiful number of midseason replacements (all but one of which failed), was certainly struggling, and wasn’t destined for stardom, but in all of our commotion over Chuck’s fate I think part of me will miss Pushing Daisies’ unique blend of whimsy and mystery more than I would have missed that show.

“Window Dressed to Kill” wasn’t a particularly noteworthy Pushing Daisies episodes outside of its position as one of the “Final 3,” but it so embodied what the show does best that it’s hard not to be overpowered by this desire to write letters, buy pies, and just about anything else you could imagine, even when you know it’s all for nothing. This review, similarly, is positioned as such that it is only a celebration of the episode, knowing that whatever character development I speak of will have only two more episodes to continue, and that whatever stories I think have potential will likely prove unable to reach that stage in their development.

But damnit, I’m going to talk about them anyway.

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Upfronts Analysis: NBC 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

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NBC 2009-2010 Schedule

May 19th, 2009

NBC is not a network of surprises: it announced its new shows at its Infront presentation, we’ve known about Jay Leno moving to 10pm for ages, and even Chuck’s renewal was something that was pretty well guaranteed before today’s upfronts presentation. At the same time, the network’s schedule is perhaps the most interesting of the major networks since, with less primetime real estate than CBS or ABC, they are working on a whole new schedule and forced to make some important decisions.

It’s a better schedule than I expected, to be honest: yes, the network has been forced to make some tough decisions (My Name is Earl and Medium cut, but potentially returning on another network – FOX and ABC interested in Earl, CBS likely to pick up Medium), but they’ve been pretty smart in how they’ve scheduled everything else. With smart strategies for launching their new comedies, and one last attempt at seeing whether Heroes’ audience is capable of serving as a lead-in, NBC has at least leveraged what momentum they have going into this year (not much) to try to create a schedule that could keep them out of last place.

Even with all that work, though, ten to one Leno ends up keeping them there.

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The McNuttCast: Episode Two – The Juno Awards

mcnuttcastlogoIn this week’s first “normal” edition of The McNuttCast, we can’t entirely get away from talking Battlestar Galactica – while I had the privilege of collaborating with Devindra Hardawar and Meredith Woerner on the epic /Filmcast Series Finale discussion [LINK], the Elder McNutt didn’t get the same chance, so there’s a few minutes of BSG spoilers in here that are clearly marked.

The rest of the show, meanwhile, diversifies beyond television to the world of film, music and video games, as my readers get to see whether I actually know anything about these subjects. We discuss the genius of the Where the Wild Things Are trailer, delve into the latest release from local Canadian artist Joel Plaskett, and discuss the dominance and continued evolution of Nintendo’s current position in the video game market. And, of course, I still find time to discuss the state of NBC bubble shows, the Parks and Recreation testing “controversy” and the ratings for Dollhouse’s “Man on the Street.”

In our feature discussion, coincidentally only a day after 30 Rock made a joke about the Canadian Grammys, we discuss the biggest music-based awards show in Canada, the Juno Awards. Don’t worry, our international listeners: we contextualize our anger, and try to make sure that you don’t view the winners and nominees as representative of the best Canada has to offer.

We’re still working on getting onto iTunes (it’s our weekend project), but in the meantime you can listen and download below – full show notes are after the fold! If you have any comments or questions or suggestions of what you might want us to cover, send us an email: you can reach us through either of our sites, or by emailing us (for me, cultural.learnings @ gmail.com).

The McNuttCast: Episode Two – The Juno Awards

Download the MP3 [41m10s – 19mb]

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: Chuck – “Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer”

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“Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer”

Season Two, Episode Five

Airdate: October 27th, 2008

Entering into its second season, the expectations for Chuck were low. A smart show that never got beyond its initial 13-episode order in its first season thanks to the writers’ strike, its return was unheralded: by NBC, by critics, and by viewers.

But slowly but surely things started to change: critical praise of the season’s first few episodes proved more than warranted, NBC ordered an additional nine episodes before the premiere aired, and a fairly devoted set of fans emerged to herald the show’s quality. While good in its first season, the consensus was clear: it was downright great in its second.

And while there are a number of episodes that I wanted to select here (Not picking something out of the Jill arc feels especially false, and the execution on “Chuck vs. Santa Claus” was perhaps the best of the year), I polled the group over at the NeoGAF thread about the show and their thoughts coincided with my own: while the season has been extremely solid thus far, there is no better example of the show’s sophomore surge than “Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer.”

The reason is quite simple: the show, before this point, had never felt so confident. This wasn’t a show treading lightly with its myriad of video game references, or one where the writers room shot down the Zune joke for being too obscure for a mainstream audience. The show had certainly featured its supporting players in key roles before, but even I had no idea how much I wanted to see Jeff let loose to pass out, get lost, and create hilarious stalker videos of co-workers.

While other episodes in the season felt more important to the show’s broader trajectory, and certainly did more to build the show’s characters, “Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer” is nonetheless my favourite thus far. It has Sarah in a Nerd Herd uniform for the sex appeal, a “King of Kong”-inspired final sequence for the nerd audience, and nonetheless embodies one of the season’s real breakthroughs: no longer just a means to an end, Chuck here is at the very center of the threat against Los Angeles, and he is very much responsible for its safety while commanding this missiles.

While I believe that anyone not yet on the Chuckwagon should start from the beginning, even if the 1st season isn’t quite as good as the 2nd, I nonetheless might sit them down in a room, pop on this episode, and give them a sense of what they have to look forward to. Other episodes were more emotional, or even funnier, or perhaps even more accomplished, but there was none that better embodied, in my mind, why Chuck is the season’s greatest success story.

Related Posts at Cultural Learnings

[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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Pushing Daisies – “The Norwegians”

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“The Norwegians”

December 17th, 2008

If there is a word that best describes Pushing Daisies, it is potential – it is the kind of show where you can imagine where they can take these characters, what kind of fantastical scenarios they can place them in. A world in which there is a crack team of Norwegian investigators who have too few murders to investigate and migrate to Papin county in order to take advantage of its high murder rate is the kind of creativity that the show thrives on, and it feels at this point that it is in an almost endless supply.

So as the show marches towards the halfway point in its generously offered second season, what we get is an episode where they’re starting to dig into some of the show’s bigger questions and more complicated relationships in a way that almost feels like the show is ramping up to some sort of a conclusion. But since that can’t possibly be…what’s that? Wait, are you serious? Really? Canceled, you say? How dare they!

In all seriousness, with this lame attempt at kidding aside, this episode is that Catch-22 of the canceled drama that pretty well knew it was going to be canceled when it entered into this stretch of episodes. Fuller has smartly designed his conclusion to serve two purposes: bringing to the surface underlying tensions and events of import for our characters and, more importantly, reminding us how broad and wonderful this universe is. The trick was to make episodes like “The Norwegians,” a tightly constructed episode featuring murder without mystery, a father with a surprise identity, and a healthy combination of both dramatic gravitas of the moment and comic timing that feels like it will never go away.

Unfortunately, ABC saw through both of those particular facts – perhaps someone staged a fake Pushing Daisies to throw them off the scent of sweet televised success.

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Pushing Daisies – “The Legend of Merle McQuoddy”

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“The Legend of Merle McQuoddy”

December 10th, 2008

I am going to miss Olive Snook most of all.

Yes, I will miss everything else about Pushing Daisies: Emerson Cod’s quippy one-liners, Chuck’s emotional integrity, Ned’s neurotic worrying, Jim Dale’s charming narration, Lily’s shotgun, Vivian’s heart on her sleeve, and the various quirky individuals who populate this world week after week, incapable of sitting still as they balance between our world and the whimsical universe Bryan Fuller has created.

But there is something about Olive Snook that pleases me the most, and makes me most upset for the show’s passing. It’s her sheer exuberance: without Ned and Chuck’s burdens, or Emerson’s gruff persona, Olive is the character who most gets to interact with the more fanciful elements of these storylines. The best mysteries are often the ones in which Olive takes part, or where Olive’s participatory spirit extends to the other characters – they have a certain bounce to them, a visual and aural sharpness only possible by the spunk her character brings to each scene, and they are in fashion throughout “The Legend of Merle McQuody.”

It is a testament to Kristin Chenoweth that Olive is still this charming even as she returns to idea of unrequited love, a notion which nearly sunk the character in the first season when it felt like an excuse to keep Ned and Chuck from connecting. Now that the show has settled, Chenoweth has made Olive’s emotional state more natural while also being integrated more closely into the week’s mystery. After being paired with Ned on “Comfort Food,” Olive here becomes a Jr. P.I. in Training with Cod Investigations, resulting in a fantastic comic pairing, some wonderful Olive moments and, most importantly, another in a series of great segments as Pushing Daisies marches towards its final Legend.

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Gossip Girl – “Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?”

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“Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?”

December 8th, 2008

I watched some solid television on Monday: I caught up with Dexter (a solid penultimate episode, but I’ll have some thoughts on the season as a whole after the finale), enjoyed the night’s episode of Chuck (an entertaining if highly improbable outing), and caught up with a bit more of FX’s Sons of Anarchy (I’d suggest checking it out). But, admittedly, I haven’t been limiting my television to more serialized outings: I also took some time to get through the last two discs of The O.C.: Season Two. And, ultimately, this means that despite all of that high caliber television I’ve watched over the past few days, it’s Gossip Girl that sent me to my laptop at 5am.

For those who don’t remember the final episodes from the second season of Josh Schwartz’s other show about elite, rich white people, they featured the tragic (if somewhat bittersweet) death of the show’s patriarch. What followed was an emotional rollercoaster of sorts, the various individuals most affected by his death spiraling into something approximating either utter despair (Kirsten’s alcoholism) or an odd sense of freedom (Julie reconnecting with a returned Jimmy). And while I found both of these developments to be either overplayed and out of character (See: alcoholism), or idealistically portrayed to contrast the season ending gunfire (See: Julie/Jimmy), I nonetheless felt that the death of Caleb Nickel was a death that resonated.

And while some could argue that it is unfair of me to draw this comparison, I would argue quite the opposite: this episode of Gossip Girl followed this pattern to such a degree that anyone with a strong recollection of that series of events can’t help but make the same observations. The problem with the death of Bart Bass, confirmed seconds into the episode if not by last week’s cliffhanger, is twofold: that there are only two people on this show who we really care enough about to sit through their reactions, and Bart Bass was so insignificant and poorly developed that we don’t care about his death enough to make this all matter.

So while Stephanie Savage did what she could to make this seem like a pivotal moment in the show’s trajectory, it was like shining a bright light on the show’s inability to demonstrate anything beyond poor attempts to shock the audience.

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