Tag Archives: Save Chuck

Season Premiere: Chuck – “Chuck vs. the Pink Slip”/”Chuck vs. the Three Words”

“Chuck vs. the Pink Slip”/”Chuck vs. the Three Words”

January 10th, 2010

“Trust me, Chuck – it’s all going to work out fine.”

The title of every episode of Chuck implies a conflict. It tells us that Chuck is in a constant state of opposition, and that this show is defined by the adversarial life Chuck lives, trapped between the job the supercomputer in his head forces him to do and the life he would be leading if it were not for that supercomputer. Much of the show’s best material, both comic and dramatic, comes when world collide, when the Castle invades the Buy More and when Ellie and Awesome become acquainted with Sarah and Casey.

And yet, so much of what makes the show work from a creative standpoint is that these elements aren’t in conflict at all. Although it may be tough for Chuck to reconcile these elements, keeping secrets from the people he loves most, the show has always been at its best when these worlds seamlessly become one and the show reflects the beautiful concert of spy and nerd, of friend and friendly foe (Casey), of real family and work family. And what holds it all together is that these are characters who have relationships, who relate to one another in ways that feel funny when they need to be funny, meaningful when they need to be meaningful, and difficult when they need to be difficult. This is a show that wouldn’t work were it not for these characters feeling part of the same world: a world with conflict, yes, but a world which never feels defined by that conflict, episode titles aside.

I say all of this both to celebrate the return of Chuck, and to recognize that the season’s key theme seems to be the characters themselves coming to term with the role that emotional connection plays in this universe. While some feared the show’s game-changing twist would fundamentally change the series’ DNA, it has instead done quite the opposite: the series’ DNA has stayed quite the same, and what’s changed is how aware the characters are of the ties that bind them together which go beyond job descriptions. In “Chuck vs. the Pink Slip” and “Chuck vs. the Three Words,” we discover that for Chuck to tap into all of the knowledge he has available, and for Sarah to discover what she wants to do with her life, all they need to do is realize that the very thing that they believe to be a source of conflict between them may be the one thing which solves their problems.

Which perhaps, in the process, solves the show’s biggest problem, at least for now, and gets Season 3 off to a rollicking start.

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FOE4 Musings: Chuck vs. Fan Management vs. Fan Facilitation

Chuck vs. Fan Management vs. Fan Facilitation

November 20th, 2009

Currently ongoing at MIT, the Futures of Entertainment 4 Conference is a gathering of academics, industry leaders, and interested parties for a discussion of how “the creation of transmedia storyworlds, understanding how to appeal to migratory audiences, and the production of digital extensions for traditional materials are becoming the bread and butter of working in the media.” And while I’m not at the conference myself, through the joys of the #FoE4 Hashtag on Twitter and some extensive liveblogging it’s as if I am, which is a wonderful feeling for an academic who is isolated from these types of major conferences by geography and funding both.

However, as regular readers of Cultural Learnings know, I rarely engage in wholly academic discussions in this setting, and in terms of this conference I’m particularly interested in the convergence between the discussions being held at the conference and my own experience looking at both television and the culture that surrounds it. In particular, this morning’s panel (moderated by friend of the blog Jason Mittell) on transmedia storytelling from the perspective of the producers (both in terms of third party companies who work on tie-in websites, etc., and those who are in charge of organizing those efforts) raised an important question that perhaps Henry Jenkins put best in a tweet:

There’s obviously an ideological difference between the two terms, one designed to control and the other designed to empower, and in an example like NBC’s Chuck (which, as announced yesterday, is returning in January) we can use these terms to describe the challenge facing the show’s relaunch.. The successful fan campaign which “saved” the show and earned it a third season was facilitated indirectly, as fans created their own transmedia experience by taking product placement and turning it into their own mini-marketing campaign.

And, as a result, NBC is in a position where Fan Facilitation and Fan Management start to blur, as the existence of an existing fan base more often inspires networks to attempt to control and manipulate that group rather than understanding the intelligence implied in their earlier behaviour and using that to their advantage, risking turning them away and squandering the potential they offer.

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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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Beware, Beware the Hiatus ‘Til March: NBC’s Chuck Returns…in 2010

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Beware, Beware the Hiatus ‘Til March

Chuck Returns…in 2010

When Chuck was officially renewed a few days ago, I didn’t end up writing a piece about it: it wasn’t that the show wasn’t deserving of praise, or that I wasn’t excited by the announcement, but unlike the Dollhouse renewal it felt like a foregone conclusion, with every secret source and major news outlet reporting that it was about dotting the Is and crossing the Ts more than any serious finagling on behalf of the parties involved.

And sure enough, the New York Times today officially confirms that Chuck has been renewed by NBC, with the various catches reporter earlier in the week: a smaller budget, a shortened 13-episode order, and in a new twist the fact that one of the characters will actually work for Subway, a nod to the “eat at Subway” campaign that helped to save the show. However, the real twist is where the show is being positioned: Chuck will return in March, in its old timeslot of Mondays at 8pm, nearly eleven months after its second season finale, once the 2010 Vancouver olympics are done and over with.

It’s a decision that makes sense on some level, and certainly is better than getting no new episodes at all, but it also gives NBC a built-in excuse to not go any further with the series, even in its newly ad-supported form. But, like its titular hero, Chuck isn’t going to be a show to die easily, and even with the odds being stacked against it it’s hard not to celebrate an unlikely, but well deserved, Season Three.

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Chuck vs. The Twist vs. Season 3 Renewal

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Chuck vs. the Twist vs. Season 3 Renewal

April 28th, 2009

Perhaps it is just that I wrote considerably less about last night’s Chuck finale than Alan Sepinwall, or perhaps it is just that there has been some extremely stimulating discussion over at NeoGAF that has had me pondering the finale more carefully, but I think that there’s a bit more to say about last night’s season finale (“Chuck vs. the Ring”) as well as what it all means for a potential third season.

First off, in case you were curious, the ratings were exactly what you would expect: consistent with the past two weeks, and at the mediocre but decent levels we’ve been seeing on the mid-range level. The show drew 6.11 Million viewers, and a 2.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic – this is nearly identlcal to last week. However, the Save Chuck campaign was never designed to gain more viewers: yes, getting the word out was a key factor, but suggesting that people watch the S2 finale as their first episode ever is kind of tough, and I think the campaign smartly focused more on showing NBC (and Subway) the power of the existing fans to band together for their show. And, on a note which requires less spin, the time period was chock-full of new episodes from every other network, and Chuck stayed steady despite facing repeats of CBS’ comedies last week – that’s a good thing.

But ignoring ratings for a moment, one of the other things facing a Season 3 renewal for the series it the show’s creative direction, and on NeoGAF and in some other locations there have been some concerns over that final sequence. Last night, in my review of the episode, I was admittedly pretty postive about it, and I find myself remaining fairly close to that initial analysis. However, I think it’s something that deserves some more discussion, and something that I am extremely disappointed was not on Chris Fedak’s list of acceptable topics of discussion in his post-finale interview with Alan Sepinwall.

But where we don’t have definitive answers we have rampant speculation, a tool I shall harness to analyze just what a season three might look like.

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Season Finale: Chuck – “Chuck vs. the Ring”

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“Chuck vs. the Ring”

April 27th, 2009

“Go with your heart, buddy – our brains only screw things up.”

Wow.

In considering “Chuck vs. the Ring,” a title with two very different meanings, I think it’s important that we acknowledge just how amazing the accomplishment of the Chuck staff is when it comes to pulling off some of the most expansive material for a dramedy of this nature.

The first half of this episode is more or less an episode in its own right, one laden with numerous jokes, an amazing appearance by Jeffster, and what feels like a climax in and of itself. What is interesting is that, by the end of the episode, that storyline felt miles away, overshadowed by an amazingly epic conclusion that potentially changed everything. However, simultaneously, it was highly memorable and containing some of the best jokes in the episode. But when those elements would have felt overbearing, such as during that epic conclusion, they faded effortlessly into the background, never feeling separate but also never feeling like they were fighting in the same space.

It’s such an amazing balancing act, and when everyone in the cast is on fire, and when the writing is off the charts, and when Jeffster soundtracks an entire sequence with “Mr. Roboto,” it’s an example of how Chuck may not aim as high as some of the stronger dramas on television, or embrace absurdity as much as some of the biggest comedies, but in doing what it does I don’t feel there is a single other show that is this capable of executing this level of brilliance.

Forget about save Chuck – let’s praise Chuck for a while, and think with our hearts instead of our brains.

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Save Chuck: A Movement with a Message

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Save Chuck: A Movement with a Message

April 25th, 2009

As some of you may know, I found myself caught up in the whirlwind that was the Save Jericho campaign, where fans went nuts and sent nuts, bringing their canceled show back from the dead. Since that show’s success, there have been numerous campaigns to save other shows, and to be honest I haven’t really got behind any of them. I got behind Jericho because it was a true grassroots movement, an example of the power of the internet, of fans, and of expanding the definition of success from traditional ratings measurements; to be honest, the show never really captured me, but the fact that it captured others so strongly was something worth fighting for.

But I can honestly say that this is the first time that I am entering, albeit late thanks to my vacation, a fan campaign primarily because I love the show involved. Chuck was an engaging series last year, but this year it has elevated itself to an entirely new level: this is not the most intelligent show on television, or the funniest, or the most dramatic, but its ability to combine all of these elements into a single package has created a series that myself and hopefully many, many others view as worthy of our time and energy. Saving Chuck is not just some sort of experiment, but something that is necessary for my faith in NBC as a network, and network television as a medium for high-calibre entertainment, to remain intact.

What I want to discuss is how the campaign is operating, and how there are three keys to its success that have given it a real chance of succeeding: I write this, two days before the show’s season finale, without the intention of placing a (Series?) in that post title, or even considering that possibility, and I honestly feel as if this goes beyond wishful thinking. Based on every piece of evidence before us, the campaign to Save Chuck has all of the momentum to overcome the obstacles facing it and send a message to NBC and all other networks that we’re not ready to let a great show go so easily.

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