Three Years Later… Remembering NBC’s ‘Chuck’

by: Jay Carlson

To know Chuck is to love Chuck. Unfortunately, not enough of you out there know Chuck.

NBC’s Chuck ended three years ago tonight. Many of us still miss the gang, Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Morgan as well as the extended gang, Awesome, Ellie, Jeff, Lester, Big Mike, et al on their weekly adventures.

Chuck was a genre bending show. Was it a comedy? Yeah, there was loads of humor and plenty of smiles. Action? Sure, there was plenty of action. Drama? Yeah, it put something in my eye on more than one occasion. Above all else Chuck was a series that was about heart. It was all those things and more. Chuck was life, as cheesy as that might sound.

Of course the show was satisfying for the casual viewer but it was a confectionary delight for pop culture junkies with a sweet tooth, with mountains of amazing in-jokes. From the Tron and Dune posters in Chuck’s bedroom, to the sly references to every geek movie released in the last thirty years, the show packed it all in for us to mine and love. Sarah’s father, Jack Burton, Morgan’s Blade Runner inspired Tyrell Corporation messenger bag, Jeff’s Spicolli-like beginnings, The plethora of Star Wars and Star Trek References, and on and on….and on. It was a show that rewarded the geekiest of viewer. Pound for pound this show packed more Pop Culture into it than anything that’s come before and anything since. It exposes lesser geek shows like the Big Bang Theory for the shitty fast food it is.

Rightfully, Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak get the lion’s share of the glory but we can’t forget the tremendous contributions of the writer’s room, who nearly every season had to write two finale’s (a few of them were also nearly series finales as well), due to the show constantly being on the verge of cancellation. The adversity only made the show better.

Beyond its gooey geek center Chuck sat on a classic Hitchcock chassis. An Ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary situation. North by Northwest seems like the most obvious basis of comparison. An Ordinary Man mistaken for a government spy? Check (or Chuck). A beautiful blonde helping him along the way? Yeah they had that, too. A gallery of good guys and bad guys? Boy, did we ever.

Chuck was a gift for all of us slackers who have worked retail and dreamed of getting the girl and doing something larger than life. He made us root for him from his inauspicious beginnings all the way through his becoming a real spy, much like we all rooted for Luke to become a true Jedi.

We held our breath as Chuck vied to win the heart of Sarah. The road may have been long but it was always heartwarming and the characters, no matter how outrageous, were always true to themselves and grounded to their reality. Sure, there were lapses in logic at times but the heart always carried the show. No matter how ridiculous a situation seemed, we always stayed invested because we weren’t there for the ridiculous situation, we were there for Chuck, and the heart always carried us through.

The three main leads were obviously the show’s anchor. Adam Baldwin’s grunts were equal parts hilarious and scary as hell when they needed to be. What an arc John Casey went through from the beginning of the show until that last episode. It may have given Chuck’s arc a run for its money.

It would be wrong not to mention the supporting cast. Fuck, what a special group of actors and actresses. Sarah Lancaster, Ryan McPartlin, Vik Sahay, Scott Krinsky, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Bonita Friedericy and McKenna Melvin were all standouts and the rest of the supporting cast expanded the Chuck universe in their own special ways. I could go on and on and point out favorite moments for all of them but I’ll spare you that deep dive examination.

Aside from the supporting cast the show had an amazing roster of guest stars. They were always geek worthy, but instead of casting for the sake of publicity, they managed to make the guest stars feel organic and a natural part of the story. Some of the standouts include Scott Bakula, amazing and likeable as Chuck’s father and I’d be remiss to not mention the equally amazing Linda Hamilton as Chuck’s mother. Tony Todd, Brandon Routh, Tony Hale, Timothy Dalton, Carrie Ann Moss, Kristen Kreuk, Jordana Brewster, Ray Wise, Chevy Chase, Gary Cole.. shit, Gary Cole was so great, John Larrouquette, James Hong (playing Ben Lo Pan), Fred Willard, and on and on… I only wish they could have pulled Kim Basinger in there as Sarah’s mom. How great would it have been to have “Vick a Vicki Vale” as Sarah’s mom?  The show also proved to be a launchpad for up and comers Matt Bomer and Lauren Cohen who would go on to headline movies and become one of the best parts of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

This final arc was especially tough for all of us who have stuck by for the heart. To see Sarah’s memories of the last five years ripped out of her head was painful for all of us who have watched and rooted for this relationship. It would have been more pleasant to see Mola Ram, reach in and rip out Chuck’s still beating heart and then lower him into a pit of lava.

The ending did satisfy though; it opened the doors for the characters to move on, some of them of their own free will, others struggling to pick up the pieces and move forward as best they can, like us Chuck fans. Some complain it should have gone longer, that the show needed to go on. But the show managed to provide five amazing seasons chock full of the some of the best moments a nerd could ever hope for.

Now, about that Chuck movie….