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Chuck - The Complete First Season Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Image"Chuck" is not highly original, but there is something about it that captured audiences last season.  This show, for the most part, falls under the sleuthing-spy-action-comedy genre.  But instead of the complete seriousness of the other crime-spy shows, "Chuck" brings humanness and comedy to the screen.

Chuck, or Charles, Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is computer geek that works the tech department at the local Buy More (closely associated with the real world Best Buy).  Having been kicked out of Stanford University for cheating, Chuck moves in with his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster).  Chuck and his best friend, Morgan (Joshua Gomez), are the quintessential adults that never grew up.  They still live in their own fantasy world.  All that changes on Chuck's birthday.

One night, Chuck receives and email from his ex-roommate at Stanford, Bryce Larkin (Matthew Bomer).  The moment that he opens that email his life changes…forever.  Turns out that Bryce was an operative for the CIA and sent Chuck an encrypted and top-secret program.  He is instantaneously bombarded with random images that are embedded with government surveillance secrets.

As weird images flash at random times in his head, usually triggered by witnessing an event, Chuck comes to terms with what is happening to him.  However, he doesn't do this alone.  Two agents, one from the CIA and one from the NSA, appear in Los Angeles to intercept.  But, they are too late.  The computer with the email has been destroyed and now Chuck is the only person with every secret in his head.  The agents must protect Chuck at all costs.  Chuck is constantly in the middle of danger, and uses his witty charm to diffuse each situation. Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) is the female CIA agent that "poses" as Chuck's love interest, and takes a job across the street from the Buy More to keep an eye on Chuck.  John Casey (Adam Baldwin) is the NSA agent that gets a job at the Buy More to keep an even closer eye on Chuck.  Chuck finds himself in the middle of a war of trust between the two government agencies.

Chuck struggles to balance leading a normal life and saving the world.  What "Chuck" has going for it is linked episodic programming structure, which keeps the show new from episode to episode.  The characters are likeable.  They are rich with charm and humanity.  At the same time each character has multi levels to their personality, making them volatile from each episode to the next.

The cast is filled mainly with newcomers.  Zachary and Yvonne shine brilliantly.  Sarah Lancaster, having starred in "Saved by the Bell: New Class" and guest starred on "Everwood," brings a wonderful sense of family to the show.

The writer's strike did take its toll on the first season of "Chuck."  The season was cutoff at 13 episodes.  Luckily though, audiences will be getting more of "Chuck" as the second season premieres on September 29th.  Still, the first season did feel complete, without being completely rushed, unlike "Heroes: Season Two."  The first season did not end with a giant cliffhanger, most likely because they weren't sure whether the show would be returning the next fall.

Sadly, the video quality of the first season is not up to par.  Not because it is a DVD release, but more due to the low production value.  The black levels are consistently crushed, resulting in no shadow delineation.  The colors are sometimes vibrant, but for the most part are bland and uneven.  The hue is all over the place.  Actors' faces fluctuate among greens, oranges, and yellows.  Sometimes the actors are pale and sickly looking, and other times it looks like they have blotchy skin.  There is quite a bit of edge enhancement that introduces even more noise into the picture.  Details are minimal, with close-up shots appearing soft.

The audio quality is much better than the video transfer, but it is still only mediocre.  The dialogue is clear and well balanced.  There is good stereo imaging in the front channels.  The surrounds are good when there are discrete effects, but ambiences are lacking.  This may be partly due to the Dolby compression.

There are numerous bonus features spread out across the four-disc DVD set.  The first couple of discs have a few deleted scenes on each.  Discs three and four have an assortment of materials, ranging from making of the show featurettes, documentaries and outtakes.

"Chuck" is great family fun.  This is definitely a show that should be watched in its second season.  If you missed the first season, pick up the box set to catch up.  But please don't judge the show on the visual quality.

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