TV Review: 'Chuck' is NBC's best new hope
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While CBS is most likely to have the highest failure rate of new shows this fall, NBC had the most disappointing new series development.
Coming on the heels of a creatively successful albeit ratings-challenged season that saw the introduction of "30 Rock," "Friday Night Lights" and "Heroes," NBC's latest batch of series don't show anywhere near the promise of the lineup unveiled a year ago.
"Chuck" (8 tonight, WPXI) may be the network's best hope for commercial success, but it's hardly innovative. Indeed, the show's second episode, airing next week, feels like it could easily have been the plot of a TV program made in 1979.
Tonight's premiere is a better hour, introducing viewers to Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi, "Less Than Perfect"), a former Stanford University student who's under-employed as a member of the Nerd Herd at a Buy More store (think: Geek Squad at Best Buy). He's got a nerdier best friend, Morgan (Joshua Gomez, "Without a Trace"), and a doting sister (Sarah Lancaster, "What About Brian"), who just wants him to find a nice girl.
Chuck's life takes a turn when his former college roommate Bryce (Carnegie Mellon University grad Matt Bomer, "Traveler"), now a CIA spy, downloads the government's top secrets into an e-mail, sends it to Chuck, who opens the e-mail and somehow gets the secrets downloaded into this brain.
This premise, concocted by series creators Josh Schwartz ("The O.C.") and newcomer Chris Fedak, doesn't make a lick of sense, particularly given the show's otherwise real-world setting, and I guess viewers are just expected to gloss over and accept it.
Far more interesting are hints about Bryce doing something that got Chuck kicked out of Stanford. He also stole Chuck's girlfriend. But this back story is put on the back burner in the second episode, which essentially rehashes the pilot as CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA Maj. John Casey (Adam Baldwin, "Firefly") both try to prove to Chuck that the other intends to harm him. This grows tiresome quickly.
Levi exudes an everyman appeal that may catch on with viewers, but the show's plots need to grow beyond the action-adventure tropes of 1970s TV if "Chuck" hopes to avoid being chucked off NBC's prime-time schedule.
Post-Gazette TV editor
First Published September 24, 2007 12:00 am