The lives of one of my favourite television shows, Chuck, hangs in the balance. NBC, true to its Major Television Network name, is umming and erring over whether it should renew this show for the next year. Chuck falls just below the typical cut off for renewal. Fans of the show, myself included, feel very strongly that Chuck deserves renewal. The star of the show, Zachary Levi, led 600 fans to Subway (the sandwich restaurant chain) in order to demonstrate the sheer weight of support behind this show.
But why? Why is Chuck a better show than its ratings suggest?
Chuck is that rare animal, an all-around, good, light-hearted dramedy. It takes a ludicrous premise (young, intelligent but going-nowhere geek gets implanted with top secret knowledge and is thrust, unwillingly, into the super-awesome world of international spies, hijinks ensue) and makes it work. It makes it work every week.
Not many shows do this, not as smoothly as Chuck has for every one of its thirty-six odd episodes.
Chuck sustains what is, for any tv show, an immense cast. Aside from the main character (Chuck) there are more than ten characters who could be considered secondary characters (Sarah, Casey, Ellie, Awesome, Morgan, Lester, Jeff, Anna, Big Mike, Emmett, Orion), plus others who don't appear in every episode. Every single one of these characters has a solid personality and a story of their own. None of the characters do you begrudge any screen time-- all are great characters, played by excellent actors. There is never a sense that there are too many characters. It works, seamlessly and without gimmicks, in every episode.
Chuck melds comedy and drama. It's often more comedy (Adam Baldwin) than drama, but never devolves into complete silliness. There are moments of tension, and moments of genuine emotion (Sarah Lancaster). None of the characters is so continually silly that you lose track of them as a real person, and none of the characters is so serious that the humour in the show is lost whenever they come onscreen. In a world (In a world...) where the measure of the intelligence and quality of a show is often how relentlessly dark and gritty it is, Chuck proves that this is not the case.
Yeah, because it's intelligent too. What else could it be, with so many characters to keep track of and so many threads to weave together? This is not an thin show because there's nothing in it, it's a show that keeps its physique no matter how many doughnuts it eats.
Because it eats plenty of doughnuts. There are cliches aplenty, and all kinds of opportunities for the show to become bogged down in struggling relationships or neverending suspense, both the crutches of many a tv show running out ideas to keep people hooked. But Chuck does not suffer from these pitfalls. Cliches are handled so innocently they're as fun or gripping as if it was the first time we saw them. Chuck stays a slim, fast-moving show.
When you think of Chuck, you may not think of a brilliant show (clearly NBC does not). It seems easy going and light-hearted, a fun Monday evening's fourty minutes. But, as if we are watching a gymnast effortlessly doing back-flips, Chuck is deceiving. It does what is very difficult and it makes it look dead easy every week for thirty-five episodes.
It's solid, which is the best compliment I can give to any show. There is nothing I would change, nothing I wish was done differently, nothing I think is dumb, no character I want to die off (out of like fifteen!) or get shipped to Greenland, no plotline I wish would be over. It may look like a ball of fluff, but it's the best thing on television at the moment.
And that is why NBC should renew Chuck. You can do it, NBC! The sales you will make on DVDs, on associated material that could ensue while other shows disappear without a whisper once they are over, will make up for Chuck being a marginally lower-grossing show this year.