Chuck: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (15th December 2008).
The Show

I have pretty strong opinions concerning the current “nerd” trend that has hit our popular culture. Many will deny it, but it is unmistakable that lame is the new cool, geeks are the new jocks, and it is indeed hip to be square. Somewhere between Weezer releasing their first album, and "Napoleon Dynamite" (2004) blowing up, it was suddenly cool to be into sci-fi, horror, and other cult genres that would have gotten your ass kicked when you were in grade school. It’s no surprise that since this current trend began the market has been flooded with films and television created to bank on the whole idea of the nerd now being cool. Probably one of the more successful attempts at this is NBC’s "Chuck," a moderately popular show about the titular computer nerd (Zachary Levi) who gets caught up in a government plot where he awkwardly balances his nerd life with his bad ass NSA job. But is the show successful dramatically or comically? Sorry, I’m going to have to say no.

In the pilot episode of the show, Chuck receives an e-mail from his old college friend, who is now a rogue spy, which contains every secret that is known to the NSA and CIA. The secrets are downloaded into Chuck’s brain, and now he’s a man who knows too much. Super sexy CIA agent Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) is sent to keep an eye on Chuck, while NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin) is sent to watch him and Sarah as well. The two agents use Chuck to stop international terror plots in a supposedly humorous fashion. In one example, Chuck downloads a porn virus to a computer to stop a bomb. Chuck, who works at a faux 'Best Buy,' must balance this new found life with his job as a tech guy, hanging out with his friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez), and his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster).

What’s my number one problem with "Chuck"? The whole thing feels so disingenuous. I mean, the show is produced by McG! If that doesn’t set off any “this isn’t legitimately nerdy” alarms, I can’t imagine what would. Earlier I mentioned that shows and films have flooded the market to capitalize and exploit the nerd trend, and "Chuck" is a shining example. The thing is, I get pretty much every reference that is made in this show, but sometimes I’m not sure that the actors or writers do. Chuck is lazily characterized as a nerd because he has a "TRON" (1982) poster in his room, and plays XBOX360 with his friend. Oh yeah, and he wears Converse shoes. What a NERD! Seriously though, just because someone calls themselves a nerd, it doesn’t make them a nerd. It makes them a crappy character (or a douche bag if we’re talking about real life).

The first season of "Chuck" collapses as some sort of fantasy, in which an everyday kid is thrust into a life of gadgets, babes, and action. I feel as though the creators of the show want to tap into this perceived fantasy of your average 'Best Buy' employee, who would love nothing more than to be a secret agent, and bang hot girls. However, for me, a person who knows stuff about computers, enjoys (good) sci-fi, and plays a ton of video games, the whole thing feels as though it is pandering to me. But I ain't buying it.

Also, the show doesn’t work on either a dramatic level, or a comedic. I never bought Chuck’s attachment to Sarah, even if their first date was adorable. Also, none of the jokes in the show seemed to hit anywhere near what I find funny. An example of this is Ellie’s fiancé’s knack for calling everything “awesome”, even things that aren’t “awesome”. Hell, they even call him 'Captain Awesome'! How zany! What a quirk! Give me a break.

I feel like "Chuck" is meant for nerds who aren’t even aware that now is already their time. "Star Wars" (1977-2005) references are as trendy as breathing. That kid who knows every line of "Harry Potter" (2001-2007) is getting all the girls. Don’t revel in shows like "Chuck" that pretend that nerds aren’t cool, because they are. And I don’t know which I’d rather have.

This first season set contains all 13 episodes, they are:

- "Pilot" in which chuck has the e-mail digitized into his brain, is powers set up, and we meet the main cast of the show.
- "Chuck Versus the Helicopter" in which a government doctor who is hired to extract Chuck’s memory files, betrays the group.
- "Chuck Versus the Tango" in which Chuck and Sarah must infiltrate an art show to find a terrorist.
- "Chuck Versus the Wookie" in which Chuck tracks down a stolen diamond, and is drawn to another government agent.
- "Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp, in which Chuck accidentally screws up the plans of a Chinese spy, and has to help in return.
- "Chuck Versus the Sandworm" in which Chuck crosses paths with a person in a very similar predicament to his.
- "Chuck Versus the Alma Mater" in which Chuck returns to Stanford to aid an old professor, who turns out to be a government agent.
- "Chuck Versus the Truth" in which Chuck begins to realize his feelings for Sarah, while meeting a new girl who seems to be interested in him.
- "Chuck Versus the Imported Hard Salami" in which Chuck begins dating another woman, who is tied up in a weapon smuggling ring.
- "Chuck Versus the Nemesis" in which Chuck in which a person previously thought dead returns.
- "Chuck Versus the Crown Vic" in which Chuck and Sarah must foil a counterfeiter.
- "Chuck Versus the Undercover Lover" in which Chuck pesters Casey about his relationship with a Russian operative.
- "Chuck Versus the Marlin" in which Chuck loses his soon-to-be brother in law’s ring to his sister, and learns that those who seek to harm him are getting closer.

Video

"Chuck" is presented with a 1080p 24/fps High-Definition 1.78:1 widescreen transfer mastered in VC-1 compression, but the quality overall is very inconsistent. At times, I thought the picture quality of the show reflected well on the HD picture when the show is broadcast on television. However, there are moments where there is too much noise and grain on the screen, especially in scenes that take place outside at night for some reason. These moments got very distracting, and I felt like every 5th scene or so, I would throw my arms up, and be baffled as to how some of the show can look so good, and other parts look DVD-quality, if that.

Audio

"Chuck" is offered in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround Sound track, as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo tracks in French and German. The sound here is fine enough, but I just don’t understand why NBC wouldn’t want to put the show out with an HD audio track. I mean, non HD sound is fine, but now that we are moving into the age of HD, I feel as though I can hear the difference between a show that has HD sound and a show that doesn’t. That said, I don’t have any real complaints pertaining to the audio, as all the dialogue, sound effects, and music come through fine and clear. Also, the show made good use of surround sound, with effects popping up all around my room in a coherent manner. Just, c’mon, let’s put HD sound on HD discs.
Optional subtitles are included in English, Spanish, French, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and Portuguese.

Extras

The extras for the 1st season of "Chuck" are spread amongst the three discs, including deleted scenes, interviews, a featurette, webisodes and a gag reel. They are examined more closely below:

DISC ONE:

The first disc only contains a string of deleted scenes, or "Declassified Scenes" which runs for 5 minutes and 44 seconds. I found it odd that the deleted scenes were not separated by which episode they belonged to, but rather one continuous clip. As for the actual content of the deleted scenes, I didn’t find them to be too funny, but didn’t think they were any worse than what was already in the show.

DISC TWO:

The second disc offers "Chuck’s World" a series of 6 character specific examinations, interviewing crew and actors, offering insight into the process of casting for each character, what they hoped to accomplish with this character, and what the actor brought to the character. While I didn’t find it particularly interesting, it was nice to see that at least SOME thought was put into why each character existed. The segments are for:

- "Chuck" which runs for 2 minutes and 31 second.
- "Morgan" which runs for 3 minutes and 9 seconds.
- "Sarah" which runs for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
- "Casey" which runs for 1 minute and 52 seconds.
- "Ellie" which runs for 2 minutes and 47 seconds.
- "Devon A.K.A “Captain Awesome”" which runs for an even 2 minutes.

This disc also includes its own set of "Declassified Scenes" deleted scenes, and these ones run for a paltry 2 minutes and 1 second.

DISC THREE:

The main event of the third disc’s extras is "Chuck on Chuck" featurette, which runs for 26 minutes and 56 seconds. This is a round table discussion with series creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, and they are joined by Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez. Each group picks their favorite scenes from the show, and the four comment on them, much like a standard commentary. This was probably my favorite feature of the set, as the people present here seem like personable guys, and I enjoyed hearing them discuss the scenes in question. When I heard them talk, I felt like they were much more capable of a better show. Who knows, a part of me thinks that they could potentially pick things up in the show’s second season.

"Chuck Versus the Chuckles" A.K.A: The Gag Reel, which runs for 7 minutes and 16 seconds, and is just that. If anyone reads my reviews, they will know by now that I hate these reels. It is always flubbed lines set to wacky music. Also, you know that your gag reel is in trouble when a shot ends with someone yelling “That’s for a special on the DVD!” This makes me think that people are acting wacky, knowing that this will be on a gag reel, while the best bloopers from movies are always the most unexpected, and shouldn’t need wacky music to make them funny.

The third disc also includes a set of "Declassified Scenes" deleted scenes, which run for 2 minutes and 6 seconds.

Lastly, the third disc offers "Chuck’s Online World", a series of webisodes created for the internet, starring some of Chuck’s co-workers at the Nerd Herd. They are shot in vlog fashion, as if they were something that would be uploaded to YouTube. I found them to be inoffensive, but not really funny either. They merely act as extensions to characters that I don’t really care about. They include:

- "Meet Jeff" which runs for 1 minute and 20 seconds.
- "Morgan’s Vlog: Movie Villains" which runs for 3 minutes and 8 seconds.
- "Anna’s Amazing Talents: Karate Moves" which runs for 24 seconds.
- "Anna’s Amazing Talents: Sword Skills" which runs for 36 seconds.

Packaging

Packaged in a deluxe Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Show: C- Video: B- Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: C+

 


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