Welcome to our second season of "On the Futon With...," a semi-weekly feature where I sit down and talk TV with some of my favorite people in the industry, all the while trying to give the impression I'm not some overgrown fanboy.
Our first wave of interviews this season come from our time spent at the San Diego Comic-Con this past summer. We hope you enjoy!
THIS WEEK'S GUEST: "Chuck" creators Josh Schwartz & Chris Fedak
Brian Ford Sullivan: So you two went to film school together?
Josh Schwartz: We did indeed.
BFS: Was that the catalyst for creating a show together?
JS: We were going into the fourth season of "The O.C.," which I had a pretty good sense would be the last season. [And] I was kind of figuring out the future and I read a movie Chris had just written which was awesome. So I sat down with him and we started talking and he pitched the concept for "Chuck" which I thought was great and really cool and kind of took it from there.
BFS: And is this the first Comic-Con you've ever done?
BFS: Is it as eye-opening as you expected? [Laughs.]
JS: It's awesome, yeah, really fun. [Laughs.] It reminds of me of my dad, who's in the toy business. It reminds me of going to Toy Fair when I was a little kid.
Chris Fedak: And I grew up in Orlando so this is a really exciting and twisted version of that. [Laughs.]
JS: Even more twisted than Orlando.
BFS: Do you think fans of "The O.C." will transition well to this show?
JS: I guess people talked about [the show] being it's as if Seth Cohen could have invented a secret identity for himself. So maybe there's some comparison there if you enjoyed that part of the show. But it's also something that's totally different. It's really fun. It's a real melding of the minds of me and Chris. But I think there's humor and romance that's alive in the show [that "O.C." fans] will respond to. And, you know, we have a nerdy character kind of living a life far more fantastic that he ever imagined for himself so I guess we have that in common too.
CF: One of the things that when we first started working on the show is talking about... I had a rather spy show idea. And Josh wanted to do a show about a quarter-life crisis. And that sort of merging of doing a show about personal issues as well as...
JS: ...Right, a hardcore spy show and kind of like a coming of age, romantic dramedy all at the same time. And it will either not work at all or it will be something really fun to work on. And it's been really fun.
BFS: Music was really important to "The O.C." Do you plan to continue that with "Chuck?"
JS: Absolutely. Definitely. I mean we already have a band in the pilot, Foreign Born, and you know, the show is set in Echo Park and Silver Lake so it's got that musical sound as being part of the show. And Chuck is a music fan. I think it'll also be music that could feel like it could be a spy theme, like the LCD Soundsystem album or the Hotship album, you know, that kind of stuff, part of that world, but also, if you were driving late at night, could feel like the Spy Hunter theme.
BFS: Do you expect to get a lifelong Best Buy discount as the result of the show? [Laughs.]
JS/CF (together): Or not. [Laughs.]
JS: Or never allowed in again.
CF: They might have our pictures by the front desk.
JS: We'll see what they think.
BFS: So was there some sort of effort to get them or another store involved?
JS: There was an initial approach but it always gets complicated. There was a just certain like heavily, legally, well-vetted procedure that we endured. I just want that to be known... [Laughs.] ...a lot of documentation to create enough separation between the two worlds.
BFS: [To Chris] Was TV always the end goal for you? Or did you just stumble upon it through your feature career?
JS: I suckered him in. [Laughs.]
CF: I've been brainwashed, totally. [Laughs.] No, actually the original idea was to write features and I was kind of stuck in development hell. And this [conversely] has been so super exciting. TV moves really fast.
JS: I mean we sat down a year ago and we're getting ready to start shooting the second episode a year later. You know what I mean? It moves really, really quickly.
CF: It's like now we're walking around the Buy More set on the Warner Bros. lot thinking to ourselves, "We could only imagine this and now it's built around us." It's amazing.
BFS: So how do you see the show working from week to week? Is going to be villains of the week or...
JS: It's going to be a combination. There will sort of be a villain of the week component, you know, Chuck's spy mission. But there's also as much set, it's just as much an office-based comedy. And sort of the operating principal is that Buy More is just as dangerous an environment for Chuck as the spy world. There's all these people gunning for his job... and how he keeps his life a secret, to keep this secret identity from his sister Ellie and his best friend Morgan whom he's incredibly close to, now has to keep this from them. So there will be a villain of the week component as well as some larger mythology kind of issues about why did Bryce break into the Intersect computer, why did he send it to Chuck, why did he have to destroy it, why Chuck, all that kind of stuff. And it's also worth noting that he's been assigned, he's basically been assigned Sydney Bristow and Jack Bauer to protect him in Yvonne Strahovski and Adam Baldwin. And, you know, he's not a guy who's had a lot of luck with women. And all of a sudden he has the most beautiful woman in the world assigned to like babysit him at all times, which, you know, leads to enhancement of his fantasy life as well. And some romance.
BFS: So we'll see Bryce again?
JS: [Smiling.] Perhaps. Maybe in flashback form. Maybe in some other form. We can't say.
BFS: In terms of managing fans expectations, are there any experiences from "The O.C." that you'll take to "Chuck?"
JS: Yeah, it was such a great learning experience. I had never done anything like that before. It was like - deep end of the pool, go! And the show worked very, very quickly. It was a very quick learning curve on the show. And fan reaction is incredibly important, it's who you do the show for. And I think at the same time, trying to maintain the purity of our initial reason for doing the show and trying to stay true to that. It's always about walking that line. That's the big lesson, the thing that I'll take from "The O.C." And all that stuff - ratings, expectations, time slots - we have no control over that. So the only thing we can control is trying to make a fun show. And that's what we're focused on.
BFS: So then how did you feel about the change from Tuesdays to Mondays?
JS: It was nice because it feels like a vote of confidence. But we certainly go, of course, with that comes a whole other set of expectations. So we try not to focus on that stuff. If it's Tuesday, it's Tuesday. If it's Monday, it's Monday. So be it. The cool thing for us though is that we're big "Heroes" fans. And so to watch that show last year and now be its lead-in is both a great honor and a daunting challenge.
BFS: Besides "Heroes" then are there any other shows you follow?
JS: Yeah, there are. A lot of comedies, sort of the whole NBC comedy block on Thursdays.
CF: "30 Rock" and "The Office" is sort of our touchstone for a lot conversations. It's a really great show.
BFS: It really must suck to be on NBC then. [Laughs.]
JS: Exactly. [Laughs.] "Friday Night Lights." I hate to keep plugging NBC but I gotta speak the truth. That show moves me to tears once a week. I'm proud. I'll tell ya. Lyla Garrity! Sorry. [Laughs.]
BFS: And with "Chuck," how does the show speak specifically to you?
JS: It's weird because it's a super high-concept idea but I also think it's a really personal story for us and speaks to a lot of the emotional truths that we've experienced or are experiencing. So you can't help but get invested in that. Some of our favorite scenes are Chuck and Morgan and Ellie and her boyfriend Captain Awesome just hanging out at the apartment talking about their life. Or the Buy More stuff or the weird Nerd Herd guys trying to take Chuck down.
CF: We were both really excited about doing this spy show but it's those elements that make "Chuck" so distinctive, that personal touch. It makes us smile.
BFS: [To Chris] And for you, what has the TV learning curve been like?
CF: It's so incredibly fast. So it's like if you write 54 pages you will hear notes 60 minutes later. [Laughs.]
JS: Already he's bitter. [Laughs.]
CF: It's been amazing. There was a night where we were shooting the ninja scene. And it was 3:00 in the morning and Josh had left. So it was McG and myself and like 50 crew members in a space like the size of a small garage. And the ninja was tired. He couldn't hit anything. And I was just sitting there in a small kitchen with McG talking about Woo-Ping and ropework and I just thought to myself - "What am I doing here?" [Laughs.] My life has become very strange. But it's super exciting and super fun.
BFS: Will we see any of "The O.C." alums guest star? [EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview took place before it was announced Rachel Bilson will appear in a multi-episode arc on the show.]
JS: [Smiling again.] Maybe. I can't say at this time but it's possible. More likely here than on "Gossip Girl." Unless they're playing old kids, college kids who come back to harass the high school kids.
BFS: Will McG be directing any future episodes?
JS: He's sort of supervising the production right now.
BFS: And lastly, if you had 30 seconds to tell America why they should watch this show - what would you say?
JS: It'd say Zach Levi. I mean this guy playing Chuck is a really singular talent. It's the right part for him at the right time. And I think it's a show that's not on TV right now. And for us, if you love spies, if you love the sort of comedy component, there's something for everybody in the show. I thought that was a good answer, right? [Laughs.]
CF: And also Yvonne Strahovski is fantastic.
JS: And come on, give it up for Baldwin. [Laughs.]
CF: Yes! One of the ideas behind the show is if it was any other spy show [Yvonne or Adam] would be the star of the show. And so in that way, they bring an interesting element, you know, exciting component. And they're super fun. I think everyone's going to get a kick out of it.
JS: And it's on before "Heroes." Come on, you're going to be watching that anyway. Just tune in an hour earlier.