[04/06/09 - 08:51 AM]
The Futon's First Look - "Chuck: Chuck Versus the Dream Job" (NBC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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(Mondays at 8:00/7:00c)

The network's description: "THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR CHUCK WHEN HE FINDS HIS FATHER AND LANDS HIS DREAM JOB OR SO HE THINKS -CHEVY CHASE ("NBC'S SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" AND SCOTT BAKULA ("QUANTUM LEAP") GUEST STAR - Chuck's (Zachary Levi) life seems to be coming together: his long-absent father Steve (guest star Scott Bakula) has returned and he's landed his dream job with his hero Ted Roark (guest star Chevy Chase). Unfortunately for Chuck, neither turns out to be quite what he expected. Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Ryan McPartlin, Sarah Lancaster, Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay also star."

What did they leave out? A certain Fulcrum bad guy isn't quite dead... again.

The plot in a nutshell: Finally reunited with his father Steve (Scott Bakula), Chuck (Zachary Levi) discovers that he isn't quite the man he remembers. It seems that dear old dad has gone a little kooky in the years since he left the Bartowski clan, as he's convinced people are watching him and that his high tech ideas were stolen from him by his college buddy-turned-computer magnate William Bell Ted Roark (Chevy Chase). Surprisingly there appears to be some merit to Steve's ramblings, as Chuck flashes on a flyer promoting Roark's latest software launch. Now Chuck must go undercover at Roark Instruments to stop the RIOS from being released, a job which - ironically enough - he's actually qualified to do. The homefront however has its own foibles as Chuck's sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) doesn't quite share Chuck's excitement about their dad's return while Morgan (Joshua Gomez) is crushed that Chuck is seemingly moving on from the Buy More. Chuck however is the one that gets the shock of a lifetime when the truth about Steve - and why he left all those years ago - is revealed.

What works: It's almost stunning that after two years - during which it's gained an increasingly dense mythology - the inherent "saving the world at $11 an hour" charm of "Chuck" remains intact. For all its madcappery and technobabble, the series has yet to lose sight of Chuck's quarterlife-crisis meets stranger-in-a-strange-land origins, where the spy world is just as dangerous as the corporate one. Season two then has added a new wrinkle to Chuck's problems: now that he's declared what he truly wants - a normal life - the blowback on his friends and family as a result of his double life has ramped up, from Devon's (Ryan McPartlin) presumed infidelity towards Ellie to Morgan's feeling left behind to the constant reminder that a relationship with Sarah (Yvonne Strzechowski) is never going to happen. "Chuck Versus the Dream Job" continues to build off that dichotomy as Steve's return opens up some new doors for Chuck - including a chance at, well, his dream job - but conversely also opens up old wounds in Ellie. I must say I've been particularly engaged by the show's renewed focus on Chuck's relationship with Ellie as of late as it's opened up new sides to Chuck, not to mention finally given Ellie and Devon something substantive to do. The return of Steve then fits perfectly into that struggle, not to mention the show's overall mythology. I obviously won't spoil Steve's big secret but suffice it to say there's an overall sense the stakes in the show are going to be raised in these last four weeks of the season.

What doesn't: On the flip side, the series has a frustrating habit of making major reveals only to sweep them under the rug in the subsequent hour. Cool twists like the fact that Chuck has been keeping tabs on everyone with a chart on the back of his "Tron" poster or that Sarah may lose her assignment because her feelings are getting in the way of doing her job both got undone almost as quickly as they were brought up. Perhaps I'm in the minority but I think the show has been on long enough that we could take a few weeks of changing up the format in the name of reaffirming the characters and their relationships. "Chuck Versus the Dream Job" likewise brings up a potentially game changing twist but also plants the seeds of how easily it can be undone or tabled. Ultimately we know - because of the rules of television - that Chuck has to be confined to the Buy More and he has to be cursed with the Intersect, but it would be nice to see him explore what life would be like beyond the reset button for more than a week at a time. Regardless, one can't deny the show's charms both comedically and dramatically.

The bottom line: "Chuck" is one of those rare shows that has gotten deeper and richer in its second year so I can only hope we see a third go around.

  [april 2009]  


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