Chuck: Season One (US - BD)
Gabe has a set of 'handlers' too, but for entirely different reasons than Chuck...
On the night of his birthday, Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), the boss ‘Nerd Herder’ at the BuyMore, receives an email from a friend he hasn’t talked to since college. After innocently opening the application, Chuck finds himself unwittingly downloading stolen government secrets into his brain. Now that the original files have been destroyed, Chuck’s brain is the only place the CIA and FBI can find this information. The government takes action, and assigns the unassuming geek two body guards: a hard core army man (Adam Baldwin), who poses as an underling at the BuyMore, and a beautiful woman (Yvonne Strahovski), who poses as Chuck’s girlfriend.
Chuck could be a disaster in lesser hands, because the general characterizations are so arch, and the narrative conflicts are on the whole so predictable. Fortunately the arch and predictability is in very good hands. The writers handle their characters with deep passion, and the actors are sharp as diamonds, so the big ideas are raked over with small touches. This is an approach that only really works for TV. Single sentence set ups in movies can’t be explored to the same degree as television shows for the simple sake of time. Chuck is an entertaining series right off the bat, but it takes it several episodes to hit its stride and turn into something that works beyond its means.
The easy comparison to make is to the original Get Smart, but because it’s the little touches that make me like the show, I’m going to compare it to The Tick (live action and animated). Chuck isn’t as much a spoof as The Tick, it has a much stronger sense of drama, but the man out of his element theme is treated in a similar manner. Basically Chuck Bartowski is a slightly more realistic version of Arthur the Mothman. From my end I actually prefer the sit-com moments of the series, which I think is saying quite a bit, because I’ve been told I have a very snobby sense of humour. The writers have a slight problem melding the elements of Chuck’s regular life and spy life, but as the show progresses the stitches start to show a little less.
The issue is that non-miniseries television comes with a whole ‘nother set of problems, the biggest one being the writers’ hesitance on allowing a character to grow. I understand that allowing the characters to have full arcs robs the creators of the future opportunity, and makes the possibility of future seasons a little iffy, but I hate the traditional television writing technique of teasing resolutions for years on end. The ‘will they/won’t they’, soap opera shenanigans, and the tired superhero keeping his identity secret themes hurt the series’ otherwise entertaining flow. In a perfect world Chuck would be a beautiful single season arc with full romantic resolution, but this isn’t a perfect world, and Chuck is made to make money for a studio.
Chuck season one is presented in1080p, 1.78:1 widescreen, and is very colourful. The show’s creators really push the colour pallet, sometimes to a degree where the format’s abilities with sharp details are lost. The bright colours do not bleed, but they are a little busy with digital noise, and not quite as solid as bright hues found on the best Blu-ray discs. The consistency of the images shifts quite a bit throughout each episode, sometimes obviously on purpose, but other times seemingly on accident. There’s sometimes the sense that entirely different cameras are being used for each take. Dark sequences fair the worst as far as grain is concerned, while the scenes shot on the Buy More set (the spot where I’m guessing the filmmakers have the most control) are almost immaculate, save a few roughly blended skin tones.
This Blu-ray collection sounds great in good, old fashion Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Chuck is a pretty action packed series, but it isn’t very dependent on big action effects, save a few bombs and flying bullets. The majority of the surround sound aggression is devoted to the show’s ample and clever soundtrack. Whoever chooses the catalogue music has a wicked sense of irony, but even the sillier choices are cut with clever intent. Mostly we’re talking stereo effects, but the back channels get in on the action too. The bulk of the show takes place on sets, and when on-set the effects and dialogue are sharply mixed, but when on location the bulk of the audio is flatly delegated into the centre channel. The entire track’s biggest downfall is the fault of the show’s writers, who don’t use actor Tony Todd’s awesome baritone outside of the briefing television, robbing our powered subwoofers of a thorough bass workout.
I am so confused concerning the need for three discs in this set. Disc one holds seven full length episodes and a few extras, but discs two and three only hold three episodes and not much more in the way of extras.
Disc two features six ‘Behind the Story: Chuck’s World’ featurettes. The featurettes, which total about fifteen minutes, concern the casting of the six main leads (Chuck, Morgan, Sarah, Casey, Ellie, and Captain Awesome), including the creators’ thoughts on the characters, the actor’s thoughts on the characters, behind the scenes footage of the actors goofing off, and audition tapes.
The third disc starts with ‘Chuck on Chuck’, a twenty-six minute round table with creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz, and actors Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez. Basically this is a video commentary for a few favourite scenes. The description calls it ‘point/counterpoint’, but that’s pretty inaccurate. ‘Chuck vs. Chuckles’ is just your average blooper reel. Then, under ‘Chuck’s Online World’ are four brief character video blogs, all of which originally debut online, running a total of five and a half minutes. All three discs feature a small collection of deleted scenes. Most of the scenes are throw-away jokes, but there are a few minor plot points throughout.
Chuck is solid, popular television entertainment, but I’m not sure how well it will stand up to repeat viewings so I’m hesitant to suggest a purchase to anyone but the series’ greatest fans. If you already own the DVD release of season one you’ll probably be happy hanging onto it, because the hi-def video quality is pretty average for the format, otherwise fans should be happy. Hopefully the next season release will feature some more substantial extra features, specifically a few cast commentaries.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 11th November 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 French, Dolby Digital 2.0 German
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Portugues
Extras: Chuck on Chuck, Chuck's World, Chuck vs Chuckles, Chuck's Online World, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin
Genre: Action and Comedy
Length: 556 minutes
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