“Nerd Delight”

My arch-nemesis/friend Nick Kaufmann and equally huge television watcher, told me that I would love the show Chuck. I hate it when he’s right. Chuck has already become one of my three favorite new shows of the fall (along with Life and Women’s Murder Club). What we see is Josh Schwartz (creator of The O.C.; McG is even around to direct the pilot) taking his best character from the show (Seth Cohen) and building a series around a similar character. Maybe it would be easier to let Chuck Bartowsky introduce the show:

“Hi. My name is Charles Bartowsky but you can call me Chuck. Those are my shoes. This is my life. It’s filled with spies, car chases, computer stealing ninjas, and me saving the day.”

The premise is simple: a twenty-something computer geek gets critical government secrets downloaded into his brain, so rival government agencies recruit him, guard him, and keep him out of evil hands. Chuck and his best friend, Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez), are members of the nerd Herd at the local Buy More electronics store (next door to Large Mart). One day he’s drifting through life as usual, things having not worked out the way he had planned, not knowing how important he’s about to become; the next moment, he doesn’t go into the rabbit hole, the rabbit hole goes into him. His old Stanford buddy sends him an e-mail containing thousands of encrypted images/ the combined secrets of the CIA and NSA. Suddenly, he’s enmeshed in the life of a spy. He’s like the anti-Neo.

“Some people want to be heroes and others have to be asked.” –Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski)

Despite being surrounded by a hot CIA agent, Sarah, and a ready-to-shoot NSA agent (Adam Baldwin, Serenity), Chuck refuses to let knowing government’s secrets change his life. He still goes to work, spends time with family and friends, and still pursues love. Despite him being a man with secrets, Chuck knows who he is, it is liberating. The show comes down to what’s really important in life, relationships. Chuck and his best friend (let no one come between their man love). Chuck and his sister, Ellie Bartowski (Sarah Lancaster). Chuck and Sarah. Friendship, family, and the possibility of romance.

“What’s the good of being a hero if no one knows about it?” –Chuck

Webster defines hero as “a person noted or admired for nobility, courage, outstanding achievements”. Or, as Joseph Campbell puts it, “a hero ventures forth from the world into a region of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Granted, you may picture Jack Bauer long before you picture Chuck Bartowsky, but they share many similar traits that make them heroes: noble, trustworthy, loyal, just, and good; a mix of patriotism and professionalism, as they are both true to their country and their jobs. On another level, his essential story, the monomyth, echoes the story of Christ, humble guy who goes onto great things.

Part spy spoof, part workplace comedy, and tribute to the nerd hero, Chuck is a light-hearted romp. Considering how often Chuck stumbles on them (kind of like how Jessica from Murder She Wrote had family accused of murder every week, which ought to make one wonder about their family) there are conspiracies all around us. Suffused with a quick wit, the show is hilarious and we find ourselves laughing with the nerds, not at them. And because everyone is trying to remain undercover, a lot of the battles are cleverly staged, though there is still plenty of car chases and things that go boom.

In this age of the nerd becoming the leading man rather than loveable sidekick, Chuck is another step toward the dream. One day, though no time soon I hope, the nerd will get the girl.

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