Monday, May 4, 2009

Chuck's Uncertain Fate

Today the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) unveiled its new programmes for the fall, while at the same time cancelling the police drama Life. At the same time, however, the fates of some of Law and Order, My Name is Earl, and Chuck remain up in the air. This has been unnerving to many geeks, who have anxiously been awaiting word as to whether Chuck will return next fall.

I must confess that I am not a regular viewer of Chuck. At most I catch an episode here and there, and I have not watched the show at all since Fox moved House into the same time slot. But I can understand the concern my fellow geeks have for the show. Spy dramas have not exactly been common on American network television in recent years. In fact, Alias and Chuck are only two that come to my mind. More importantly, however, Chuck is one of the few shows that actually features geeks.

Let's face it, geeks have not exactly been common on American television. In fact, for the over sixty years that American broadcast television has existed, they have been relatively rare. Only a few characters who could be considered geeks even come to my mind. Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and later his own show could be considered a geek, still reading Captain Marvel comic books nearly ten years after they went out of print. Radar on M*A*S*H, who read Batman comic books at a time when superhero comic books were out of fashion, could also be counted as a geek. More recently there has been Timothy McGee on NCIS, Kutner on House, and the guys on Big Bang Theory. Chuck is one of the first TV shows which has ever featured a geek in the lead.

It is because Chuck Bartowski is a geek and because Chuck is a spy drama that I have always had a soft spot for the show. Geeks have been a relatively rarity on the show, and it is good to see show where the lead character is actually a geek. Furthermore, the show is somewhat original as a spy drama. In many respects it is a fairly original twist on the premise of The Avengers, in which a man and a woman operate as a team--the twist being that the male member of the team is wholly inexperienced and uncomfortable when it comes to the spy game. And I must confess that the leads of the show are very appealing. Zachary Levi is convincing enough as Chuck that one has to wonder if he is a geek himself. As Sarah, Yvonne Strahovski is at the same time dangerous and yet vulnerable, a realistic superspy. As Major John Casey, Adam Baldwin is the perfect foil to Chuck--very good when it comes to espionage, if a bit rough around the edges when it comes to the emotional lives of those he knows.

Over all, I find Chuck to be an enjoyable show, if not one I watch regularly. In fact, I only have one objection to the show: the computer service for which Bartowski works is called "the Nerd Herd." I know, the name is meant as parody of the Geek Squad from Best Buy, but it doesn't work for me as the terms geek and nerd are not synonymous. A geek is simply someone who is an enthusiast of something that is off the beaten path--Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, old movies, computers.... A nerd is someone who is socially awkward to the point of absurdity. Someone can be a nerd and not like science fiction or horror movies (some of the biggest nerds I've ever known were not sci-fi fans at all, but sports fans). Nerds don't even have to be intelligent--some of the most socially awkward individuals out there also happen to be extremely stupid. It then seems a bit of a misnomer to me for a computer service to be called "the Nerd Herd," when most of its employees are not nerds. After all, Chuck had a girlfriend in college (and a good looking girlfriend at that). He is a geek, but not a nerd. In contrast, most of the guys on Big Bang Theory are geeks and nerds (here I should point out I wrote a post a few years back on this very topic...).

Regardless, I can fully understand why so many are anxiously awaiting word from NBC as to the ultimate fate of Chuck. And while I do not watch the show regularly, I must confess that if it is cancelled I could not help but miss it.


poppedculture said...

I love Chuck too and hope it makes a another season, but if they wrapped it up, at least it had a satisfying conclusion.

There is another geek lead character on TV, Reaper, which has many similarities to Chuck and is also on the cancellation bubble.

And I do think geek and nerd are becoming interchangeable. Like geek, the word is being reclaimed.

Terence Towles Canote said...

I'd forgotten all about Reaper. I have never watched it, but I do hope it gets renewed. There have been too few geeks on TV!

RC said...

Somehow, I have a feeling Chuck is going to stick around.

Maybe, it's because of the effort they've put into advertising and dvd sales - but I just have a feeling that the studio wants to keep it around as much as some fans do.