NBC’s “Chuck,” despite its clear potential in the first few episodes, has lost its initial charm.

Dave Mekelburg
More fodder for the Writers Guild strike? (COURTESY OF NBC)

The show follows a prototypical average guy, Chuck (Zachary Levi), as he is suddenly thrust into the life of a CIA agent when his former roommate (also a CIA agent) sends him a top secret e-mail upon his death. Although its plot extends over multiple episodes, each show delves into its own subplot. The show seems like it could go on forever – at least until the writers run out of assembly-line villains, or viewers get tired of the predictable storylines.

As the main character, Chuck has advanced little over the course of the first season, while supporting roles have become more developed in the first eight episodes. Morgan, Chuck’s best friend, and Ellie, Chuck’s sister, once rivals for Chuck’s attention, have befriended one another in Chuck’s absence. In the Halloween episode, Ellie’s boyfriend walked out naked in front of Chuck and joked that he was dressed as Adam. This is in marked shift to the pilot episode, where the humor relied on facetiously delivered events so ridiculous they were funny.

The most recent episode has also explored the foundations of the fake relationship between Chuck and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski). The two have been operating under the guise that they are in a serious relationship as a cover for their covert CIA/NSA operations. The problem is that Chuck has needs Sarah isn’t fulfilling.

The minor sub-plots of “Chuck” have added depth to the show. Still, the more dramatic plot points have watered down the show’s humor, which is common for dramedies looking to find a balance. To remain believable, drama is essential, but the show risks losing fans drawn to it by the quirky comedy of the first few episodes.

More recent plot points have also become predictable. In each episode, NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin), Sarah and Chuck encounter a new villain in search of Chuck’s knowledge, attempt to find out how they can keep the villain from getting what he wants, eventually catch the villain and keep him from doing any more evil. It gets repetitive.

Although the pilot seemed particularly promising, less than halfway through the first season the show already needs to shake things up. It needs to revamp its direction and stabilize its identity to ensure a lasting run.

Though “Chuck,” as with many non-reality programs, will be unable to complete its first season on time because of the writer’s strike, it still has potential. The time off could offer the writers a new perspective on the show, sending it in a new direction. We may have to wait, but “Chuck” isn’t done yet.


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