Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chuck: "Chuck Vs. The Wookie"

Illustration for article titled iChuck/i: Chuck Vs. The Wookie
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Illustration for article titled iChuck/i: Chuck Vs. The Wookie

Here we are, already four episodes into the first season of Chuck, and perhaps it's time to catch our breath and reflect back on what an amazing phenomenon this show has become. Everywhere young hipsters are donning green Buy More workshirts and red Weinerlicious vests, and turning their favorite lines from the show into ubiquitous catchphrases and hilarious bumper stickers. ("I'm saving the world for $11 an hour! You know, like that TV show Chuck!") With this kind of pop culture momentum, there's no question that Chuck is headed to the toppermost of the poppermost. The $1.4 billion spent on round-the-clock ads before Chuck's season premiere one month ago were clearly worth it.

Of course, it's possible my perception of Chuck's popularity is skewed because I've been assigned to cover it for the T.V. Club Blog, forcing me to intensely contemplate a show I'd probably otherwise treat as a decent Monday night diversion before real appointment television like I Love New York. Regular readers know I hated the first two episodes of Chuck, but with last week's "Chuck Vs. The Tango" installment the show made a comeback that continues with "Chuck Vs. The Wookie." I realized tonight that Chuck essentially aspires to be a hipper version of Scarecrow And Mrs. King, a 1980s romantic spy comedy starring Kate Jackson as a divorced housewife (the Chuck role) drawn into a life of international intrigue by secret agent Bruce Boxleitner (the Sarah role).

I make this comparison without ever actually having seen a complete episode of Scarecrow And Mrs. King, though I remember it being on a lot when I was a kid because my step-dad loved it. So I'm sure I caught enough of the gist through osmosis. For instance, I know Scarecrow and Mrs. King became romantically involved and eventually got married; similarly, much of "Chuck Vs. The Wookie" was about setting up romantic tension between Chuck and Sarah. This has been developing from the beginning of the series, and as I've expressed in previous posts I haven't been supportive. But after "Chuck Vs. The Wookie," I'd upgrade my feelings about a possible—OK, inevitable–Chuck/Sarah hook-up to "ambivalent." I don't really buy it, but since I've moved on from that chestnut about an email downloading the government secrets into Chuck's brain I'm pretty sure I'll come to believe anything at this point.

Tonight's episode introduced a possible recurring foil for Sarah in the form of Carina, a very skinny rival fox from the CIA. The increasingly annoying Morgan pretended he was heterosexual for a few scenes and made a big show of trying to pick up her up, but his true feelings of lust were obvious in the opening scene when he jealously tried to insert himself into the fake-but-possibly-real relationship dynamic between Chuck and Sarah. Morgan's facial hair is a symbol of the beards he keeps wearing to covering up his all-consuming passion for his best friend and unrequited love. (I'm going to keep writing this until it comes true.) Casey, unfortunately, didn't insert himself into much of anything this week. The writers don't seem to know what to do with this character. The talented Adam Baldwin has been reduced to jutting out his chin and occasionally shooting at bad guys. Maybe there could be some Chuck-Sarah-esque romantic tension with Casey and Morgan. Hmm…

"Chuck Vs. The Wookie" was less a step forward from last week than a confirmation that Chuck has found its bearings after a shaky start. It's still not terribly compelling TV, but it is a very watchable hour of entertainment. Somewhere a step-dad is tuning in regularly, and an 8-year-old kid is taking notes.

Grade: B-

Stray observations

—Hardly any pop songs this episode, a noticeable difference from the first three eps. Is NBC already cutting back on the song licensing budget?

—That was definitely one of the more menacingly hairy bad guys I've seen on television.

—Glad to see some more Weinerlicious stuff tonight, though the nerdy teenaged fast food manager was way too stock.

—Any Scarecrow And Mrs. King fans out there? I'm jonesin' to see it now–is it worth a rental?

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