Chuck Still Not Up

Last year at this time I praised NBC’s Chuck for its volley of satisfying finales, none
of which ultimately stood as a swan song.

Zachary Levi as Chuck facing Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah, holding a demi-tasse
Image from Chuck 3.14 “Chuck vs. the Honeymooners” © 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Season Two concluded by both wrapping up the current narrative satisfactorily and nodding towards the future. Chuck’s original 13-episode order for Season Three did the same. And the next episode a month later — the first of an additional 6 that rounded out the season — served as a lovely coda, with the actual Season Three finale making for a fine farewell too. I felt back then that while I’ve enjoyed Chuck it would have been all right with me had any one of those chapters served as its final bow.

Season Three’s ultimate finale did leave me wanting more than the previous possible finishes, because the Buy More burned down and I hoped that Season Four might free us from that place and its sophomoric subplots for good. Chuck’s admirable willingness to push the mythology and character arcs forward faltered in that regard, alas, returning us to the status quo at the store before long, but as if to atone for it the 13th episode of Season Four brought us the most fitting, loveliest last shot of the show to date.

Once again NBC has extended Chuck’s season order, not by Season Three’s 6 nor even
the traditional “back 9” but by another 11 episodes. I haven’t come across why, although one guess is that production company Warner Bros. negotiated up to 11 so that if Chuck is renewed for a Season Five and goes a standard 22 episodes the series’ total will reach 100 — the oft-cited “magic number” that production companies generally want to have banked to make a show attractive for syndication.

The latest batch of episodes has dealt with the aftermath of the 13th episode’s birth
and proposal as well as set up new problems for Team Bartowski. While some of the domestic stuff has bordered on being as unwelcome as the Buy More foolishness, there’s promise in Chuck’s sister Ellie working on an old computer of their father’s — which at one point I felt sure was about to implant an Intersect in Ellie, an intriguing potential twist that may yet occur in this season’s capper. Sarah and Chuck’s relationship is at its least appealing when stories rely too much on misunderstandings and other shenanigans, but it’s also the heart of a show that, Buy More aside, has provided a deft mix of action, humor, romance, and family drama; I just praised Fringe on Saturday for being the rare network series to bring its leads together, yet I lauded Chuck, which had much more to lose in doing so, for the same thing last season. I’m an episode behind and hope to catch up before new episodes resume next Monday at 8
p.m ET/PT.

Related: TV Talk View Points Screen Savor

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