What the CHUCK? Why Creators Schwartz and Fedak aren’t to Blame for Last Night’s Mess!


Chucktastic is a not a word we would use to describe last night’s episode of CHUCK. Yet, as we sit here reviewing our notes on everything from the ridiculousness of Shaw as a romantic obstacle, the predictability of the ‘shooter,’ not to mention the massive overuse of the tired TV trope that had the show opening with the episode’s big moment only to flashback to “three days earlier,” two thoughts continue to creep up on us. Firstly, is it really fair to criticize creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak for last night’s mess? And two, is there anyway we can shift the blame to our go-to Hollywood whipping-boy: NBC? Our answers, which may surprise you, after the jump.

Obviously, placing the blame squarely on NBC is the easy, and let’s face it, far more entertaining way to go. Seriously. Between their lack of ownership stake in the property, the fact that they could only manage to muster up a last minute thirteen episode commitment under pressure from both fans and critics alike with a “to be aired when it fits into our schedule” attitude, the Peacock Network didn’t exactly do itself any favours. And what’s worse, with no ownership stake in the show, left Schwartz and Fedak with the distinct impression that these thirteen episodes would more than likely be their last. Thus, resulting in a season that had an air of finality to it as Chuck grows up to become a real-life spy and presumably (once that Shaw guy is out of the way) live happily ever after with Sarah. The End.

Of course, when you’re on a network that’s run like a chicken — or in the case of NBC — peacock with its head cut off, funny things tend to happen over the course of the season. Jay Leno flops at 10PM, Conan O’Brien gets fired, and all of a sudden, the show that shouldn’t even be on the air yet, now finds itself bumped to nineteen episodes with a very real possibility of a fourth season pickup,

Now don’t get us wrong, NBC isn’t entirely to blame for what we’re going to go ahead and call the unevenness of the season. After-all, story-wise, the buck stops with Schwartz and Fedak who still owe us some sort of explanation as to how Sarah deems it acceptable to date spies like Shaw and Bryce, yet can’t wrap her head around dating double-o-Chuck. That said, we can’t help but sympathize with the two creators who were thrust into a very unpredictable situation and wonder what things might have been like had they known from the get-go just exactly how many episodes they were going to get.

We have a feeling Chuck wouldn’t have devolved into a poor man’s ALIAS on a cable budget. We’re just sayin’

Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/NBC

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  • bws

    What? Huh? That was a perfectly fine episode last night. Not as good as the last two episodes which were straight Aces so maybe it’s just recent perception. And sure, doing the “3 days ago” trick is very Alias but who cares? I don’t mind it at all. That was certainly not a “mess” of an episode last night. It was exciting and seeing the growth of the characters has been great this season. I actually applaud “Chuck” this year for opening up the circle of trust and taking Chuck’s spy role to the next level. I enjoyed the mirroring of Sarah watching Chuck “kill” someone versus the previous scene of Chuck watching Sarah kill someone and how that affected both of their perceptions of each other.

    As for not dating Chuck, obviously Sarah doesn’t see Chuck as a spy in the same way she sees Shaw and Bryce. She’s always known them in that capacity. But she still sees Chuck as someone who’s been thrown into this against his will. She still wants to protect him even though he’s more capable than her with the Intersect in his head.

    Alias actually ran out of steam by this point in its run because it couldn’t sustain its own deep mythology. As a result, it was forced to do stand alone episode regularly that failed to develop plot or characters. When Chuck does a stand alone, it’s still more entertaining and fun.

    In summary, I disagree. :)

  • Remy

    I don’t need to say anything – bws said it all for me.

    I really enjoyed this episode, and would by no means call it a “mess”.

    All the recappers on various websites seem really crabby today – it’s bumming me out (and not just with Chuck – with almost every show on last night). *sigh*

  • mas

    did alias run out of steam or did abc meddle too much to try and lift ratings? i believe it was the latter – given what j.j. has given us since, left to his and his writer’s own devices, the zippy, action packed hours that were alias season 1 and 2 could have continued until they properly wrapped up the mythology! just sayin’

    on the flip side, i wasn’t as disturbed by last night’s chuck. it remains, as always, a nice deversion – i think of it as a greatest american hero with a contemporary spin!

  • ggny

    what the hell happen to Chucks Ratings??!? went from a 2.4 to a 1.9 in a the 18-49 demo in 2 weeks if it cant get back up over 2.1 i dont see it comming back

    Also i dont think Shaw is working i think the show needs less Shaw and more Morgan/Awesome/Ellie

  • Nic

    I agree totally! Last night’s Chuck was awful! They need to make sense of Casey getting kicked out of the team and give us a good reason for the apparent need to break up the team quickly! After a fantastic moment like Morgan’s discovery of Chuck’s secret, the showrunners need to build on that momentum and not kill it.

  • Hil

    I wasn’t bothered by the episode last night. The clunky bits were mostly Casey and some forced Buy More moments. If you have problems with the triangle that has been going on all season. If you don’t like that storyline you should be elated as it appears to be about over.

  • kfal

    you really thought it was a mess? i thought it was incredibly strong.

    the raising of the stakes was appropriately intense, with chuck being required to make a kill. equally appropriate was the conceit that as an audience, we could not ever really accept chuck as a killer, therefore having casey do it instead.

    and i’m actually enjoying brandon routh and shaw. his seriousness brings down some of the lunacy of the characters and chuck’s carefree attitude towards his missions, reminding us that this is spywork and it is serious. shaw as a romantic obstacle has added a lot to this season. it can be poison to a series to bring a couple together too early (look at how boring grey’s has been ever since mer-der’s happily ever after).

    list me under those who think, last night’s ep included, chuck is as strong as ever.

  • kevin

    i gotta agree with everyone else. last night’s episode was great. though, i don’t really like it when shows do that whole “3 days ago” thing. other than that though, i enjoyed it.

    although, i do think it’s funny that chuck is competing with the guy that played superman for sarah. you’d think he’d recognize brandon routh, being that he’s such a big geek. but whatever.

  • http://www.thetvaddict.com theTVaddict

    I’m not so usually on the opposite end of virtually everybody’s opinion. Awkward! Just to elaborate on my negative reaction to last night’s episode. There was zero suspense. Chuck’s path to ‘spy’ is moot. He will never become a full-on spy because to do so would go against the central conceit of the show. It’s Chuck attempting to keep a foothold in both worlds is what makes Chuck work.

  • bws

    It was a solid B that came after two amazing A’s. Everything looks a little pale next to those two, TVA. It’s not like Chuck is ever going to become 100% spy, 0% Chuck. Like you said, that’s the central tenet of the show. He brings the crazy to a spy situation. Shaw/Casey bring the gravitas.

    Besides, “Chuck” isn’t supposed to be all serious suspense all the time. The reason it works because the action is mixed with heart. Chuck is still the every man. He just has ninja skillz now. JUDO CHOP!

  • Josh Emerson

    I would agree that it was a solid B. The main problem I had is that it didn’t really make tons of sense for Chuck to be eager to be a real spy in Rome. Wasn’t the whole issue in earlier seasons that he didn’t want to leave Ellie/Awesome/Morgan completely? But that’s exactly what he’s doing if he becomes an actual spy. So it sort of didn’t make sense. He just doesn’t mind going off and being alone as a spy now?

  • http://umberhaven.blogspot.com Todd W in NC

    I would agree with most of the others that last night’s episode was pretty good but not quite as good as the last few. I’d also agree with Josh Emerson about the Rome assignment. His reaction didn’t make much sense to me either.

  • Hil

    I never thought they were going to succeed in changing Chuck in order to become a spy. If anything I figured Chuck would stay true to himself and force those around him to change. And be a spy too. He’ll change the rules. :)

  • Ace

    I didn’t think it was a bad episode, but I have to say I kind of agree with TVA that it was a little predictable. But Chuck is a play on the spy movie, and those tend to be somewhat predictable.

    And I have to say, I’m not a big fan of Shaw. They just made his character too one dimensional. Oh well, he won’t be around much longer. Right??

  • Mel

    I totally agree with you TVA. I thought last night’s episode was horrible. This whole turn of events with Casey is silly. I love Jeffster, but if Casey kills them at this point, I’ll swear he was with me the whole time. Shaw went from sort of interesting to annoying and worse, boring. I can’t stand Sarah at all anymore. The only saving grace of last night’s eppie for me was Chuck in the Clark kent glasses. Now that was funny.

  • bp

    I’m a little late the party, but I’m going to comment anyway, because it beats studying. I felt Final Exam was a very strong episode. In addition to a very funny B storyline, the A storyline provided some darn funny moments as well (e.g., Chuck talking to the recorded message, reacting to the self-destructing playback device, basically the entire orange orange scene). For all the ‘shippers out there, it had plenty of romance – people have been overlooking how Sarah revealed that she viewed the past two years with Chuck as a real relationship (“different than [when I was] with you”) – I felt that was a really nice moment. The almost kiss was annoying, but whatever. As far as not having suspense, I don’t know what to say – I thought it was incredibly suspenseful and intense, even knowing the outcome. And as far as explaining Sarah’s seemingly irrational choices, I think this episode fleshed out her rationale. Her last scene reveals that she’s been incredibly scared by her red test, and she’s now tortured by the fact that she’s led Chuck down the same path. There have always only been two scenarios in which the two of them could be together for “real”: she retires and has a normal life with him (i.e. the Prague incident) or he becomes a full-fledged spy and her partner (i.e., not the asset, like with Bryce Larkin). She’s been pushing him away (and holding him back a bit) because she knows that if he becomes a spy, he’ll be given his red test, and he’ll become as much of a tortured soul as she has become, and she’s trying to regain what she lost since her red test, which only the man she loves who’s not a part of the world that kills people can provide. Oh, and ZL and YS were completely on top of their games, acting wise (e.g., ZL’s showing anger for basically the first time ever “are you kidding me with this? Kill him? Here? Now?”, and his humor through out; YS – the stakeout scene, dinner scene, and flashback scenes were very very well acted IMO – I could spend another 300 words discussing how much I enjoyed her performance.) Just my humble opinion. Back to studying for me.

  • bp

    *scarred (not scared)