Chuck Vs. the Suburbs
With apologies to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of episodes, it was the worst of episodes.”
I picture a writers conference for Chuck in which someone pitched the idea that Chuck and Sarah go undercover in a white-bread suburban neighborhood to try and ferret out a suspected terrorist who lives there. Producers, directors and whoever else would be at such a meeting reacted enthusiastically and the ball began to roll with speed.
“What if the head of the neighborhood watch was played by Andy Richter?” someone shouted out, to be greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm. “And what if the lovable Andy is actually the terrorist.”
“No!” someone else shouted. [spoiler alert] “What if Andy is actually a Fulcrum agent?”
And then the plot exploded in wonderful ways. Jenny McCarthy was signed on to vamp Chuck, the world’s most wholesome-looking neighborhood was [spoiler alert, again] actually built by Fulcrum and included computer wiring that would make a T1 line blush with envy, and the Carmichaels were even given a golden retriever to complete the picture (or, was the dog a sly homage to “Fang”, Agent 86’s sometime partner?).
This episode had it all. Besides the wonderful sight of Chuck and Sarah pretending to be married, we also were given a hint that—in their minds, anyway—the Fulcrum people are not terrorists. They seem to believe that the government and/or the CIA/NSA have wimped out in the war on terror and they are the only ones still truly fighting it. Granted, they’ll stomp on anyone in their path to do so, but they do have some semblance of patriotism driving them.
“But,” someone objected, “What do we do with the people at the Buy More?”
Someone decided that, between the excellent scenes in the suburbs, it would be a good idea to sandwich in scenes that made the Buy More crew little more than amoral pimps and culminated in [spoiler alert 3] the “hilarious” moment when Morgan finds out his mother is a skank.
See, it all started with Big Mike being uncharacteristically business-like. Turns out his wife (Mrs. Big Mike) left him and he decided to throw himself into his work. We already knew Big Mike was a philanderer, and that he’d rather be out fishing than with his wife, anyway, so it was hard to buy that her divorcing him was either a surprise or a disappointment. And then, to have him get so quickly sucked into internet hook-ups strictly for the purpose of seeing how many “blue” one-liners they could squeeze into a family-hour show seemed not only a poor choice to this moral conservative but also reduced all the Buy More characters to strictly two-dimensions.
[This is the kind of thing I do. My family watches TV and movies—and reads books—with an eye toward this kind of thing. Not a “reject this stuff” mindset, but with questions for each other like, “What would those sorts of choices lead to in real life?” or “What sort of worldview is this episode either promoting or, at the least, projecting?” I like mindless entertainment, but I still like to use it as a springboard for actually thinking.]
Word came out recently that season 2 of Chuck will be released this August on DVD and Blu-Ray (just before season 3 comes to our TVs), so if you didn’t see last night ep—and want to see a really excellent “Chuck”—buy the DVD and then fast-forward through any scene with people in green shirts.