One thing that TV fans love to do is create their list for “My Favorite TV Shows of All-Time.” Every few years I calculate mine, and for several years, the list didn’t change that much.
Oh, maybe a couple of shows switched places or maybe a show dropped from number five to number eight, but for the most part the list stayed the same. That all changed a couple of years ago when I had to add both ‘Mad Men’ and ’30 Rock’ to the list. I still haven’t figured out which two shows in the top ten I’ll have to take off.
I’ll also have to add a third show to that list, and that would be NBC’s ‘Chuck’ (tonight at 8 on NBC). I don’t know if it wedges its way into the top ten, but it’s definitely top twenty. Here’s why.
1. A great cast. This is what it all comes down to in a show like this, right? The writing can be top-notch and the direction fine, but if you don’t like Chuck, Sarah, Casey, or Morgan, the show wouldn’t work. Even the Buy More guys, even though they can be, um, CREEPY, are likable in their own way. I always smile to myself when I see a role – whether it’s a regular role on a TV show or just a guest spot – that is cast so perfectly, and ‘Chuck’ makes me smile. I have no idea what is going on at the ‘Chuck’ studio, but it seems to me that everyone is having a ball, and that shows on the screen.
2. It’s not predictable. ‘Chuck’ is a light, one-hour action show, but it’s not like ‘The Fall Guy’ or ‘Charlie’s Angels’ or ‘Vegas’ (fine as that show was), where you knew exactly where the plot was going, exactly who the bad guy was, exactly how an episode was going to end. ‘Chuck’ has managed, somehow, to surprise us week after week.
Didn’t you mutter a soft “wow” to yourself when Tony Hale got a bullet in the head by the assassin? Didn’t you smile a bit when the girl that Chuck met on the plane didn’t turn out to be an evil spy (a twist every other show would have thrown at us)? I’m not saying that every episode ends with a giant plot twist or cliffhanger, but the show is filled with nice unpredictable moments – both plot-driven and character-driven – that put it above the mediocre shows.
3. The show has actually grown. It is so, so easy for shows like this to get into a rut. To have just another “case of the week” where our heroes get their assignments, get into a jam, but then everything works out in the end and they capture or kill the bad guys and the credits roll and we do the same thing the following week. ‘Chuck’ is different.
Wouldn’t it have been lame and stupid and incredibly frustrating if Chuck had been able to keep his spy secrets from those closest to him from the first episode to the last? Letting Captain Awesome in on the secrets was a, well, awesome decision by the writers. And having Morgan find out about it and actually not tell anyone? Another great decision.
Characters are evolving, they’re learning, they’re getting better at their jobs, new characters are coming on, people are dying, and it just feels like the plot is moving forward instead of just sitting there like a puddle. Even if the show were to end after this season, at least fans (and the people behind the show) can be happy with the fact it didn’t grow stale or rest on its laurels.
4. It’s just flat-out entertaining. Let’s face it. A lot of shows, even if they are of a certain quality, can often be tedious or you just don’t have any fun watching them. ‘Chuck’ really is a fun show, sort of a throwback to the types of network shows we used to see in the 70s and 80s (though the special effects and car chases are a lot better).
The creators have given us a bunch of cool characters, put them in situations we actually care about, and surrounded everything with action, humor, and wit. Honestly, what more can we ask from a TV show?
Now if only the ratings were a lot better. Gentlemen, start your sandwiches.