11/25/08

How To Make "Chuck" Not Suck

I said in the previous post that I've been watching a lot of television, thus me not writing here that much...or at all. And it's true that most of it is disgusting reality TV (I just got a tad bummed about "America's Next Top Model" not coming on tomorrow...help me, someone), but some of it is scripted television. Sadly, it is only some because I don't think there are enough good scripted shows on network TV to fill a VHS tape in SLP mode. One of those shows I watch weekly is NBC's "Chuck."

I've watched "Chuck" since the first episode, which was actually charming and full of promise. The rest of the first season played out fine, for a first season. The universe was set up, the rules were written, there were some okay turns and surprises. We're now in season two and "Chuck" is still happily trudging along, confined by it's own rules. There have been some big changes (that one government guy getting blown up, Chuck's ex working for Fulcrum) but they haven't amounted to much. As a guy who loved "Alias" and is big on genre comedy/dramas ("Buffy" and "Angel"), this show should be right up my alley. But it's not. It's pretty boring. Here's what should be done to make "Chuck" not suck.

I thought about this on my drive home to keep me from falling asleep.

1. Kill Captain Awesome. Seriously, someone has to die and it should be Chuck's future brother-in-law Devon, who apparently is credited as Captain Awesome in every episode. I didn't know that. I actually didn't even remember his name is Devon until I looked it up, which doesn't bode well for a character I've been watching weekly for almost two seasons. But yeah, this guy needs to die just to give Chuck and his sister something real to do. Plus, all the great shows I mentioned above made sure to kill someone early on (Francine, Jesse, Doyle) thus letting the viewing audience know that everyone is expendable. As it is, I never believe that any character is in jeopardy. Heck, I never even believe that the status quo is in jeopardy. Which is why...

2. Chuck needs to quit the Buy More. The show is founded on two basic plot points: Chuck is the Intersect and he's an average dude who works a crappy job. You can't get rid of the Intersect plot because, well, no one would watch an hourlong show about a guy who works at a Best Buy, especially when the show used to involve a lot of martial arts and sometimes scantily clad ladies. Still, the nature of episodic television dictates that change happen otherwise things get stale. Right now, the Buy More is getting insanely stale. I say that the show needs a comedic side more than it needs the Buy More. The Buy More is just a setting for the lighter stuff to take place and none of the characters are really that improtant to the show that they can't be ditched for newer characters in a new location. The only character that really matters in this setting is Morgan, who is easily transplantable into any situation that Chuck goes to (it's also in character since Morgan is pretty much a follower). How many more weeks can we see Chuck complain about working at the Buy More and not doing anything with his life? There's no drama in that especially when Chuck ditches his shifts all the time with no consequence. He doesn't really need to get fired or quit, he just needs to start caring. If he doesn't, then he should start going back to school, get an adult job and get a passion that he actually won't want to run away from to play CIA man. And Morgan should follow.

Overall, the comedy part of the show does not need to exist outside of Chuck. If Chuck is not involved in a Buy More plot (or wherever the new comedy setting is) then it doesn't need to be in the episode. Right now it seems like we're watching two shows a week and when none of the Buy More staff is relatable or even enjoyable to watch, it means that half of the show is painful. Give Chuck a setting he cares about and make him want to spend time there with people that both he and the audience enjoy. This is especially the case with Morgan, who I don't think has shared more than 10 minutes of screen time with this entire season. They need to hang out and be buddies.

3. Chuck is NOT a CIA agent. This is one of the biggest mistakes the show has made this season. Chuck is an average guy who is cursed with a bunch of info. Yes, Chuck has to go on adventures, that's why we watch the show. But at no point should the CIA, Sarah or Casey send Chuck on missions. That's happened way too much this season and he's actually been called a CIA agent. No. Chuck is a dude. This is like some sorta okay college football player joining the Tennessee Titans just because he shows up to all the games and sneaks onto the field. That doesn't happen. Ever.

4. The comedic characters don't need to be retarded. Everyone in the Buy More is one note. If these characters and the Buy More in general is going to stay around, I need to care about these characters more. There needs to be some depth added to the trio of characters whose names I don't know and Morgan, as soon as possible. Also, when you're watching Chuck being tortured, Sarah defusing a bomb, Casey driving a car through a building, etc...you can't cut to a scene at the Buy More involving a hastily rigged cage match fight for the new management position. The viewer doesn't care. Extreme example, but it's like someone deciding to show "Two and a Half Men" right in the middle of Hurricane Katrina coverage. I am on edge. People are dying. Stuff's going crazy. I don't need to be made to watch an eating contest. Until the show grounds the comedy and figures out pacing, I suggest they save the insanely goofy Buy More stuff for episodes where they can make it the A plot and focus on it, and give a minor spy plot the B status.

5. Fulcrum needs a face. Right now Chuck and company are fighting the idea of a rogue operation. Fulcrum needs a charismatic leader who has a plan that the audience KNOWS about and can get invested in. This would have been perfect for Chuck's ex, but they just sent her to prison. Oh well. Still, Fulcrum needs to get their plan out there and actually start making strides in completing it, and it needs to be huge.

6. Chuck and Sarah need to do it. Yep. They need to be a straight up couple. No more of this will-they-won't-they hooey. The writers need to commit to it, and play it real. If they break up in a year, they break up. If they go great together, they're great together. Period. This would also help Sarah out who, as of now, is a faceless model agent. Her shirking her responsibilities and dating Chuck outright could lead to a lot of great material, like her generally getting more rebellious, getting replaced as Chuck's handler, etc. Ideally they'd break up in a season, which would lead to a lot more emotional drama.

7. Casey needs to be found out. Quick. Casey was sent to kill Chuck in episode one, right? And the bigwig CIA lady they now answer to was the one who wanted him dead, right? Even in an episode as recent as the season premiere...right? Well then...have him try to kill Chuck. Have him kill Captain Awesome. Have him do something that will put this to rest. This is too big of a plot point to not be addressed more often or just completely ended. I was pretty excited when the guy CIA bigwig was killed because I thought it would lead to a different dynamic between the good guys, but it hasn't. She needs to order Casey to kill Chuck and Casey either needs to attempt it and be sent away and replaced or refuse and overthrow the CIA lady bigwig. Yes, that would get rid of some drama but it would clear up Casey's character immensely by firmly aligning him either with or against Chuck and Sarah. He can still be grumpy, but we need to know he either isn't going to kill Chuck or have him try every episode. You can't just toss a plot point like that in there in the first episode and ignore it 90% of the time. Plus, whoever replaces the CIA lady bigwig would obviously throw a monkey wrench into the show by not understanding the dynamic of Casey, Sarah and Chuck.

So yeah. I guess if I was planning the rest of the season, I would...
  • Reintroduce Chuck's ex as the head of Fulcrum
  • Have her tell Captain Awesome that Chuck is CIA
  • CIA Lady Bigwig has Casey kill Captain Awesome
  • Chuck gets depressed and Sarah falls for him, they start dating
  • Chuck gets motivated and enrolls in school again, as would Morgan
  • CIA Lady Bigwig fears Chuck will go rogue and she'll have Casey sent to kill him
  • Casey doesn't, and CIA Lady Bigwig turns out to be evil, she's killed
  • New CIA bigwig, fires Sarah and puts her on another assignment
  • New handler is a Fulcrum agent
Bam, I don't know, that's just off the top of my head. But if all of that happened over the rest of season two, I think it would move the show into a much more fluid place that would keep the audience guessing.

Blah blah blah, I'm hungry.

My Blog Post For November

You know, I have some spare time. I really do. It's just that I've been spending my spare time watching a lot of television. Like, almost to the levels I watched television at before the MyFaceTwitBlog craze. But unlike my habits back then, I watch mostly junk right now. Seriously, I've been quoting an episode of "Wife Swap" since Friday and I'm way too into "The Pick Up Artist 2." Just be thankful, waning readers, that I haven't felt passionate enough about these shows to do a "Kid Nation" style weekly review. Or maybe I should be doing that. Anything to get me writing again on a regular basis is good.

On the subject of writing, I'm writing a sketch show my friend and new teammate on Iron Ruckus, Frank. It's going along fine, I just have to get some ink cartridges and a suitable work station so I can be productive again. The main excuse I will use that isn't Celebreality related for why I don't write is that I used to do it all at work. Now I can't since work is crazy busy all day everyday. But back on track, we'll be applying for a slot at UCB sometime early next year I'd say, probably Spring-ish actually. But it's happening!

Iron Ruckus performed in Cage Match on October 23rd and had not only our best show ever, but one of the Five Best Improv Shows I've Ever Done. We lost to Hot Sauce but the audience seemed to enjoy us more. Or at least they were very, very into our show. There were people actually sitting on stage, so I'd actually guess that this was the biggest crowd I've ever performed in front of. And, by the way, the five best improv shows I've ever done are...
  • Bad Data's 18th show, at the Parkside Lounge on January 13, 2008
  • Final ImproVerit√©: The Documentary class show on May 6, 2008
  • First Shannon O'Neill 501 class show (as McCama, currently known as Daddy) on August 12, 2008
  • X-Men improv show at Bad Date IV on October 11, 2008
  • Iron Ruckus Cage Match on October 23, 2008
This has been a good year for improv. But...well, before 2008 I had only performed a handful of times on an indie team and in class shows. I can't believe I've only been doing this at this level for a year. It seems like an eternity. In a good way. Right?

I'm pretty lukewarm on the new Of Montreal album. The Kills "Midnight Boom" is really good. 2008 has been a pretty lackluster year for music, for me at least. Tell me more things to download.

And lastly, there's a lil' survey going around asking questions about if you were on a team full of seven other yous. So, a team full of eight Brett Whites.

1. What is your team name?
The Stakes

2. What music do you come out to?
"Milk Crisis" by the Go! Team, about six seconds in.


3. What warmups do you do?
Hugtag, Beastie Boys, Any variation on that one where you have to follow multiple patterns at once while making eye contact. This is seriously called like, 8 different things, but I like all of them.