Murphy’s Law – Good luck, Chuck

Joel Murphy

Joel Murphy

I saw an alarming story on Entertainment Weekly’s website this week, one that gave me pause:

Life wasn’t NBC’s only letdown, though. Chuck continued to struggle, averaging 5.9 million viewers at 8 p.m. (an 11 percent decline from last Monday’s disappointing premiere), and Heroes tallied just 8.2 million at 9 p.m., a loss of about a million viewers from last week, and well below last year’s 11.6 million average.”

Now NBC struggling to get ratings is nothing new and isn’t really something to get worked up over. And certainly, I’m not surprised that Life and Heroes are struggling in the ratings. No one outside of my podcast co-host Lars has ever even heard of Life and Heroes is still trying to find its way back on track after a lackluster second season. But the one thing that surprises me is the disappointing ratings for Chuck.

It was just last week that I was saying “Chuck is a show that I genuinely look forward to watching every week,” so it is worrisome to discover that Chuck is struggling to sustain an audience. Honestly, I can’t understand why the show isn’t more popular. With so much crap on TV these days, why aren’t people latching on to a show that is quirky and genuinely fun to watch.

And what exactly are people watching instead on Monday nights? Apparently a show where quasi-celebrities ballroom dance. Dancing With the Stars averaged 18.8 million viewers this past Monday and was the highest rated show of the night. Even Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and The Big Bang Theory had better ratings than this past Monday’s episode of Chuck.

All I can say in response to that is – what the fuck are you thinking, America? A ballroom dancing show, really? What could possibly be the appeal of that show, unless only 90-year-olds in nursing homes are watching television on Monday nights? And why would a remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and a poor man’s Weird Science outrank a fast-paced, funny, original show?

Seriously, what’s going on here? Can someone out there explain to me why you aren’t watching Chuck? All of the writers that matter here at HoboTrashcan love the show (i.e. every writer except Ned Bitters, but he hates Bob Dylan, so you can’t exactly trust his opinion). Plus, it’s written by Josh Schwartz, that guy who created that O.C. show you kids all loved so much until it shit the bus and got too ridiculous to follow.

Perhaps it’s a marketing thing. Are you all just unaware of the show? Have you seen commercials for it and just didn’t find it appealing? What is holding you back from giving it a chance? Or have some of you out there given it a chance and just not liked it (which is unthinkable to me, but then again, so is the continued success of Dancing With The Stars, so what do I know)?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, let me quickly break it down for you. Chuck Bartowski is basically part of the Geek Squad at a Best Buy, but this being a TV show with copyright infringement issues to worry about, he is a part of the “Nerd Herd” at a “Buy More.” Chuck’s former college roommate, Bryce Larkin, is a superspy who steals a high-tech computer from the government and somehow loads the information into Chuck’s head (it’s best if you don’t dwell on this concept for too long, because it actually makes no sense, but trust me, somehow it works for the show). So Chuck’s head is suddenly filled with all of these government secrets and information and he will see certain things that will cause him to have a “flash” or insight into an open spy case.

The government decides that Chuck is valuable, so they assign two agents to watch over him – Yvonne Strahovski and Adam Baldwin. Chuck falls in love with Strahovski’s character Sarah and endears himself to Adam Baldwin’s tightly-wound character, John Casey, who unbeknownst to Chuck, has been ordered to kill Chuck as soon as the supercomputer that currently exists only in Chuck’s head has been rebuilt (thereby making him obsolete, in computer terms).

Meanwhile, Chuck still spends his days at the Buy More and his sister and co-workers have no clue that he is actually working as an asset for the government. So he still has to deal with the trivialities of his every day life.

I know what you are thinking – the concept of the show sounds ridiculous. And it is. Like I said, if you think about the spy-computer-in-his-head concept for too long, it makes no sense. But what I like about the show is that it is genuinely fun to watch. While so many shows these days are remakes and re-imaginings of former shows, Chuck is actually a throwback to the cheesy, fun shows of the past. It’s a bit like The Greatest American Hero or The A-Team; it’s a lighthearted show with a ridiculous premise that keeps you entertained because of its memorable characters and fast-paced plot. Chuck is nothing more than an amusing show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, something that is too often lacking on television these days.

And if comparisons to cheesy 80s shows aren’t winning you over, how about if I compare it to Spider-man? In a lot of ways, Chuck Bartowski reminds me of Peter Parker. He is a geeky kid who is given an amazing gift that he uses to battle criminals, while also doing all he can to win over a gorgeous girl who is way out of his league (except when Kirsten Dunst is involved). And like Spider-man, Chuck is often most interesting when the show focuses on the struggles in the main character’s mundane personal life and the sacrifices he must make to use his gift while protecting the ones he loves. Chuck is a reluctant, cowardly hero who embodies Spider-man’s famous mantra: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

So please, give Chuck a chance. Even if I didn’t sell you on the show, please at least just leave your TV on NBC at 8 p.m. on Mondays. You can go in the other room and surf the Internet while the show is on for all I care. I just don’t want this show to get canceled – and trust me, you don’t want me constantly harping on you to watch this show every week. I’ll start talking about it nonstop and interviewing all of the cast members like I did with The Wire.

And nobody wants that.

Random Thought of the Week:
Ever since I watched Heroes this week and saw Sylar in the kitchen making breakfast, I’ve been craving waffles. Damn you, NBC, and your clever product placements facilitated by the powerful waffle-making industry.

Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.


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