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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-Ray Review: Chuck - The Complete First Season

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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted November 12 2008 - 01:57 PM

The Complete First Season

Studio: Warner Bros. Studios
Year: 2007-2008
US Rating: NR - Not Rated
Film Length: 556 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 - 1080p High Definition 16X9,
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French and German 2.0
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and Portuguese

US Release Date: November 11, 2008

The Show - out of

"Me? Why me? I'm nobody. I'm the supervisor of a Nerd Herd, at a Buy More. Maybe someday I'll be assistant manager. but I don't even know if I want that job."

A few years ago, TV was quite stale. It had become an overblown wasteland of reality TV clogging up the primetime landscape, squeezing quality scripted shows out of the lineup. The dramatic field had thinned to a couple of franchise series and a slew of derivatives while comedy had woken up to find itself baron of originality and quite lost. However, a few notable shows over the past few years kicked the dull world of TV in its shins and cracked the dreary sheen. We now find ourselves with a crowded TV lineup; plenty of shows filled with good concepts, high quality talent and a real sense of energy and innovation. Truly this is a renaissance of sorts and a great time to be a TV addict.

Last year, when NBC was beginning to ride a minor upsurge in its fortunes, it premiered Chuck; a hybrid show of comedy, action and all out nerd. It features Zachary Levi in the titular role, an unlucky and timid ‘Nerd Herd’ employee at the local Buy More (think Geek Squad and Best Buy). His world is turned on its head when the treasure trove of all US intelligence is ‘downloaded’ into his brain, making him a walking database of juicy spy secrets and therefore the potential target for endless bad guys who seem to traffic most of their illicit activities in and around the town where he lives. He learns that his once best friend from College, Bryce, who betrayed him, was actually a CIA operative and, after stealing the all those secrets, sent them to Chuck in an email who unknowingly had them imbedded into his brain.

Now that Chuck is ‘the intersect’, a carrier of the only copy of all these secrets, and with no way to pull them out yet, he must be protected by two undercover agents and continue to live a ‘normal’ life while helping the CIA deal with terrorists and other assorted bad guys that pop up from time to time, triggering intel dumps from his brain and giving the agents a leg up on surveillance and their operations. The two agents who must protect him undercover are Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) who masquerades as Chuck’s new girlfriend, turning heads and raising surprised eyebrows (she’s beautiful and he’s a geek) and John Casey (Adam Baldwin) who pretends to be a co-worker at the Buy More, spending his time with a close eye on ‘the intersect’ and gritting his teeth in frustrated disdain. The Buy More has an assortment of social rejects and strange workers, including Chuck’s perpetual loser best friend, Morgan (Joshua Gomez). Chuck lives with his caring, if disappointed in him sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her fiancé nicknamed Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin). Chuck wasn’t living up to his geek-brain potential before he became ‘the Intersect’ and now that he is making a real difference in the world, albeit clumsily and constantly freaked out, he cannot tell anyone!

Chuck is a riot. The playful plot lines filled with terrorists, smugglers, murderers and other assorted evil doers, are light hearted and satisfying, taking serious ideas and executing them with the tongue firmly planted in cheek. The relationship Chuck has with his undercover ‘girlfriend’ is exactly what you would expect from a TV show, enough relationship to build sexual tension but never consummated; always barred by life, duty or out-of-their-control circumstances that keeps the audience wishing they would get together but always glad that they haven’t yet. Their dynamic provides for the big heart of the show, a heart that provides warmth and more than reason enough to care for the characters and their futures. The good-guy/bad-guy universe seems to have endless plotlines to mine for the comedy and, surprisingly, even into its second season, hasn’t lost the charm that is so well crafted in this first season.

TV is happily celebrating the geeks of the world these days. Chuck and his nerd cohorts seem giddily mired in the nerdness of their worlds, cheerfully employing rules and logic from fantasy universes, (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc) to get through their dramas and overcome their challenges. Their lives are bastions of a slighted geek existence, with Tron posters, video games and the J.R.R. Tolkien worlds serving as conversational fodder on more occasions than most would admit to.

Season One of Chuck from creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak and from executive producer and Charlie’s Angel’s director McG, is superb. Fast paced action, on the nose jokes and a slapstick whimsy that appeals as much to the geek as the ‘mockers’ of the geek. Dripping with enough subtle and strident movie, TV, comic book and video game references to fill up a hundred Wikipedia pages, Chuck season one comes highly recommended.

The Episodes

Disc One
1. Pilot
2. Chuck Versus the Helicopter
3. Chuck Versus the Tango
4. Chuck Versus the Wookie
5. Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp
6. Chuck Versus the Sandworm
7. Chuck Versus the Alma Mater

Disc Two
8. Chuck Versus the Truth
9. Chuck Versus the Imported Hard Salami
10. Chuck Versus the Nemesis

Disc Three
11. Chuck Versus the Crown Vic
12. Chuck Versus the Undercover Lover
13. Chuck Versus the Marlin

The Video - out of

Chuck The Complete First Season was released on DVD on September 16th of this year and is now available on Blu-Ray. It is presented in its HD broadcast ratio of 1.78:1, encoded 1080p High Definition and is curiously underwhelming.

The image displays quite a bit of digital noise, a swarming effect that can be very distracting at times. Chuck is a bright show, and that brightness is obvious in this Hi-Def release – very colorful, with greens and reds and yellows being quite pronounced. But the level of clarity and crispness in the image doesn’t match the promise of the colors. I would have expected more from this release than just a marginally improved image over the DVD. It doesn’t help that the HD NBC station I watch this on seems to kick this Blu-Ray edition handily in the pants. It isn’t the best quality HD broadcast that is watch this great series on, shows like LOST pretty much put everything else to shame, but it has always held up well enough not to nudge a groan of complaint out of me. I am not impressed with the quality here, and being better than DVD isn’t enough when the wonders of this great medium promise so much more.

The Sound - out of

Sound wise this hilarious TV show delivers without being notable. An active and at times aggressive surround sound work wonders with the energetic and playful score, explosions and fights that permeate this first season, but it always feels that it is holding back. It comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio track and has clean dialogue, some nice bass in the music and sound effects without really drawing you all the way in. Not bad but not great.

The Extra’s - out of

Declassified Scenes – Deleted scenes available on a number of episodes and range from funny to action.

Chuck on Chuck: Series Stars Join Creators for Some Point/Counterpoint – (26:56) – Zachary Levi (Chuck), Joshua Gomez, (Morgan) and writers/creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz sit around and discuss scenes they have chosen as favorites of theirs or as demonstrative of the shows essence. Enjoyable to listen to them banter and recall their first season experiences.

Chuck’s World: Character Development and Original Casting Sessions – Creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak talk about the characters in the show and how they crafted and cast them. The casting session footage is revealing and fun to see.

Chuck Versus the Chuckles: Gag Reel – (7:16) – Funny, funny stuff. A little gross with the nose picking stuff, but when Adam Baldwin’s Casey swipes at Chuck and lets one rip – Oh, so very funny.

Chuck’s Online World: Gallery of Web-Oriented Mini-Featurettes – Designed for and shown on the web, these mini-featurettes include:
- ‘Meet Jeff’
- ‘Morgan’s Vlog – Movie Villains’
- ‘Anna’s Amazing Talents: Karate Moves’
- ‘Anna’s Amazing Talents: Sword Skills’.

Final Thoughts

Chuck doesn’t exist in the same ultra-brainiac world that the brilliant but idiotic four on CBS’s very funny Big Bang Theory do, but it does compliment that other show’s more concentrated nerdiness. Chuck has a great set of characters – incredibly likable and unique. Take Joshua Gomez as Morgan for example; as Chuck’s best friend he provides a delightful performance as an obliviously small thinking moocher that is so bizarre and immature, it’s a wonder he can hold a job – but with a winking vulnerability and well-suited ‘Robin’ to Chuck’s ‘Batman’ – it makes for one of the show’s key ingredients. Adam Baldwin as the surly, stiff CIA agent Casey more than eager to put Chuck down and use a fist than words, he gives the show great material for making Chuck seem more of a geek than his general interests would have achieved alone. And Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah Walker kicks some serious butt, is beautiful and is gentle and strong in equal measure.

Chuck is terrific, very funny and a blast from season premiere to season ender. It grows evermore comfortable with itself as the episodes unfold. Pick it up, give it a spin and pray that you don’t run in to issues that require tech support from your local Buy More.

Overall Score - out of

Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted November 12 2008 - 06:13 PM

Bummer to hear about the video quality. I guess I'll have to sample a few eps before I decide between BD or DVD.

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted November 13 2008 - 04:13 AM

I picked up the BD from WB.com with a 30% coupon. Maybe try deep discount with the 25% off coupon. I remember watching season 1 when it aired in HD thinking how the whites were blooming and full of noise (on just about every episode). I haven't seen it in the whites on Season 2 so I wonder if they made some artistic changes?

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted November 13 2008 - 04:21 AM

Gord Lacey in his review says the show was shot on Super 16, which would explain the graininess.

One site that does multiple reviews of the same release by different reviewers - one gave the video 2.5, the other 4. Reminds me of "The Fifth Element" frozen temperature gauge. Posted Image

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted November 13 2008 - 06:55 AM

Yeah - that explains some of it, but shows like Dead Zone and Scrubs were shot that way and don't appear nearly as bad on DVD. Could be that Blu expresses that grain more, but even on Broadcast HD it did'nt appear nearly as pronounced. The quality is a bit of shame, but the show is so damn good!
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 13 2008 - 07:21 AM

Great to hear that smart writing is still alive, gonna have to check this one out. The geeks will inherit the earth, y'know!

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