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Chuck: The Complete Second Season
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/5/2010
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/25/2009
But it on DVD and Blu-ray Disc January 5th!
Home video companies need to find a more uniform plan for releasing TV-on-DVD sets. As we know, most theatrical films make their home video debut 3-4 months after they first hit theaters. However, there's no predictable timeframe when it comes to current TV shows. Some appear not long after their broadcast run, in order to maintain any momentum which the shows may have gathered. (I'm looking at you, Glee and FlashForward.) Others wait until the new season is about to begin to deliver the DVDs. In the past, this second strategy would have worked just fine, as a show would typically end in May and then start again around September. Therefore, a summer-time DVD release would do the trick. But, with schedules being so unpredictable these days, this doesn't always work. Take the series Chuck for example. The second season of the show concluded in April, 2009. But, the DVD/Blu-ray release doesn't arrive until January, 2010. Why the long wait? Because Season 3 of the series premieres in January, 2010. So, clearly, the home video companies have a choice of releasing the shows not long after the season's conclusion or waiting until the new season is about to begin. How does this strategy affect viewing? Let's talk about that after we check out Chuck: The Complete Second Season.Season 1 introduced us to Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), a normal guy who has been thrown into an abnormal situation. His college roommate, Bryce Larkin (Matthew Bomer), sent Chuck an e-mail which was encoded with The Intersect, the government's super computer which houses all of its intelligence information. Opening the e-mail, the information was downloaded into Chuck's brain. Now, this college drop-out who works at Buy More (think Best Buy) on the Nerd Herd (think Geek Squad), has an enormous amount of sensitive information in his head. CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin) are dispatched to protect Chuck, and thus, he's placed in many chaotic situations where he must assist Walker and Casey with the knowledge that he holds. However, Chuck must keep all of this a secret from his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), her fiance Devon (Ryan McPartlin), and his best friend, Morgan (Joshua Gomez). Through the course of events, Chuck develops a severe crush on Sarah.
As Season 2 opens, we see that not much has changed for Chuck. He's still working with Walker and Casey, he's still stuck at Buy More, and he's still an inept nerd. However, Chuck is determined to make some changes in his life. He wants the government to work harder on finding a way to remove The Intersect from his head. He feels that if this can happen, he can finally have a normal life. He wants a big part of that normal life to be Sarah, as his feelings for her continue to grow. Therefore, Chuck attempts to take a bigger role in the assignments on which he goes with Walker and Casey. Through their efforts, the team uncovers a group of rogue CIA agents who call themselves Fulcrum. They too want The Intersect, either by removing it from Chuck, or by building their own. This leads Chuck down a path where he will learn a lot about himself and his own past.
The second season of Chuck is both satisfying and frustrating at the same time, as it builds upon the positive aspects of the first season, introduces some new ideas, and yet, continues to make the same dumb mistakes. Let's begin by looking at those mistakes. In Season One, we got to know Chuck as an average Joe nerd who is thrust into this violent and bizarre situation. As Chuck is a civilian with no fighting skills or tactical training, who was often told by Walker and Casey to "stay in the car", but of course, he wouldn't listen and Chuck would always find himself in harm's way. Apparently, the show's producers think that the audience enjoys this running gag, as it continues ad nauseum in Season 2. No matter how well the mission is planned, Chuck falls into enemy hands and the mission suddenly become a rescue mission. Chuck’s a smart guy, why hasn’t he learned to either stay in the car or carry a weapon by this point? Repeating this over and over makes the show feel lazy.
Fortunately, this is counter-balanced by some new/expanded storylines. In Season One, the other employees at Buy More, save for Morgan, were merely peripheral characters, most of whom seemed to exist only to torture Chuck. Season 2 puts more emphasis on the action at Buy More, even when Chuck isn’t there. Characters such as Lester (Vik Sahay), Jeff (Scott Krinsky), Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence), and newcomer Emmett (Arrested Development’s Tony Hale), play a much bigger role in both their own shenanigans and in Chuck’s life. They seem much more like real people and less like stereotypes. Speaking of Chuck’s life, the show finally delves into some of the questions about Chuck’s past which were only mentioned in the first season. This helps to not only further develop Chuck as a character, but to break up the monotony of the show.
Chuck is still far from perfect, but Season 2 definitely shows some improvement. To the show’s credit, there are few current programs which mix action, comedy, and romance in the way that it does. While the espionage stuff is always interesting, the relationship between Chuck and Sarah is the show’s foundation and the powers-that-be behind the show would be wise to continue going down that avenue. If nothing else, the finale of Season 2 promises to take the show in a new direction and I’ll be watching when Season 3 begins.
Chuck: The Complete Second Season changes its last name to Carmichael on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The four-disc (not six-disc as the box states) set contains all 22 episodes from the show’s second season. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 19 Mbps. The first thing that you notice about this transfer is just how grainy it is. Season 1 had the exact same problem, so why didn’t they fix it? I don’t mean grainy as in they are trying for a gritty “grindhouse” look -- I just mean grainy. No other TV show looks like this on Blu-ray Disc. At times, the grain is so prevalent that it’s distracting. This is truly a shame, because otherwise the image is sharp and has a nice amount of detail. The colors look very good and the picture has good depth. But, that grain! The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, as are the surround effects. These are fairly well detailed and accurately reflect the on-screen action. The subwoofer effects are adequate. Still, given the amount of action on the show, I would like to hear this with a lossless track.
The Chuck: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. The "Declassified Scenes" are simply DELETED SCENES from various episodes. Disc 1 contains eleven "Declassified Scenes" which run about 12 minutes. Disc 2 contains twelve "Declassified Scenes" which run about 11 minutes. Disc 3 has four "Declassified Scenes" which run about 3 minutes. Disc 4 has thirteen "Declassified Scenes" which run about 11 minutes. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 4. The episodes "Chuck Versus The Third Dimension" is viewable in 3-D with the glasses supplied. "Chuck: A Real-life Captain Awesome Tip for Being Awesome - First Dates" (1 minute) is a four-part series where Ryan McPartlin gives advice in character. "Truth, Spies, and Regular Guys: Exploring the Mythology of Chuck" (20 minutes) is a two-part featurette which takes a closer look at the characters, situations, and plotlines. The actors discuss their characters, and the show's creative team give their views on the show. "John Casey Presents: So You Want to be a Deadly Spy?" (3 minutes) is a faux training film where Adam Baldwin recruits new spies. "Dude in Distress" (18 minutes) takes a look at the stuntwork and action scenes from the show. "Chuck Versus the Chuckles Gag Reel" is an 8-minute set of bloopers. "Chuck Versus the Webisodes" offers five short vignettes from the web which run about 10 minutes. They are a series of Buy More instructional videos.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long