There is no denying that nerd culture has seeped into large aspects of popular culture. As the rise of comics and the subsequent movie adaptations continue remaining in view, it helps to look back at older series to see where the media came from.
“Chuck,” a comedic spy-drama series that ran from 2007 through 2011, follows the story of slacker nerd Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) as he accidentally becomes a spy. After receiving an email from an old college friend working for the CIA, Chuck gets a government computer, referred to as The Intersect, transplanted in his brain.
After receiving The Intersect, Chuck is used by various government agencies to protect national security. Two agencies assign handlers to watch over Chuck. From the CIA is Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), a trained killer and spy, while from the NSA is John Casey (Adam Baldwin), a soldier and killer.
Rounding out the main cast is Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez), Chuck’s coworker and best friend since childhood; Ellie Bartowski (Sarah Lancaster), Chuck’s older sister who works as a neurologist; and her boyfriend Devon Woodcomb (Ryan McPartlin).
As Chuck is thrown in the world of international spies and fighting terrorists, his personal life is turned upside down. His life working at a tech support center inside a knockoff Best Buy becomes more mundane and leads Chuck to develop a sense of adventure. Even though he’ll deny any change in attitude, Chuck is willing to start moving through his life again.
Both Chuck’s character and his romance with Sarah develop alongside each other. Sarah finds it extremely hard to open up and let Chuck in due to her spy nature, even if their cover is in fact that Sarah is Chuck’s new girlfriend. The fake backstory only adds to the confusing feelings that develop between the two.
The biggest appeal of “Chuck” is how it blends the tropes of spy dramas with a light-hearted comedy. No matter how high the stakes get or how many problems arise, the series always keeps it light. There is a bright side to every situation, something that is embodied through Zachary Levi’s performance.
Along with Levi’s “puppy dog” appearance and goofy charm, his chemistry with Yvonne Strahovski propels the series forward, creating a relationship that is worth following. It develops as naturally as possible within the framework of the series, and its ups and downs reflect the pitfalls of spy life.
The team dynamics also add to the levity of situations, taking a high-stakes spy mission and turning it into a weekly procedural situation. In doing so, the writers allow for characters to show off their knowledge of pop culture or lack thereof. The contrast of setting, from spy mission to electronic store, is another embodiment of this divide, going from a cast of nerds talking about technology and video games to the political climate of the world.
“Chuck” reflects the early stages of a budding nerd culture. By focusing on the divide between world issues and pop culture, the show serves as a transition from one cultural frame of mind to another. “Chuck” is for those looking for a short but compelling series with action, a love story and plenty of humor.