There are two shows that started in the fall of 2007 (this whole Writer’s Strike thing makes it hard to talk about seasons, since if there are not new episodes then the season is over and that technically makes Fall 2007 last season) that kind of caught my attention, and over time captured my heart: Chuck (NBC) and Reaper (The CW). I don’t know about anyone else, but I own up to the special place in my heart for underachievers. We all tear-up during the final game of inspirational sports movies, so don’t pretend you don’t root for the underdog as well. The tears I’ve shed watching these two shows have been tears of laughter. But, becoming attached to these shows got me thinking about why I would connect with these characters. I am a fairly upstanding person; I am a grad student, have a part-time job as a receptionist, pay rent, bill, and taxes, and I overall live a life at the level of functionality that is expected of someone my age. So what is my interest in two guys who are kind of losers? (Feel free at this point to have your own “aren’t girls always interested in losers” thought.)
Both shows started out with potential; their pilot episodes are good, but not spectacular. I actually had the rerun of Reaper’s pilot on last night, and it was great to see just how far they’ve come in so few episodes. And, I have to admit that the premise of each show is fairly ridiculous: computer geek becomes most important national intelligence resource because of an e-mail and his incredible memory (Chuck); shiftless minimum wage worker was sold before birth to the Devil and must be his bounty-hunter (Reaper). But watching, there is something undeniably attractive about these shows (and I’m not just talking about the adorableness of the leading men).
The first thing I noticed was the respective work places. Chuck’s Buy More is the fictionalized Best Buy, and Reaper’s The Work Bench is the Home Depot of the future, where they sell literally everything, all under the name of “home improvement.” You have a serious case of denial if you can’t see that these kinds of stores are taking over the world, and even if you don’t work there, you shop there. I know I do; Best Buy has great prices (I got the first two seasons of Bones for 40 bucks a couple weeks ago). Its nice to know that, at least in TV-land, it is much harder to work there than to shop there. The indignities the characters suffer working in such places are the kind everyone can relate to, without being that kind of over-the-top, for-the-love-of-pete-just-quit, stuff that happens on The Office (not knocking The Office, but that is for another article). Harry Tang’s maniacal torture of Chuck (Zachary Levi) while they were both vying for the assistant manager position was the funniest portrayal of a little man complex I have ever seen (and to find out later that Big Mike, the manager, was sleeping with Tang’s wife was priceless). Sam’s (Brett Harrison) manager at The Work Bench, Ted, is equally as ludicrous, but Sock (Tyler Labine) and Ben’s (Rick Gonzalez) pranks are so great that you want Ted to do more idiotic things so that they will have to get back at him. Chuck and Sam have something at their crummy jobs that we all wish we had at our crummy jobs (past or current): comrades. Chuck and Sam are fighting in the suburban equivalent of trench-warfare (I’m going to refrain from going into who the enemy is, management or costumer) and the only way to survive is with a loyal band of fellow fighters. Chuck’s other Nerd-Herders, and his best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) on the sales floor make the circumstances tolerable for Chuck, who by all rights should have a better life, while at the same time display the level of dysfunction necessary to remain sane in such a mundane job. It’s the same situation with Sock and Ben, but Sam has the extra bonus that they know about his after work activities, and help him; Chuck has to maintain two lives in order to protect both those he cares about and the governments secrets. These friendships subtly indicate that monetary success is not the measure of achievement, but it isn’t preachy. Both shows have confidence in the viewer’s ability to understand that friends who have each others backs is more rewarding than a fancy job.
I continued watching Chuck and Reaper because there is more going on than job related foibles. Both shows are about growing up, and taking responsibility for ones life and choices. Our culture is accepting a prolonged teenage-mentality for men. It’s more and more acceptable for men in their early twenties to live at home, or with multiple roommates in the same boat, and to spend more time figuring it out, or finding their path, or choosing a career. Both Chuck and Sam are aware they are part of the man/boy category and it is kind of the core struggle for them. For those of us who have already made these steps towards adulthood watching shows that deal with this is both relieving and reassuring. I connect with Chuck and Sam because I am young enough to still question my choices, but old enough to know that they are my responsibility to make. But, because the characters are older, and not actually teens, they have a more humorous outlook on their situation. Neither show delves into melodrama so often equated with the difficulties of maturity. Even when it is life-or-death (bombs, escaped souls), Chuck and Sam don’t indulge in self-pity or wining; neither allows for Dawson’s Creek syndrome. I love teen melodrama, but it would be very annoying for men in their twenties to act in such a way. Chuck and Sam are trying to become adults, in admittedly unconventional circumstances, but they don’t ask for pity. I root for them, and laugh with them, each week because even though they are starting a bit later, they are growing into good people. Growing up is funny, and laughing with Chuck and Sam helps me laugh at myself.
Little Things to Know that Make Watching Better
Josh Schwartz, who created and produced The O.C., created and produces Chuck, and he did an amazing homage to his deceased show in the Halloween episode. Mr. Schwartz recreated Ryan and Marissa’s New Year’s Eve scene from Season One with Chuck and Morgan. The music, the movement, the lines, all identical, all brilliant. Brett Harrison was on The O.C. very briefly in season one as Summer’s love-interest (Seth and Sandy didn’t find him very funny). Also, Melinda Clarke (The O.C.’s badass Julie Cooper) guest starred as the Devil’s mistress on a recent episode of Reaper.
Adam Baldwin (Chuck’s Agent Casey) is my beloved Jayne from Firefly. I can’t help but smile every time I see him (even when he was a serial killer on Bones).
My heart skipped when Valarie Rae Miller (Original Cindy, of Dark Angel fame) snapped at Sock in the pilot of Reaper. Her smarts and sass have been sorely missed, and I hope they do more with her character on this show.
How did I mention Bones two times in an article about entirely different shows?
Next On The TV Girl: Heroes Season Two- what was it really, and what do we do now?
The TV Girl
Making the world a better place, one show at a time.
- The TV Girl
- Washington, DC, United States
- I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.