Interjecting comedy and a bit of romances into the proceedings, CHUCK does for spy shows what MOONLIGHTING did for detective dramas, and proved itself to be one of the few bright spots that emerged from the abortive 2007-2008 television season. The premise of CHUCK follows the misadventures of Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), a seemingly aimless twenty-something year old, who once had a bright future, that is, until he was kicked out of Stanford University and was dumped by his girlfriend. Now working as a computer tech in the "Nerd Herd" of a local Buy More store, Chuck finds his go nowhere existence radically altered when he receives an unexpected email from his old college roommate.
Opening the email, Chuck is overwhelmed by a flood of images that ultimately become imbedded in his brain. As it turns out, Chuck’s old roommate is a rogue CIA operative and the email contained the only copy of a database of super secret information, pertaining to the global spy network. In short order, Chuck finds himself in the protective care of CIA Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA operative John Casey (Adam Baldwin)… since the government wants to protect their walking talking database of secrets. On a weekly basis, subliminal cues trigger the information in Chuck’s head, leading the seasoned agents and their inexperienced asset on one mission after another. As expected, there is a certain level of sexual tension between Chuck and Sarah, especially since her cover involves her pretending to be Chuck’s new girlfriend. Standing beside Chuck, but unaware of his importance to the government, are his overprotective sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and his slacker best friend (Morgan Grimes). The cast of CHUCK also features Bonita Friedericy, Vik Sahay, Scott Krinsky, Ryan McPartlin, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Julia Ling, C.S. Lee, Matthew Bomer and Tony Todd.
CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($40) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following thirteen episodes that were aired during the show’s freshman year: Pilot, Chuck Versus The Helicopter, Chuck Versus The Tango, Chuck Versus The Wookie, Chuck Versus The Sizzling Shrimp, Chuck Versus The Sandworm, Chuck Versus The Alma Mater, Chuck Versus The Truth, Chuck Versus The Imported Hard Salami, Chuck Versus The Nemesis, Chuck Versus The Crown Vic, Chuck Versus The Undercover Lover and Chuck Versus The Marlin.
Warner Home Video has made all fifteen episodes from CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Image sharpness and detail is not exceptional, but just fine for a television production presented in standard definition. Colors are reproduced with a realistic level saturation and the flesh tones look nice. Blacks are fairly accurate, while the whites are crisp. Contrast goes slightly beyond standard television fare. The film elements from which the episodes have been transferred are quite clean, displaying few imperfections. A mild grain structure can be noticed here and there, but it never becomes excessive. Digital compression artifacts remain under the radar.
All of the episodes that constitute CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON come with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. The soundtracks take the typical television sound design approach, so much of what we hear is front and center. There are some channel separations across the front, but the rear channels don’t see too much activity beyond mild ambient sounds and musical fill. Fidelity is fine; music and sound effects certainly hold their own. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. Portuguese language tracks have been included on the DVD, as have English French, Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as some extras. Chuck On Chuck features cast and creative team members talking about the show. Chuck's World offers insight into the show’s development and features some footage from the original casting sessions. Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel, Web Originated Featurettes and a Game Demo for Madden NFL 09 close out the extras.
As dreary as the 2007-2008 television season was, at least CHUCK was around to help brighten it up. The DVD collection looks better than SD broadcast and gets the nod.
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