Chuck Still Not Up

Photo from Chuck 3.20 © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Last year on this very date I praised NBC's Chuck for its volley of satisfying finales, none of which ultimately stood as a swan song.

Season Two concluded by both wrapping up the current narrative satisfactorily and nodding towards the future. Chuck's original 13-episode order for Season Three did the same. And the following episode a month later — the first of an additional 6 that rounded out the season — served as a lovely coda, with the actual Season Three finale making for a fine farewell too. I felt back then that, while I've enjoyed Chuck, it would have been all right with me had the show bowed out after any one of those treats.

Season Three's final finale actually left me wanting more than any of the previous possible finishes, because the Buy More burned down and I hoped that Season Four might free us from that place and its sophomoric subplots for good. Alas, Chuck's admirable willingness to push the superplot and character arcs forward faltered in that regard, returning us to the status quo at the store before long, but as if to atone for it the 13th episode of Season Four brought us the most fitting, loveliest last shot of the show to date.

Once again NBC has extended Chuck's season order, not by last season's 6 nor even the traditional "back 9" but by another 11 episodes. I haven't read anything on why, although one guess is that production company Warner Bros. negotiated up to 11 so that if Chuck is renewed for a Season Five and goes a standard 22 episodes the series' total will reach 100 — the so-called "magic number" that production companies generally want to have banked to make a show attractive for rerun in syndication.

The episodes since 4.13 have dealt with the aftermath of its birth and proposal as well as set up new problems for Team Bartowski. While some of the domestic "dramedy" has bordered on being as unwelcome as the Buy More foolishness, there's promise in Chuck's sister Ellie working on an old computer of their father's — which at one point I felt sure was about to implant an Intersect in Ellie (a welcome twist that may yet occur in this season's capper). Sarah and Chuck's relationship-oriented stories are at their weakest when they rely too much on misunderstandings and other silly shenanigans, but they're also the heart of a show that, Buy More aside, has provided a deft mix of action, humor, romance, and family drama; I just praised Fringe on Saturday for being the rare network series to let its leads come together, but I lauded Chuck, which had much more to lose in doing so, for the same thing a whole season ago. I'm an episode behind but planning to catch up before new episodes resume next Monday at 8 p.m.

Related Posts: Screen Savor: Quick Hits; Out of the Pantheon, Into the Fire

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