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Throwback Thursday - Chuck - Pilot

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

In 2007, the NBC network deviated from the trendy doctor, lawyer, and cop shows and took a chance on a quirky little show about an everyday guy and his encounter with spies. The result was a show that created a mini pop culture icon and one of the most loyal and vocal fanbases in the early days of social media.Chuck, from creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak tapped into all the right elements in its pilot episode, Chuck vs. The Intersect to make in an instant fan favorite for a much-desired younger audience. The premise for the pilot was unique, focusing on how Buy More Nerd Herd supervisor and down on his luck every-guy Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) had a top-secret government database loaded into his brain, thus thrusting him and his oddball friends and co-workers into the espionage world with his National Security Administration and CIA handlers. The talented writers make it nearly impossible to not root for this reluctant spy by having Chuck help Sarah and Casey disarm a deadly bomb by downloading the computer virus of a Russian porn star to stop the bomb’s computer detonator count-down.

Rewatching the pilot it is easy to pick out the elements that fans connected with right away. This Throwback Thursday article examines which of those elements made Chuck such a special show, one that holds up today and begs for at least one more movie length episode to wrap up the wonderful five seasons it gave to devoted fans.

The Cast
Long before he became DC superhero Shazam! Zachary Levi was the perfect choice to play Chuck. He had that affable, nerdy, good-guy charm and likeability that made the viewers root for him to succeed and eventually get the girl. The girl in this situation was CIA Operative Sarah Walker, played by the Handmaid’s Tale’s Serena, the Emmy nominated Yvonne Strahovski in one of her first American TV roles. She gave Sarah the perfect balance of hardened CIA agent with lethal skills, a heart of gold, and a soft spot for Chuck. There was no one better to play Sarah’s NSA counterpart John Casey than Adam Baldwin, gruff, uncompromising with a surprising side to him. While these three were the centerpieces of the show, the pilot introduced fans to a stellar collection of supporting players, including Sarah Lancaster as Elly Bartowksi, Chuck’s understanding, doctor sister; Ryan McPartlin as her live in doctor boyfriend dubbed Captain Awesome by Chuck; Joshua Gomez as Morgan Grimes, Chuck’s gamer best friend and coworker; Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky as Chuck’s bizarre Nerd Herd co-workers and wanna be rock-stars; and Mark Christopher Lawrence as Big Mike, Chuck’s Buy More boss. The pilot also introduced us to Julia Ling as Anna Wu, the female brains of the Nerd Herd and C.S. Lee as Chuck’s Buy More nemesis Harry Tang; and Matt Bomer as Chuck’s college nemesis (and the person responsible for him getting the intersect) Bryce Larkin.

The Music
There are a plethora of alternative rock and indie bands who owe a big thanks to the show for using their music as the perfect backdrops to great action sequences and big emotional moments, especially effective in the pilot. Even Chuck’s theme song, an abbreviated instrumental version of Cake’s Short Skirt, Long Jacket became a popular download.

The Catchphrase
Throughout its five seasons on NBC Chuck would become known for several easily recognizable catchphrases. “Stay in the car, Chuck!” was a popular familiar refrain. However, the pilot uses another of the show’s most popular catchphrase, “Don’t freak out!” in a number of ways. The first time is when Chuck rushes home to tell his sister that he has a date with a beautiful blond customer, and the second, most effective use of it comes when Sarah and Casey are standing off about who gets custody of Chuck. Sarah warns him not to freak out if she points her gun at him. Which she does.

The Chemistry
From the moment Sarah Walker walked up to the Buy More Nerd Herd desk and coyly asks Chuck to fix her phone, the chemistry between Yvonne Strahovski and Zachary Levi was instantaneous. While their connection as agent handler and government target was played as strictly professional the electricity between the two made it obvious where this relationship was headed. The show wisely gave a realistic look through the seasons as to how their relationship evolved.

The Action
Chuck stood out as well as one of the most intricate action-oriented shows on network television. To stake that claim in Chuck vs. The Intersect the producers turned to noted music video and Drew Barrymore’s Charlie’s Angels movie director McG to helm the pilot. He was expert at the quiet moments, but the elaborate action sequences like Sarah and Chuck’s escape from Casey and the NSA through the streets in the Nerd Herd Mobile, and Bryce Larkin’s elaborate opening escape parkour-filled sequence made the episode stand out.
For long-time Chuck fans rewatching the pilot is a fun way to remember why you love the show and perhaps engage in a binge watch of all five seasons. For someone who has never seen the show and is looking for something different to watch, Chuck vs. The Intersect is the perfect introduction to this delightful, exciting, and yes heart-warming show. It is almost guaranteed that whether you watch just the pilot or binge all five seasons, you’ll want to see more.

How do you feel about this iconic Throwback Thursday episode of Chuck? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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