A few years ago, I bought a season of a TV show on the cheap. Season 1 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer got my wife and I hooked on watching seasons of TV series, now called “binge watching”. We ran through all of Buffy, all of Angel, I watched Veronica Mars, we watched Leverage, etc. Most recently, we watched 91 episodes of “Chuck”, which stars Zachary Levi as a tech guy at a chain tech store who gets a computer implanted in his brain and becomes a spy. Yvonne Strahovski plays Sarah, his handler, then girlfriend, then wife.
While “Buffy” may well be the best written/directed/most powerful show about myth of all time, “Chuck” is, in my humble estimation, the TV show that’s best as a date. Here’s why: It is about the power of relationships to transform, open, and change people. I’m really into beauty and love and “normal” as change agents this year, and Chuck is about that.
Having talked about the two main characters, just so you know all of the players, here’s a scorecard:
1) Ellie and “Awesome” are a couple of doctors. Ellie is Chuck’s sister and Awesome her boyfriend, later husband and father of her child.
2) John Casey aka Alex Coburn is a sniper/spy/military hero who turns out to be a father, a twisted boyfriend to another independent spy, a friend to Chuck and Sarah, and mentor to all, especially Morgan.
3) Morgan Grimes is Chuck’s best friend, who starts as a virgin, wants to be a hook-up, becomes a boyfriend, then live-in boyfriend, to Anna, returns to being a single man, and responsible boyfriend, then live-in boyfriend to Casey’s daughter Alex McHugh, while going from being a salesman to assistant manager to manager while becoming a friend, support staff, team member and spy along the way.
4) Jeff and Lester are two really bizarre characters — stoners apparently, who are afraid of their own shadows for two seasons, then stoners/musicians who don’t care what anyone thinks, then a clear-headed genius and criminal psychopath, before becoming musical saviors of an amphitheater and the world.
5) General Beckman is a no-nonsense head of the team who also understands the emotions of her people and –because of it — lets her team cope with their own issues as much as they can. She has the line, to Sarah and Chuck, “officially, I must warn you about the dangers of this relationship. Off the record, it’s about damn time”.
Chuck and each of the characters is strong, both emotionally and physically, with the exception of Morgan, Chuck’s best friend. Morgan is goofy and a slacker and he never really loses those characteristics, but he becomes a mature, normal, goofy slacker who is actually quite good with children and insights into people’s personalities.
Each of the characters is also intelligent, so there is no pandering to an immature crowd. There are no attempts at dumb humor or how funny it is to be “ghetto”. None of the characters are 15 years old or cute tweens. There is no attempt to be “hip” and play to the lowest common denominator of society. Neither is that side of life mocked or ridiculed. These people are all adults, facing the challenges of regular adults, while occasionally navigating the very dangerous world that is out there.
And all of this is driven by love. From the beginning of the show, Sarah looks lovingly at Chuck and Chuck begins to believe in himself, Chuck, in turn, brings his whole self to the table. That normal, loving, generally good person transforms them both. He learned to become that person through Ellie. Ellie is totally loved by Devan aka “Awesome” throughout the entire show. Chuck’s growing up and success as a boyfriend leads to Morgan’s doing so. Morgan’s growth, combined with Sarah’s warming up to emotions, leads to Casey’s doing the same until, by the end, each of the characters has developed into well-rounded, psychologically capable, loving partner and someone who could (or has) become a loving parent. Spending time in the company of these people while being with my own partner and loving parent brought us closer, as well. As I said, it is the perfect date show.
As a spouse and a parent, therapist and minister, though, the last season was excruciating to watch. What happens to Sarah and Chuck in the last few shows is horrible and traumatic and — even if they get get through it (no spoilers here) — like watching your best friends go through a trauma that shouldn’t have happened. It is like what I imagine having friends who were Newtown parents would be like. It is precisely because these characters are good and kind and decent people who can cope with nearly anything that we know their pain must be nearly unendurable and we feel our own for them. If the essence of art is to make people feel something, then Chuck hit the mark over five seasons culminating in these two episodes. I encourage you to watch the Alternative Ending, posted on You Tube because either ending works as a possibility and so it is in real life. When reasonably mature, loving people face hardships and a hardship seems simply too big for them, the possibility that they will be scarred by it exists side-by-side with the possibility they will overcome it and it is exhausting to watch the chips will fall where they will fall.
I feel like the characters in Chuck are friends and people I know — far more athletic than I would ever be, but so are my actual friends. I am blessed to have met them and — after 91 episodes — wish them well.