Tuned In

The Chuck Crisis of '10: A National Dialogue

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This has been one of those weeks that I’ve been glad I don’t blog regularly about Chuck. It’s nothing against the show; I like it fine, though I don’t lurve it the way some folks do, and I don’t have a deep enough interest to sustain a weekly analysis. I haven’t enjoyed this season quite as much as season 2, for reasons I’ll get to in a second, but when I catch up to it, I still enjoy it.

But all holy hell apparently broke loose in the Chuck-o-sphere this week, and I know there are enough Chuck fans here that I thought we’d have a little chit-chat about it. Namely, are the creators of Chuck ruining the show by keeping Chuck and Sarah apart? And more important, should they care that some of their more vocal fans—i.e., the ‘shippers, or fans heavily invested in the Chuck-Sarah relationship—believe that?

Very briefly, for those of you who don’t watch, a controversy erupted among some Chuck fans after Monday’s episode, the last before the Olympics break: nerd-turned-spy Chuck and his onetime handler / love object Sarah both got new love interests. Chuck and Sarah have had a will-they-won’t-they attraction for the length of the series, and some fans dedicated to their romance erupted in fury, some threatening to boycott the show until the couple got together. (I am oversimplifying their criticism somewhat, I realize.) It got so loud that the show’s creators did a Q&A with Alan Sepinwall, like beleaguered politicians trying to quell calls for their resignation, to explain themselves and beg fans’ patience.

Personally, I think the angry fans have a bit of a point—but just a bit. The show has developed Chuck and Sarah to the point where it’s clear the two want to be together, and it becomes a distraction for the show to try to keep them in an eternal Sam-and-Diane state of separation. The show would do better at this point—as with Pam and Jim on The Office—to rip the Band-Aid off, get them together, and let the show develop on other fronts.(And then, you know what? It may turn out that Chuck and Sarah are wrong for each other, they could break up for good, and I’d be fine with that, though the ‘shippers would burst into flames.)

Those other fronts, by the way, are where I’ve found season 3 inferior to season 2. The show is doing something ambitious by trying to make it a more serious spy dramedy, and to make Chuck a real spy, but the balance of keeping Chuck light and likeable (making sure he never uses lethal force, for instance) and upping the hardcore action quotient is getting tricky and can be jarring.

That said, I feel that once somebody has shown they can make a good show, they may not deserve blind faith, but they deserve trust—the license to make, screw up and correct their show their way. To put it in terms of a show I write about more: I love Lost. I don’t always love everything Lost does. But I would rather Lindelof and Cuse followed their vision and pissed off their base if necessary than made a show designed by the giant camel-creating committee that is the TV blogosphere. (Seriously, if the Lost finale delivered every “answer” that’s been insisted on by now, it would be a two-hour Marvin Candle video, listing every explanation point by point on jerky film.)

Then again, I may just not be a hardcore enough Chuckophile to see this clearly. What say you, ‘shippers or anti-‘shippers?