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For my money, CHUCK is one of the most consistently entertaining series currently airing on network television. When the news began circulating that CHUCK was considered "on the bubble" and facing cancellation, I was deeply distressed. Fortunately, I was not alone in my distress: thus, campaigns were organized and NBC picked up the series for an abbreviated third season, beginning January 2010. Later reports on the internet indicate that NBC’s initial order of thirteen season three episodes has been expanded to nineteen, but only time will tell, as to how many episodes of CHUCK are actually produced for season three.

What makes CHUCK a special television series, is how it perfectly blends together elements of a spy show, with character driven comedy and more than a bit of romance. Additionally, CHUCK is smartly written and the characters are fully fleshed out, even the supporting characters seem quite vivid. 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 received 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 was a rogue CIA operative, and the email contained the only copy of a database of super secret information from a neural supercomputer called The Intersect. The Intersect contained an amalgam of all of information pertaining to the global spy network, which was lost when the supercomputer was subsequently destroyed. 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… that is, until a new Intersect can be constructed.

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. Of course, in typical television series fashion, there is a certain level of sexual tension between Chuck and Sarah, especially since her cover involves her pretending to be Chuck’s girlfriend. Over the course of the series, Chuck and Sarah develop true feelings for one another, which evolves into an agonizing "will they or won’t they" scenario, with the spy business putting roadblock after roadblock in the way of true romance. Standing beside Chuck, but unaware of his importance to the government, are his slacker best friend (Morgan Grimes), his overprotective sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Ellie’s boyfriend/fiancé/husband Devon aka Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin). The cast of CHUCK also features Mark Christopher Lawrence, Vik Sahay, Scott Krinsky, Julia Ling, Matthew Bomer and Bonita Friedericy.

CHUCK: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON ($70) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired during the show’s sophomore year: Chuck Versus The First Date, Chuck Versus The Seduction, Chuck Versus The Break-Up, Chuck Versus The Cougars, Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer, Chuck Versus The Ex, Chuck Versus The Fat Lady, Chuck Versus The Gravitron, Chuck Versus The Sensei, Chuck Versus The Delorean, Chuck Versus Santa Claus, Chuck Versus The Third Dimension, Chuck Versus The Suburbs, Chuck Versus The Best Friend, Chuck Versus The Beefcake, Chuck Versus The Lethal Weapon, Chuck Versus The Predator, Chuck Versus The Broken Heart, Chuck Versus The Dream Job, Chuck Versus The First Kill, Chuck Versus The Colonel and Chuck Versus The Ring. Season two fleshes out the character relationships even further, and allows our reluctant hero to become more comfortable in filling the shoes of a spy.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from CHUCK: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentations on Blu-ray are better than broadcast, but the series production style keeps the series from the demo worthy pile. CHUCK is shot in something of a contrasty, soft focus style that prevents the image from appearing super-razor sharp. For comparison, check out the 2D version of the episode Chuck Versus The Third Dimension, which was shot in a different style, with different equipment for broadcast in 3D. That being said about the production style, there is still a lot of fine detail evident in the image. Colors tend to be saturated at a realistic level, but there are moments with stronger saturation. Blacks are accurate, while the whites are always crisp. As I stated above the series’ photographic style is contrasty, so there is a push in that direction. Additionally, there is a gritty quality to the photography that comes out through the amount of visible grain that is replicated on Blu-ray. While not demo worthy, this is an accurate reproduction of the series intended look.

All of the episodes that constitute CHUCK: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel Dolby Digital 640kbps soundtracks. Like season one, CHUCK: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON features a fairly typical episodic television sound design. Therefore, 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. Even the action sequences seem fairly restrained. Considering the television caliber sound design, it is no surprise that a lossy format was chosen for the sound encode. The music may have benefited from a lossless soundtrack, but as it stands, the episodes sound fine. Sound effects hold their own, and the bass channel adds a bit of weight. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. Spanish language tracks have been included on the disc, as have English French, Spanish and Dutch subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Chuck Versus The Third Dimension is offered in its 3D glory, with two pairs of 3D glasses included in the package. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Truth, Spies And Regular Guys: Exploring The Mythology Of Chuck (twenty minutes), Dude In Distress (eighteen minutes), John Casey Presents: So You Want to Be a Deadly Spy? (three minutes), Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome Tip For Being Awesome- First Dates (one plus minutes), Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome Tip For Being Awesome- High School Reunions (under one minute), Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome Tip For Being Awesome- Running Into An Ex (under one minute), Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome Tip For Being Awesome- Job Interviews (under one minute) and Chuck Versus The Webisodes (five Webisodes ten minutes). Chuck Versus The Chuckles Gag Reel (eight minutes) and Deleted Scenes close out the extras.

As one of the most consistently entertaining series currently airing on network television, there is no way in the world a show such as CHUCK should have ever been "on the bubble" and facing cancellation. The Blu-ray presentations of the episodes are accurate reflections of the show’s intended look, plus they are nowhere near as compressed as broadcast. Do yourself a big favor and pick up seasons one and two of CHUCK on Blu-ray, and start watching him when he returns to the airwaves. Highly Recommended.



Chuck: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray]


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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