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CHUCK:
THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON

As they say, all good things must come to an end… and so it is with CHUCK, one of the true bright spots on the otherwise fairly dull television schedule of the last five seasons. Certainly there were other good shows over that same period, but there were far too many hours of vomit inducing reality television and painfully bad scripted shows that should have never made it past a writer’s desk (let alone onto the television airwaves). Getting back to the matter at hand, there was something very special about CHUCK- something that made the series the darling of enlightened fans and critics alike. Although the series had modest ratings, that special quality that CHUCK possessed managed to rally fans and critics to save the series from the network chopping block time and again across its five season run on NBC.

As I have said in the past, CHUCK has been one of the most consistently entertaining delights on the broadcast network schedule, thanks to the series’ flawless ability mix genres. Combing character driven romantic comedy with the trappings of a spy show, into an incredibly tasty entertainment frappe, CHUCK delivered ninety-one delightful episodes of comic spy mayhem across five seasons. For those who have never seen an episode of CHUCK, here are some things you might need to know. CHUCK follows the misadventures of Charles "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. Working as a computer tech in the "Nerd Herd" of a local Buy More store, Chuck found 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 found himself in the protective care of CIA Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA operative John Casey (Adam Baldwin).

Across its five seasons, Chuck goes from being just an asset that needs protecting, to an important member of the team and finally to an actual CIA operative that just happens to have a huge computer database locked in his head. Of course, the inevitable sexual tension between Chuck and Sarah, resulting from her pretending to be Chuck’s girlfriend- leads to an on again off again romantic relationship that ultimately takes the two on a trip down the aisle. Also becoming part of the comic spy mayhem are Chuck’s slacker best friend Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez), who ultimately steps up to show his worth, as well as Chuck’s overprotective sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Ellie’s husband Devon aka Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin). The final season cast of CHUCK also features Mark Christopher Lawrence, Vik Sahay, Scott Krinsky, Matthew Bomer, Mekenna Melvin and Bonita Friedericy. For its entire run CHUCK remained one of those series that was not only smartly written, but offer fully fleshed out characters- all the way down to its supporting players. None of the characters are half-baked, nor do they change from their established patterns to suit a plot device.

CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON ($50) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a two-disc set that features the following thirteen episodes that were aired during series final year: Chuck Versus The Zoom, Chuck Versus The Bearded Bandit, Chuck Versus The Frosted Tips, Chuck Versus The Business Trip, Chuck Versus The Hack Off, Chuck Versus The Curse, Chuck Versus The Santa Suit, Chuck Versus The Baby, Chuck Versus The Kept Man, Chuck Versus Bo, Chuck Versus The Bullet Train, Chuck Versus Sarah and Chuck Versus The Goodbye. During the final season, Chuck endeavors into the private spy for hire game opening Carmichael Industries. Meanwhile, the competition, namely one Gertrude Verbanski (Carrie-Anne Moss), sets her sights on acquiring John Casey. Villains out to eliminate Carmichael Industries include Clyde Decker (Richard Burgi), Daniel Shaw (Brandon Routh) Nicholas Quinn (Angus Macfadyen) and Bo Derek as herself.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty four episodes from CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Like the previous sets, the 1080p presentations on Blu-ray are better than what has been seen on broadcast, but the series’ 16mm production techniques don’t exactly make CHUCK visually dazzling. To be sure, CHUCK doesn’t look bad in any particular way, but it is grittier and more stylized than most other hi-def shows. Sharpness is pretty good, but the picture lacks the level of finer detail one finds in shows shot on 35mm or even digital video. Depending on lighting, colors can be at a fairly natural level saturation, or display more intense hues. Blacks are deep and the whites appear crisp. The photographic style is sometimes contrasty, sometimes somewhat flat. Shadow detail is less than stellar, with the darker areas of the picture looking a bit muddy. Because of the 16mm production photography, grain ranges from mild to heavy, and is lighting dependent.

All of the episodes that constitute CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. The lossless encodes give the episodes a very nice sense of character. CHUCK mixes talky scenes with action scenes, so the episodic sound designs respectable use of the outlying channels when the opportunity permits. However, talky passages remain front and center. Additionally, there are good channel separations for musical component. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is quite strong, especially where the musical component is concerned. The bass channel is weighty and adds a bit of percussive force. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off are running Audio Commentaries for the episodes Chuck Versus Sarah and Chuck Versus The Goodbye featuring series creators/executive producers Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, plus actors Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Chuck Versus The Final Episode, Sandwiches And Superfans: The Saving Of A Show, Spy Tunes: Scoring The World Of Chuck, Chuck: The Beginnings, Chuck: Through The Years, Chuck: The Future and Goodbye, Buy More. Deleted Scenes and a Gag Reel close out the supplemental materials.

For five seasons, CHUCK remained one of the few bright spots on a mostly dull and dreary network television schedule. The Blu-ray presentations may not be stunning, but accurately reflect how the episodes were shot. CHUCK always comes highly recommended.

 
CHUCK: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON 


Chuck: The Complete Fifth Season [Blu-ray] (2011)

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 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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