Netflix is perhaps the ultimate form of escapism. It allows entry to another world, and to stay there for hours on end. Escapism is what this week’s pick is all about: the spy action/comedy series, Chuck. In 2003, writer Josh Schwartz made nerds cool (or at least mainstream) when he introduced the world to Seth Cohen. Chuck, his second project, tells the story of computer whiz Chuck Bartowski who, after being unjustly kicked out of Stanford, is now an unmotivated, underachieving employee at an electronics store.
That is until one day he is sent an email containing a series of flashing images, encoded in which is all of the CIA’s intelligence. Suddenly he is one of the country’s most valuable assets, as well as a major security risk. Enter his new ‘handlers’: Sarah Walker, beautiful and lethal in equal measure, who adopts a cover identity as Chuck’s girlfriend; and John Casey, a patriot whose love of Ronald Reagan is matched only by his fondness for the Second Amendment. The characters have clear ‘types’. There’s the loveable everyman protagonist; the sexy superspy; the loser best friend. But this somehow doesn’t diminish its charm, because the show never takes itself too seriously. And yet it is still poignant: Chuck faces the struggle of pretending to be in a relationship with somebody he is in love with, while having to keep his life a secret from his sister and his best friend. All of this is accentuated by an excellent indie soundtrack.
Chuck developed a cult following and managed to survive five series, all available on Netflix. It is certainly strongest in the beginning, before Chuck develops into a vaguely competent spy, but the later series have their charm, becoming less episodic and instead forming larger storylines. Fundamentally, it’s the age-old fish out of water story, but Chuck finds an entertaining balance between action, comedy and just the right amount of sentimentality, with endearing characters in often ridiculous predicaments.