And Boy, Am I Overusing that VS. Paradigm!
Magnus Anton Lekay (better known as Darth Razorback) posted today what is sure to be known as the most controversial column of the summer – Detonating CHUCK – Quitting Before the Cancellation. It begins:
I have had several conversations over this summer with various people from insiders, to industry people, to journalists and most said the same thing: the CHUCK show-runners should announce that season 4 is the final season no matter what happens with the ratings. End it now before NBC cancels the show. Construct a series finale and request that NBC pick up 3 or more new episodes for the season to finish out the story.
I understand the impulse. Most shows go out in ignominy, leaving the air with a whimper, not a bang. A few, the great ones, end the story the way any good novel ends; cleanly, definitively, and in a manner that allows them to put the audience in exactly the place dictated by the story. The ending is not determined by schedules, network politics, corporate financials or any extraneous influence. I hope I understand Magnus correctly when I say that he’s advocating Chuck‘s show runners elect to go out on their own terms. And based on the conversations he’s had, he’s advocating they do that now.
The claim, and I’m not disputing it, is that those on the inside are pretty certain that Chuck will not be back for season 5, and that even the award of a back 9 or 6 episodes is a long shot. The completion of the 5 or 7 season arc that fans have heard existed is not going to happen, except in some form that will be less satisfactory than it could have been. I’m sure Magnus would tell you straight up that it is not pessimism but realism that drives him to that conclusion. I don’t think that Magnus means for them (TPTB) to make the announcement as a bluff, either (“Buy this magazine or we shoot this dog!”) He means, bring the story to an end, and do it the right way.
A lot about this sounds pessimistic to the ears.
You know me – the eternal optimist. Is it certain that this is the last season of Chuck? With all due respect to Darth Razorback and the people he’s talked to, of course it isn’t. But no one saying it’s certain; only that it’s likely. That’s an important difference and I think that it’s the amount of uncertainty that makes a preemptive decision to end the show premature.
Comcast is still in negotiations with GE about the final details of their proposed merger with NBC-Universal and lawmakers are still discussing the ramifications of the merger on the telecommunications industry. So it seems a bit above the pay-grade of anybody involved directly with the show, and may indeed be above the pay-grade of nearly everybody at NBC-U to say that it’s fate is sealed with any confidence.
That’s the politics. From a business standpoint, we as fans are quite capable (positive, definite) of demonstrating to even the most blinkered businessman in Hollywood that we command enough dollars to make a difference to the advertisers. We already have. We don’t do it with sheer numbers; we do it with dedication, loyalty, smarts and not a little maturity; those are the demonstrated qualities of Chuck‘s audience. It’s true that, as businesses, NBC-U and GE have not covered themselves with glory with the coming of the internet era. It’s worth noting that NBC News – and most especially MSNBC – is in far greater straits than the entertainment division, and are much more important considerations when they think about changes. It seems that Chuck is far healthier financially than NBC as a whole, and in a rational world should be shopping for a new outlet (not the other way around.) Sadly, Hollywood is by no means a rational world, and worse, those advertisers appear to be after fickleness, malleability and immaturity more than the qualities we offer.
So the best I can say is that there’s no reason to be downcast yet. Too much can happen between now and next May when final decisions will be made – too much that is out of anyone’s control. Personally, I see miracles every day that would make the go-ahead of Chuck‘s 5th season seem like an ordinary occurrence – not a biggie. And as Ernie was kind enough to point out to me, Yvonne setting up a kissing booth for Season 5 would guarantee the deal anyway, no matter what.
There’s a final consideration, though – the artistic one. If the show is going to come to an end – and it will, someday – isn’t it still better to choose that end-date and write the scripts accordingly? Well, generally yes. But there are several assumptions being made when you speak of Chuck ending in 13 more episodes. And not all of them apply. I’d like to point out to you one of the comments made by OldDarth, who I’m sure you recognize as one of our regular commenters. He correctly notes that it’s not so simple as making the choice to “not fade away”. You have to consider where the creators might take the show, and that end-point is not clear at all.
What is Chuck’s end game? Is it Chuck and Sarah getting married? Is it Chuck becoming a full fledged super hero? Is it both? Or is it something else? Is consensus on this even possible? I rather doubt it.
Without consensus the question cannot be answered properly.
That’s quite right. One of the assumptions made is that the show must be centered around Chuck and Sarah getting together. Now that they are, can the show survive? Isn’t that a good place to end it?
Honestly, I will be happy (enough) when Chuck and Sarah have the fairytale ending. Truly. But then again, I have a tendency to jump that fence and wonder if I wouldn’t like to see them a year later, still being the spy couple but well on the path of starting their “normal life.” You know – the life that Chuck *always* said he wanted before he wanted to also be a spy, and the one that Sarah now wants. I wonder what that would look like. Is Chuck the head of Orion Corp, and is Orion Corp a high-tech firm battling Roark Industries, or is it just posing as one but really doing the things that governments won’t? Is Sarah helping him deal with those governments as an independent consultant, or is Chuck helping her at the CIA? And are Jeff and Lester finally on tour???
Or how about a very dark story-line, where-in Chuck and Sarah been “burned” and are on the run again (this time for real)? Would you love to see that? Will the fans ever really be satisfied with never knowing anything about Sarah’s mother? Ack! Two and a half seasons worth of stories in those last six or seven sentences! No, those aren’t story suggestions. It’s my way of saying that Chuck hardly seems exhausted for stories yet. Rather than take this as a reason to address all these possibilities in S4, it can be taken as a reason to continue. The show can easily position itself – sell itself – in any number of ways to satisfy the business needs, and do that without ruining what it has; characters we love. Whether or not the story continues past S4, I’m not sure I have the need to see all the story-lines tied up now that Chuck and Sarah are together. I’d like ’em to be. I don’t need to have that much artistic integrity if that means a preemptive cancellation.
I can think of one valid reason for the creative talent of any show to bring it to an end. That’s creative exhaustion. I see no signs that Chuck is anywhere near that. In fact, for a show that’s already been on for 3 seasons and 54 episodes, it seems to have barely begun. It feels like only the second season has been completed, which makes sense when you consider how many of us came in after season 2 was already well underway. But much of the creative talent has left the show, you say? Much has come in, too. It’s only my opinion, but it hardly seems that burnout is going to be a problem in the near future.
Chuck is not The Simpsons. The nature of the beast is that the end will come, and probably before I’m ready for it. When it’s clear that they’re out of stories (or out of juice), then yes, I’ll agree with Magnus’ prescription and say TPTB should force the issue and end the show as they see fit. I see other (still popular!) shows that have reached that point, and should pull the plug. I don’t think Chuck‘s there yet.