Chuck vs. NBC

Or, Maybe Comcast

I ran across this, today (and then I backed up and ran over it again – ta-da DUM!). In brief, it’s bad news about lay-offs for the staff of the Tonight Show. Here’s the money quote:

So what happened to merit the downsizing? “I don’t think ad sales are off. I just think the people who bought this company, Comcast, wants to go through everything at NBC and get their money back,” an NBC insider tells me.

This caught my attention because of a controversial move, involving Jay Leno’s return to The Tonight Show in March of 2010, that went a long way to assuring Chuck would have a 4th season.

Many of you remember the connection. Now, the original source of this quote appears to be gone from the Interwebs, but back then, I quoted ratings analyst Todd VanDerWerff, who noted that then NBC big-wig, Angela Bromstad, was giving us good signals in the wake of all the changes happening at NBC-U.

…it sure seems as though “Chuck” is going to be the least of NBC’s worries. And given that NBC has many, many worries, what with the whole “Jay Leno Show” implosion, it sure seems as though “Chuck” being a consistent performer with a dedicated audience is going to be enough to keep it around for a little while. And because Season 4 usually equals Season 5 (the better to get to 100 episodes and big syndication dollars), I’d say we “Chuck” fans are in good shape.

(The fuller quote and Angela Bromstad’s musings are here.)

I can’t help but think that it all played out the way I generally thought it would and wrote about at the time, except for one thing.

It now appears that neither NBC-U nor Comcast has learned a thing about it’s viewers since then.

Sorry. Was that too blunt? I’d like to ask the fans a question. Is there any show you’re watching now on NBC that captures your attention the way Chuck did? How about – captures your attention at all?

The principles here at Chuck This! had a very nice conversation among ourselves the other day about the current flock of shows. Although there are some good shows on (TBBT, White Collar, Castle and others were mentioned favorably), we all noted that nothing is grabbing us like Chuck did. Well, I don’t think we expected that, but we certainly hoped that something would come along. It hasn’t. Nothing close. The machinations at Comcast and NBC-U make me think that it won’t soon, either, and Comcast’s actions today underscore my pessimism.

Back then, in March of 2010, I was hoping that Comcast would come in and change things for the better. I was hoping that they’d see an audience, the one that was watching Chuck, and recognize a clientele that has not been well served. I thought they would see an audience that reacted positively to a quality show that addressed their views and concerns. I was hoping they’d see a market.

Speaking frankly, we no longer need to watch shows that offer us less. Chuck has set the bar that high. When it comes down to it, You – you need us. Please give us a reason to stay with NBC.

After looking at the new fall offerings (and even last season’s survivors), I’m not sure they listened.

– joe


About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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56 Responses to Chuck vs. NBC

  1. melchucktv says:

    The only show that comes close to capturing my attention as fully as Chuck did is Once Upon a Time, and that’s not on NBC. I’ve seen all of NBC’s new pilots now and, well, at least Parks & Rec is still around to represent the network on my DVR.

    • joe says:

      I’ve been enjoying Once Upon A Time too, Mel. And actually, I thought that was an amazing twist at the end of last (their first) season. I wonder how they intend to continue!

  2. atcDave says:

    Some interesting stuff there Joe. I do watch Grimm on NBC, and of course Sunday Night Football coming up. But that’s it. Broadcast TV in general isn’t doing so well. Way too many “reality” shows and not nearly enough well scripted programming. And NBC seems the bottom of the barrel. I don’t think they understand what viewers want, and I know they don’t understand what I want. The only preview I saw during the Olympics that was of any interest to me (or my wife) is the one show we are already watching. That doesn’t bode well.

    • joe says:

      Oh yeah. I recorded the season opener of Grimm last week, and I’m hoping to enjoy it tonight. Because I haven’t seen it before, I’m a little afraid that I’ll be lost.

      I’m sensing a theme with the shows we talked about. Romance, the kind that we had in Chuck, is rare in TV land. Castle has a little, of course. Somehow the ones Mrs. Joe forces me to watch (occasionally!!! – don’t hit!) on OWN or the Hallmark channel (or – ugh – Lifetime) don’t do it for me.

      Please don’t ask me to explain that. I’d never shut up!

      • atcDave says:

        My wife is also good at finding the Hallmark Channel stuff. But most of that is pure romance or family drama. I’m okay with the occasional sweet nothing, but I need something with some adventure and comedy to get really excited. Castle is the most completely acceptable show in production I can think of, but it’s a far cry from Chuck.

      • joe says:

        I just thought of something else, too, Dave Castle probably has more humor than any other “cop” show I’ve seen of late. I realize that NCIS and Bones have some humor routinely (face it – Tony is a funny guy!) but it’s a much smaller part of their formula than it is in Castle. Rick’s mother is a hoot, and I’m quickly becoming a fan of the tweetastic Molly Quinn.

        But even they fall short of the level of humor we all got used to.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with that exactly Joe. Among my complaints with most current television is we don’t see enough humor mixed with the adventure. The trend is very dark and brooding. Not at all to my liking. Castle gets that part of it right (although as we’ve said, they need to show they get past wt/wt; and this is the make or break season)

        I meant to mention before about Grimm, it may be tough to jump straight in. It’s not horribly complex; but it is a hybrid serial style (much like Chuck) and there will be a learning curve without S1. It is obviously a darker show than Chuck, but not horribly so. The protagonist and his main allies are pretty unconflicted heroes. Some of the secondary characters (like the Captain) have more divided loyalties. There is a fair amount of humor, especially from Nick’s main sidekick; just remember, he’s a good doggie.

      • joe says:

        “He’s a good doggie”, huh. 😉

        I should have added to my last comment Viva la BuyMoria!

      • Paul says:

        I’m enjoying Grimm right now too. It has a different feel than Chuck, but I enjoy the episodic and “what comes next” feel to it. I bought S1 of Once Upon A Time, but it’s gonna have to wait until I get through S2 of The Walking Dead.

      • joe says:

        Hi, Paul.
        Re: Grimm, me too. I’ve been watching since the season began, and I’m just starting to get the nuances. Pretty good! I like the characters and the interactions so far.

        Has everyone noticed how often memory loss is occurring now on television? It’s part of this current Grimm arc and it was a major part of Once Upon a Time (at two levels, where all the characters don’t know about their other life and where Snow White deliberately drinks the potion to forget about Prince Charming). Of course, there was The Vow this summer too.

        And if I’m not mistaken, there was as similar thread in Buffy years ago.

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    NBC still has Community (for now) which has sort of filled the TV nerd self referential meta-humor void left by Chuck, and recently Faith introduced me to Parks and Recreation, which I highly recommend and is filling in the gee I like these people and how they make a family and I wanna see them succeed for all their quirkiness void.

  4. I like Big Bang, Castle, and Once Upon a Time. I was worried since the first few shows that OUAT is going to become too convoluted. The season ending twist might help for a while.

    I watch a few other shows that I wouldn’t care if they were cancelled, but nothing else on NBC. I like more cable summer shows than fall ones, but I’ve noticed they they seem to be by the same writers. A year or two ago, several of them had shootings that appeared to kill off a major character in the summer finales, but everyone survived. (White Collar and Covert Affairs. I don’t watch it, but I heard Rizzoli & Isles did too.) Now they are killing off family members and close friends. (White Collar, Burn Notice, The Closer, Suits, and sort of Covert Affairs). It’s making all of the shows seem very unoriginal because they have similar plot lines going at the same time.

    We’ve talked about the WT/WT and other tropes that Chuck occasionally used, but Chuck moved through them more quickly than other shows. Looking past the cookie cutter stuff, Chuck left us with a unique and memorable experience that I doubt will ever be replicated.

    • jam says:

      I’ve been looking for new shows to watch, probably giving Grimm and Once Upon a Time a try. Also going to try this new show, 666 Park Avenue, it has Mercedes Masohn (Zondra) and Terry O’Quinn.

      Meanwhile I’ll continue watching Fringe and Castle, both had pretty weak Season 4s imo, but I like the setups for S5.

      • I felt like a lot of the Castle S4 arc was about stalling until the finale. A few episodes in the middle were excellent though. If they had the threat of mid-season cancellation, like Chuck always did, they might have written a tighter arc.

      • atcDave says:

        To me, Castle is very by the book television. As such, its a very mixed bag. The good is, they have an entertaining formula they follow closely (weird mystery, teasing banter, funny (sometimes dramatic) family time). The bad is, they are obviously scared of making any changes to that formula, like say, actually having growth or progress for Rick and Kate.
        I enjoyed S4, but it was unremarkable (formula television) except MAYBE for the closing moments. It will be interesting to see if they show progress next season, or a speedy reset to the formula.

      • joe says:

        OUAT really surprised me, Jam. I liked Jennifer Morrison when she was in House, and I like her character in this one even more. In addition, Lana Parrilla (as the evil queen/mayor) and Ginnifer Goodwin (as Mary Margaret/Snow White) have been great.

        At this point, I’d usually complain about the lack of strong male characters, but Robert Carlyle (as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin) absolutely makes up for that.

        The real shocker for me was the risk they took at the end of the season. From what I can tell, they pretty much have to make a whole new show or have a major disappointment (or retcon) on their hands. But a whole new show? We liked the one we had! It’s going to be interesting either way.

      • melchucktv says:

        I’ve seen the pilot for 666 Park Ave and liked it a lot more than I expected. It’s a bit campy but with enough substance and suspense to keep it interesting. Reminds me a little bit of The X-Files. Nashville and Arrow are my fav new shows this season, which is interesting since neither of them sound like my cuppa tea on paper.

      • joe says:

        Hum. Does that “666” thing means that it’s about the demonic? I haven’t seen any promos or trailers yet. But I may have to give it a chance now.

    • thinkling says:

      Hmm. I don’t think there’s anything I watch on NBC. Still watch Castle and Bones. Bones season finale was pretty good I thought … better cliffy than most. I’ll miss The Closer, but I wasn’t very impressed with Major Crimes. White Collar is still okay and Covert Affairs is hanging by a pretty thin thread at this point. I’ve seen a couple of episodes of Suits, and the jury’s still out.

      The show we’ve enjoyed at our house this year is Person of Interest (CBS). Miles away from anything like Chuck (just to be clear), but it’s always an enjoyable hour of entertainment.

      I agree completely with, Jeff: We’ve talked about the WT/WT and other tropes that Chuck occasionally used, but Chuck moved through them more quickly than other shows. Looking past the cookie cutter stuff, Chuck left us with a unique and memorable experience that I doubt will ever be replicated. Chuck’s mixture is unique. Couple that with the dynamite cast, and there’s just nothing else like it.

      • joe says:

        Ah – You just reminded me about Suits! No, I really haven’t seen it, but I know that one of their leads is actor Rick Hoffman, who played Laszlo Mahnovski’s handler in Sandworm (the next episode we’re reviewing, btw).

        Chuck guest stars are all over the place. Laszlo, of course, was played by Jonathan Sadowski, who played in $#*! My Dad Says with Bill Shatner, who every geek should know immediately…

        Okay, I’ll stop with the references… 😉

      • I’m about to give up on Bones after that season finale. I know Bones’ personality has certain quirks, but I’m getting tired of her going out of her way to insult Booth and his beliefs. They are (were) living together now. It’s not cute or funny any more. She might love him, but a lot of time, she doesn’t seem to respect him. The finale was another sign of that. I’ll stop ranting now.

        I had a similar reaction to The Closer and Major Crimes. I sort of wish they left Provenza in charge.

  5. olddarth says:

    Fringe is giving their fans the relationship moments – and will continue to do so in their final season – family time in the park anyone? – that Chuck fans wanted but never received.

    And Revolution looks promising.

    Out of the summer shows – Alphas is quite enjoyable.

    • joe says:

      Oh yeah! I did see an episode or two of Alphas – not bad at all. But I didn’t stick with it. I think the timing was bad for me then and I didn’t find the characters immediately engaging. Good story-line, though.

      Fringe is something else, though. I don’t know why, but nothing about it tempts me to watch. I may have to give this Revolution a try, though.

      • atcDave says:

        Revolution looked tempting, but its a JJ Abrams thing. We’ll pass.

      • joe says:

        I grok that, Dave. For all the visual beauty I see in James Cameron’s work, I feel the same way about him.

      • Mel says:

        I learned to like Fringe after getting over the fact that one of the main characters is Pacey from Dawson’s Creek. In the beginning the show reminded me heavily of the X-Files, but then it managed to find its own niche. Season 4 I disliked, as it pretty much wiped the first 3 seasons out of existence, quite literally.

      • joe says:

        Heh. Dawson’s creek is one show I’m happy to say i missed, Mel.

      • BigKev67 says:

        What is it with shows trying to wipe previous seasons out of existence? First Chuck and now Fringe. I loved S2 and S3 of Fringe but the start of S4 dragged a bit and I dropped it. Sentiments like Mel’s are precisely not what I want to hear about what I missed.

      • jam says:

        BigKev, I think every season of Fringe has suffered somewhat from the same problem, things don’t get exciting until the halfway point of the season. Next season is the last one, and they better be faster this time since they only have 13 eps to work with…

        And yeah, I found S4 and its continuity rewrite almost insulting.

      • atcDave says:

        Jam that seems to be the common attitude I’ve heard. Fringe was one of those shows I thought about checking out for a while, but the comments I’ve heard about it lately make that highly unlikely.

    • melchucktv says:

      I really wanted to like Revolution, and I’ll give the revamped version a try, but the original pilot left me feeling pretty “meh”.

    • olddarth says:

      Recommend rewatching Season 4 of Fringe again but it most certainly did not wipe out the previous seasons of continuity. Rather it built upon them and left the characters in a better place. And who’s to say the show is done with reintegration of the two realities?

      I thought Season 4 was brilliant and showcased the thought provoking questions that good SF can explore.

      This is the problem with a show taking risks, some segment of the audience will always become alienated.

      It’s understandable because everyone likes to go to a place where everyone knows your name. 😀

  6. ref51907 says:

    My wife and I were watching Grimm and Once Upon A Time. I thought Grimm was going to be better but for me OUaT was far far better than Grimm.
    -Our current shows are Castle, and TBBT, while I was a lot of others. Fringe Justified, Perception, Falling Skies are among my favorite I watch w/o her.
    -Our shows we are going to check out are Arrow, Revolution, and Beauty & the Beast.

    Now I should mention that I came to Chuck very late in the series but as I got caught up the one thing I will forever be impressed with is the changes ALL the characters go through. They were not afraid to change the dynamic of the relationships, and not just slowly either, but rather quickly as far as tv goes. And that I don’t think we will ever see again.


    • atcDave says:

      Funny how taste varies; I’d say the exact opposite about OUAT and Grimm. I watched two episodes of OUAT and was done, it wasn’t for me at all. But we both like Grimm a lot. My wife quit on Falling skies after one viewing, I still watch, but its at the bottom of my priorities. It has some good elements, and some very, very bad elements (I intensely dislike all the in-fighting between human groups). Each week I think may be the last I watch.

      I would agree one of the more appealing parts of Chuck was their willingness to change the situation quite rapidly. They (mostly) weren’t afraid to pull the trigger on trying new angles. Except of course, they fell into that very traditional television trap of drawing out wt/wt a season too long. Funny Castle just did exactly the same thing. It’s like you can just feel them loose their nerve at the exact wrong moment. Fedak and company are to be commended for getting over that hump, but they still made one mostly unwatchable season. I’m eager to see what Castle does this season.

      • ref51907 says:

        -I am assuming you are talking about season 3 as an unwatchable season. I am probably in the minority but I didn’t think 3 was all that bad. I can remember thinking that mid way through the 3rd season was the right time. Before his revelation, Chuck was willing to give up what they both wanted, to be together. Sarah’s belief that he rejected her, coupled with being ready to try to be normal is what stung her deeply.
        -Now I am going to preface my next statement by saying that I have extensive background in working with teens and adults that have been but hurt.
        -While I didn’t necessary like Sarah’s actions much during the first half of season 3, I understood them. She was in a tremendous amount of pain. After Chuck had given her hope for a future she desperately wanted, she thought he pulled the rug from underneath her. People don’t say, act, or do things they would normally do when they are hurting. Pain, hurt, distrust, all the negative emotions you can think of, caused her do things that were very much against the Sarah Walker we knew. That is what caused her to do one thing, and say another. To me it seemed very real, and I saw in her actions, a lot of what I see everyday. And we don’t learn until later, in Final Exam, just how deep the pain went, and where it came from. It all stemmed from that one fatefully night, her red test.

        Sorry, I don’t want to turn it into a rehashing of old topics that I can only assume were discussed ad nauseam.


      • joe says:

        Chuckwin! 😉

        Ref, I’m with you. I may not have liked it the way I liked the last six of season 2, but I just can’t imagine Chuck without S3. Yes, there was a lot of pain there, and that was no fun to watch. But what episodes would I have removed?

        I know most her say Fake Name without hesitation. But take away the last 5 minutes of that one and it’s a great episode.

        And I really enjoyed OUAT this first season. I’m just now getting into Grimm.

      • atcDave says:

        I never even care about any realism or believability in S3, I thought it was lousy entertainment. It’s completely not something I would choose to sit still for. I have better things to do with my time. I also resent that I was already hooked on the show and just deleting it was never an option.
        S3 produced only one episode I completely liked; and is the only season to have any episodes I completely disliked, and there are seven of those. That’s an amazing thing to me. No other season had even a single episode that I refuse to re-watch. I loath S3. And yet the other four seasons I still actively re-watch frequently and thoroughly enjoy.

        But Erik I don’t believe you are in a minority. Most fans seem more tolerant of S3 than I am. But the number of us who can’t stand S3 is large too. When we did our poll right after it ran, about 70% of respondents (obviously, this site only) disliked it, but only 30% felt very strongly about it.

  7. garnet says:

    When I think about it, I find that CHUCK appeared to stay away from the formula typical of most shows (Burn Notice for an extreme example) the writers/producers took risks, and allowed Characters to grow; Not just the main characters but supporting ones as well. If we miss this, I think it will be some time before we see another show take its place. As a kid I remember watching Family Ties and enjoying it ( nowhere near as much as CHUCK), and the breakup ofAlex and his girlfriend remains one of my favourite moments of the show. There was a chemistry between the characters that was undeniable and the breakup so well done. I don’t recall feeling anything for a show or its characters in the intervening 25 or so years. Perhaps someone will make a great show like CHUCK again, but I won’t be holding my breath.

    • atcDave says:

      I think a big part of that is the intangible “chemistry” which is virtually impossible to reproduce on command. I honestly know of no other show where I rooted for the central couple to the extent I did on Chuck.
      But of course the other part is, as you say, the risk taking and willingness to change things on the fly. I think we were helped with the constant threat of cancellation, it meant the writers felt pressure to push things to along every season. So maybe it was a perfect mix of creative risk taking and external pressures that created an ideal product.

  8. SarahSam says:

    I love Persons of Interest. Nice show with an intriguing mythology. Although, I keep seeing Jim Caviezel as effective and believable in the Daniel Shaw role. Weird huh ?

    • Jim Caviezel normally plays characters more competent and sympathetic than Shaw. He wouldn’t have needed Chuck’s help taking out the Ring, so a significant portion of season three wouldn’t have happened. Instead, he would have just found the footage of Eve and would’ve come after Team B like any other bad guy.

    • joe says:

      I’m the big “PoI” fan here, SarahSam. As least, I think! 😉

      You know, I could see Caviezel as Shaw, but I can’t quite see Sarah falling for the character he plays on that show. I’m no familiar with any thing else he’s done, so perhaps Caviezel has a wider range and could find some chemistry with Yvonne.

      I suspect, though, that the part would have deviated much further from being Bryce-redo if that had happened. That probably would have been a good thing.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      One possible problem with Jim Caviezel, I recall hearing he’s a very devout Catholic to the point he refused to do love scenes with co-stars. I don’t recall if it was just beyond his personal comfort zone or if that extended to the mostly PG (PG-13 at worst) ones in Chuck that involve little more than kissing… Then again I think a lot of fans might see that as a benefit.

      • atcDave says:

        He has done romance, just not explicit sex scenes. He should have no problems with television.

    • jam says:

      Funnily enough Caviezel was rumored to get the role of Superman in Bryan Singer’s movie.

      • atcDave says:

        That’s the part that went to Brandon Routh. Does that mean this discussion has officially come full circle?!

    • olddarth says:

      In the Wooden School of Acting Chops, Caviezel takes top notch over Routh for me. He Inhabits a dead zone in the picture frame whenever he is on.

  9. SarahSam says:

    I just think that Caviezel would have translated more effectively the sympathy that the writers envisioned for Shaw, as he is a far superior actor to Routh and Joe, I couldn’t see Sarah falling for Shaw as depicted, although he certainly embodied her supposed ideal type. Poor, messed up Sarah.

  10. SarahSam says:

    By the way ref, nice comments about S3 Sarah and her emotional pain. No one can deny she exhibited all the traits you describe. A pity she couldn’t communicate them to Chuck. Because of the “spy persona” he has always had to read her mind, oft times wrongly. LOL.

  11. Gord says:

    There isn’t one show on NBC that I watch anymore. I might give SNL a try this season as it is an election year and usually SNL gets funnier when they do more political humour. I gave up on 30 rock last season after watching a few episodes.

    My favourite network here in Canada is Showcase. They play a lot of the cable shows from the states – Burn notice, Covert affairs, Warehouse 13 and a few others. They also have an Australian series called Sea Patrol, which a particular Aussie actress named Yvonne guest starred on in their first season. They are now on S4 or S5, not quite sure – the channel played catch up and threw a few seasons on last year. Also a sci fi series called Continuum filmed and set in Vancouver BC. Not sure if you get that one in the States, but I quite enjoyed the first season. It has a few familiar faces such as the lady who played Andromeda/Romy and cigarette smoking guy from X-files.

    As for network TV – there are a few shows I watch but the only one that I seem to care about network wise right now is Castle.

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