So another re-watch is complete, and we’re all several years older. How have perspectives changed? How does the show still effect us? Why do some of us still visit this site?!
After the jump let’s take a brief look at Chuck, a few years on…
It does seem strange to me that we’re still so busy here so long after the fact. Don’t get me wrong, daily traffic has shrunk. During the show we averaged over 1000 hits a day. During our peak in Season Three we had over 5000 hits some days. We’re now down to under 300 hits a day. That’s still respectable. A couple years ago I started my own scale modeling site (planedave.net) that has gradually built a following and now gets most of my attention. But that averages under 100 hits a day and only exceeded ChuckThis once in its history (over 600 hits, and I honestly don’t know what happened that day!) So even in its long denouement Chuck and ChuckThis remain a big part of my life. I expect to one degree or another that will continue.
Why? I mean seriously, it was just a dumb show. Sometimes the emphasis really belonged on the “dumb” part too. And yet so many of us aren’t ready to let it go. I’ve always enjoyed television; not like those who leave it on all day long, but I enjoy an hour or two of television at the end of the day. As such, I’ve watched a lot of shows, I’ve had a lot of favorites over the years. I still do; Castle, Grimm, Madam Secretary and Limitless are my current favorites. But Chuck still holds a special place. On my previous Overview post I discussed a lot of the elements that helped Chuck work so very well for me. I won’t go into quite so much detail this time. I’ll stick with calling it a well balanced spy themed action/comedy; and mention the very likable main characters and terrific chemistry of the romantic leads as the major hooks.
Now, several years since the end my perspective has changed a little. Not a LOT, but a little. A big thing would be just to say the show itself seems a little less extraordinary in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always have fond memories of the whole experience, and eagerly look forward to any excuse for a re-watch. But that eager anticipation, and constant 24 hour pre-occupation is long gone! Good thing, because life goes on.
The most enduring part of the experience is Chuck and Sarah. But it’s funny how completely that’s come to mean fan fiction for me. Several fan fiction universes are of far more importance to me than canon now. That is likely to be true going forward. Obviously fan fiction is now the only source of new material. But it’s even bigger than that. Canon is now permanently burdened by some serious missteps and story telling blunders. I know not every reader will agree with me, but I will always regard the Season Three main arc as disastrously out of character and thoroughly unpleasant; the ending as rudely abrupt; and several other less important poor decisions along the way all diminished the characters and epicness of the story. Several fan fiction writers have given us far more appealing stories for Chuck and Sarah. The one particular point I’ll mention here is just that a great part of the show’s initial hook for me was two good people drawn to each other but with a hopeless conflict of interest that made it impossible for them to acknowledge it. The story works best when they rise above that impossibility and figure out how to make a life together. But canon was written like a television show (!) and by drawing the wt/wt period out beyond the natural, or external obstacles; it made the main characters look flakey in a way that reduced their nobility and the appeal of the show. So many fan fiction writers have found better ways to tell this story in a way that doesn’t flush those first two inspiring season down the [drain]. And with almost four thousand Chuck titles published at fanfiction.net the huge variety of stories for these characters and setting is amazing.
I know, I’ve said all that before. It’s just as true today as it was in 2010. But now that is relevant largely for how it effects all my television watching. I admit I am a big softy. I love a good romance. I mean, you know; I’m a guy, so I’m first drawn to things blowing up, tanks crushing cars, and irresistible hammers meeting immovable shields. But an appealing romance keeps me coming back. Unfortunately what I like isn’t how television writers think. To be fair, as a viewer in his early 50s, the television writers likely don’t care what I think anymore. But for what it’s worth, I like seeing the featured couple triumph over long odds and face the world together. And I want to see it, not just have it teased as a show’s end game.
I’ve become pretty stubborn about not supporting the writers who screw that up. Regulars here are no doubt aware how I recently practiced this with Castle; when season eight started in a way I couldn’t abide I quit watching. Now I’ve liked Castle a lot over the years. So when I heard things had sorted out somewhat I tuned back in. But that means I missed eight episodes. And what a shock, ratings are down this year. So this could be the end for a long time favorite. I think that’s just. When a show fails its audience it looses its reason to exist (It’s only because of a long affection for the show that I gave it another chance). And that may be one of the lasting lessons of the Chuck experience for me. I’m no longer inclined to just go along for the ride. Our viewership is the only meaningful feedback we have to offer. I don’t mean to say we should never have patience to let writers tell a story, or that we shouldn’t allow for the occasional dud episode (seriously, have you ever seen a show that didn’t fail sometimes?). But when a show heads off in a direction I can’t stomach, I will shut it off. My deepest hope is that in time we will train a new generation of writers. I am beyond tired of some of these tropes we’ve been saddled with for 40 years. We were fortunate with Chuck that the show did eventually take chances and go where few have gone before. But I still want better.
I can apply this more broadly too. It is fairly common for many shows to get progessively darker as the story unfolds. Obviously in some ways this works, but all too often we see the mood of show change dramatically over the course of many seasons. Happily we avoided this on Chuck (with only a one season aberration), and many other readers and viewers will have different hot buttons than I do; but I think it’s a good idea with active watching to support those shows that deliver, and not support the ones that fail you. It’s often easy to continue a show out of habit, but I won’t do that anymore.
I hope that didn’t come across as too much of a negative. I am more engaged in my viewing decisions. But if it did sound too negative, one part of the Chuck experience could never be seen that way. That is, broadly, the Internet aspect of it. First of all that means I’ve become more an Internet user in general, and far more as a participant. My experience here provided the initiative for starting my own website. A couple years ago I was thinking about what interested me most about all the models I’ve built and if there was something I could do to archive them. Four years (at that point) of working on Chuck This provided my answer, and I feel like I have a whole new way of exploring both my love of history and modeling.
In a more immediate way, and probably of more interest to readers here (!), this site has created a community and an outlet that has been deeply satisfying. I mentioned earlier that I do like television, and favorite shows have long been a casual part of conversation with friends, acquaintances and family. I particularly remember long discussions about Star Trek and Babylon 5. But I quickly found in Chuck a show where my appetite for discussion exceeded anyone else around me. So fan sites and the Internet filled a gap early on. When this site got going it quickly developed into a specialized community all its own. No doubt the discussion and effort fed a cycle of further Chuck obsession. But it was so much fun! And I’ve enjoyed the discussions, the arguments (mostly), the anticipation (I miss that!).
At this point the community is the hardest part to let go of, and it pleases me that so many still visit and comment here. The relationship among the principals has been particularly strong, and apart from Faith (who lives on the wrong coast!) I’ve met and much enjoyed the company of the whole crew. It’s worked out particularly well that my wife and I have had a few visits with Thinkling and her husband and we really count them as friends.
Most of our Chuck This relationships are more “one issue” in nature, but with the passion shown by many visitors here that one issue runs surprisingly deep.
And this sort of leads to the big questions of what’s next for this site. Out of six principals I’m the only one still routinely active here, but the others may still pop in with their own ideas and plans at some point. For myself I think things will slow down some. I expect to do the occasional fan fiction post, and long time visitor here, garnetflint, recently suggested a “fan fiction Hall of Fame” series. That could be fun. Maybe something for not only my favorites but other readers’ favorites too. I will think on this some more and maybe over the summer play around with it.
I also expect we’ll do something for Chuck‘s 10 Year Anniversary in September of 2017. Can you believe that’s already coming up so soon? But I expect a few posts and a new “Episode of the Week” sort of thing at that point.
I actually do have an announcement/plea along those lines I hope will get some interest. One long time reader, Anthropocene, offered to do a guest post. This could be fun! And I know more of you would love to have your own post, so I’d love to hear from you! The best thing is to contact me by PM at fanfiction.net or E-mail me here. You could even use the “Contact Us” tab at the top of this page, but you know, then you’ll go through Joe instead of me (let’s see if Joe responds to that!).
This is your big chance. Just for once to put your thoughts in the article and reduce atcDave to comments! We have done this sort of thing before, several readers have had their own guest posts. But I would love to see a few more now. Especially since I need a break. Okay, really that means I’m out of ideas, I’ve said all I have to say. Until one of you provokes me into a 1000 word comment (!).
I would also say don’t be shy about commenting on any old article already up. Well, some have had comments shut off due to spam issues. But most are there waiting for any pertinent remark. And I always look forward to hearing from the Chuck community.