How Chuck Wore Its Heart on Its Sleeve and Stole All of Ours

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It’s really easy to be cynical with the world today, especially with the state it’s in right now. There’s so much greed, violence, and corruption out there that it’s hard not to become enveloped by it all and forget that there are actually good people and good things in this world that we can turn to. Heck, this is even true for TV, where every show nowadays is being pushed to be darker and edgier.

However, there was one show that, even when it did dip into darker territory, kept things hopeful and optimistic, making it one of my favorite series of all-time. I’m talking, of course, about NBC’s Chuck, which was a mix-and-match of different shows, from workplace comedy to action-packed spy series to deeply romantic love story, which all blended together to produce an honest, genuine, and heartfelt series that made its characters feel real and authentic, no matter how insane the world around them got. And by being a show that embraced the ideas of kindness, generosity, and love, all attributes that were epitomized by its main character, Chuck Bartowski, Chuck was able to not just stand out from the pack of gritty dramas and laugh track-backed sitcoms that populated TV but speak to millions of incredibly passionate fans that forged a connection to the series, one as strong and powerful as the love shared between Chuck and Sarah.

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As I briefly touched upon above, Chuck had a little something for everyone; it was a melting pot of different genres and tones, a show that could appeal to both men and women, parents and children, no matter their differences. Yet even though the variety of what Chuck could be on a given week (would we be getting a more family-focused hour involving Ellie and Awesome, or an episode where Chuck and Morgan’s friendship played a key role, or one where the Chuck and Sarah romance was pushed to the forefront) was certainly appealing, it was the show’s central idea, that being a good, caring person still means something, no matter how screwed up the world is, that unified the many different styles and tones of the show.

What Chuck was always about, despite the crazily complicated spy missions and whatever weird thing Jeff and Lester (Jeffster!) were doing together, was how being a good person meant you deserved the most out of life. And Chuck Bartowski was exactly that: a good person who deserved more, and he discovered exactly what that “more” was after meeting Sarah and Casey. This is why Chuck, even though it was low-rated while on the air, has been able to attract the love and attention of so many dedicated people, because the concept of someone who is kind, compassionate, and honest fighting to get what he or she wants out of life seems so foreign on television today.

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Most TV shows focus on the “anti-heroes” or the “morally complex characters,” deeming more traditional individuals to be boring or bland. However, Chuck was able to show that if you give audiences a real, relatable character, portrayed by a fantastic actor (Zachary Levi, who is such a good person in real life for what he does for charities like Operation Smile, was essential to making Chuck a believable character), that you don’t need to be “dark” or “edgy” in order to be entertaining. The true key to any story is authenticity, and every single emotional moment between Chuck‘s characters felt genuine and authentic; you believed what they were saying or doing, no matter how ridiculous the situation was.

And that’s why fans like myself (along with new ones that are just discovering the series on Netflix for the first time) remain so invested in this show and its characters. We can identify with them, whether it’s through Chuck and Sarah’s will-they-or-won’t-they relationship, or the father-daughter bond between Casey and Alex, or the lifelong friendship of Chuck and Morgan. Chuck wasn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, to be emotional and tender and real, even if it sometimes risked becoming overly sentimental. This was a series that embraced its emotions and put them on display consistently, and it was impossible for fans to watch and not be moved, sometimes to laughter and other times to tears, loving the show just as much as Big Mike loves Subway.

Photos via NBC

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  1. Anna Reed