I admit it: I've been really hard on Chuck so far. Not because I hate the show–despite its numerous annoying little flaws Chuck is ultimately too good-natured for me to hate it–but because the first two episodes royally sucked. But nobody has wanted to like Chuck more than me. Unlike you people, who can come and go as you please, I'm stuck devoting an hour of my life to Chuck every Monday night from here to eternity. Believe me, I'm trying to make the best of it. I've just been waiting for Josh Schwartz and Co. to throw me a bone, and "Chuck Vs. The Tango" was it. It's not the greatest hour of television I've ever seen–that is waiting in my DVR queque and is called I Love New York--but "Chuck Vs. The Tango" is the Citizen Kane of Chuck episodes.
While the first two episodes of Chuck seemed to work twice as hard as the average TV show for half the entertainment value, "Chuck Vs. The Tango" finally pulled into the parking lot of the ballpark of what this show should be. The pacing was much snappier this time around, which of course suits the ridiculous spy action–is there any other kind?–better than the graceless incoherence of "Chuck Vs. The Helicopter," known among us regular Chuck watchers as the series' Evan Almighty. Much of the episode was shot with handheld cameras, an overused gimmick that nevertheless pumped up the intensity of the action sequences. A parallel fight involving secret agents Sarah and Casey and some hulking baddies was easily the best sequence in Chuck's long, storied history. For the first time the spy stuff was actually fun, which tended to obscure the show's ongoing credibility issues.
Chuck still isn't funny, but it is approaching inside-your-head funny status, which is probably good enough. Joshua Gomez's Morgan is growing on me as the wacky, comic relief-providin' sidekick, though his personality is still largely undefined and his quips mostly lame. Perhaps this is intentional. My theory is that Morgan is in love with Chuck, and pretends to have a crush on the sister as a beard. (You can have that idea for free, Chuck writers, but the next one is gonna cost you.) Speaking of Chuck's sister, is she the most worthless character on the show? I could use less of her and more action with Sarah at the Weinerlicious. Am I wrong, or is that potentially a rich mine of comic gold that is being ignored?
Don't look now but Chuck just might be on verge of settling into a groove of watchable, sorta funny spy entertainment. (I fully expect to see that quote in round-the-clock Chuck ads staring NOW!) The central premise is still distracting and troublesome–how can you justify putting Chuck in harm's way every week when he clearly belongs in a white room in the bowels of the Pentagon?–but for now I have my bone, so I'm happy.
--There appears to be a budding romance between Chuck and Sarah, which is of course a horrible idea that should be ditched immediately.
--Once again the music choices were strong: Spoon, a new Band Of Horses cut, and an awesome National song.
--Have you seen the Avis commercial starring a beardless Joshua Gomez? He's funnier there than here.
--The tango stuff is taken from True Lies, the first time that movie has inspired anything other than teenage boys to lust after Jamie Lee Curtis.