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Fifteen Days of Chuck: The waiting is the hardest part


The guys over at TVbytheNumbers.com sure know how to pass the time, especially when the time to be passed is the 15-day stretch of waiting for the final word on Chuck.

Hence, Fifteen Days of Chuck, a daily series of updates that have more speculation and analysis than hard news, mainly because hard news on the fate of NBC’s Monday night spy series isn’t to be had. According to a comment posted there by one of the writers, the idea was NBC’s really, when the network announced on May 4 there’d be no announcement until May 19.

I came up with it upon the realization that “Oh @%$#!, we’re going to have to wait 15 more days to find out? Fifteen more days of speculation?!” I decided to just embrace it.

The site objectively analyzes show’s survival hopes and fosters subsequent discussion based on daily ratings figures.

As this very site was a week ago with its own tongue-in-cheek reader’s poll, TVBTN quickly found itself at the center of a firestorm as the animated online fan base of the similarly endangered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles deluged it with criticism of its pro-Chuck commentary.

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Posted by Brian Howard on Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 4:24 pm |

The Parks and Recreation recap: The Banquet


Anybody else hungry for some bacon-wrapped shrimp?

Parks and Recreation isn’t great — yet. But it’s solid, and I think it has a real chance to be great. I wasn’t bowled over by last night’s episode, “The Banquet,” but I saw glimpses that support my optimism.

The first was Aziz Ansari’s Tom in front of a microphone. It wasn’t that what he was saying was hilarious, but he showed his chops with his delivery at that schmooze-fest of a government function.

Even when he’s taking creative dictation from Leslie or giving her tips on how to handle the disciplinary committee a few weeks ago, the guy just needs solid material and the space to let it rip.

Then there’s Mark, played by Paul Schneider. I read a good analysis on a fan forum comparing this show to The Office, because it is problematically similar. But The Office doesn’t have a Mark character. He’s a bit of a cad, but he’s a good guy. He’s something of a straight man for Amy Poehler to bouncer her wackiness off, but in his talking heads he shows he’s funny on his own too.

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Posted by Brian Howard on Friday, May 8th, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
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‘Have a heart — Save Chuck’ effort raking in donations for a Awesome cause (and not just renewal)


A note on that Have a Heart — Save Chuck campaign I told you about yesterday.

As of a little before noon today (not sure if that’s Eastern Time), Chuck fans had donated $3,432 to the American Heart Association in the name of Chuck Bartowski.

Mind you, this campaign is slightly more than two days old.

The idea, as detailed here, is that Subway sponsors Chuck and the AHA is Subway’s main charity (think Jared). The hope is that supporting the show’s main sponsor in this way will endear fans to the sponsor, who would in turn pressure NBC to continue providing this fruitful sponsorship opportunity.

Will it work? I have no idea.

Do I think it’s a great idea? Well, heart disease claimed more than 652,000 American lives in 2005, more than all forms of cancer combined, according to the CDC.

I say this as someone who desperately wants Chuck renewed: Who cares if it works? It’s so worth a shot.

Click on that Awesome logo to donate.

Posted by Brian Howard on Thursday, May 7th, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Chuck Versus the CNN interview — Zach Levi and Josh Gomez weigh in on the hoped for pick-up


Want to know why Chuck is the one show on the bubble that’s most deserving of being renewed?

Well, you could carve out some free time and watch the last few episodes at Hulu.com. I guarantee you’ll be hooked. But if you’re more pressed for time, take 10 minutes or so and let two of the stars – Zachary Levi and Josh Gomez — and a few big fans from all over the world — make their best case.

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I feel like I know Gray Jones of Chuck Versus the Podcast personally by now because I’ve been devouring his past episodes lately. (Embarassing admission: all 21 episodes since the finale. Yikes.)

He does a great job interviewing them in a split-screen here. Bottom line, though, is the show’s fate is still in NBC’s hands. May 19 holds more suspense at this point than the season finale did.

Posted by Brian Howard on Thursday, May 7th, 2009 at 3:13 pm |

What’s new on the Peacock? NBC’s partial fall roll-out laid out


NBC unveiled six new series for fall 2009 at yesterday’s network “In-Fronts” in New York.

Without a hint of commentary, here they are for your review. Check out the summaries and the official clips.

Three series not mentioned here, because they’re not technically new, are Southland, Parks and Recreation and a six-episode run of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday.

The Jay Leno Show, meanwhile is technically new, at least in its new Monday-Friday, 10-11 p.m. time slot.

Not new at all are previously announced pickups The Office, 30 Rock, The Biggest Loser, The Celebrity Apprentice, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Friday Night Lights. I loathingly mention new reality launches The Marriage Ref (with Jerry Seinfeld, oddly), Breakthrough With Tony Robbins and Who Do You Think You Are?, which traces stars’ geneology.

Hotly anticipated word on additional pickups, including that of Chuck, will be announced May 19 at the regualr upfronts.

OK, a little bit of commentary here: I put the one I’m looking forward to most first.


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From Emmy Award-winning directors Joe and Anthony Russo comes Community, a smart comedy series about higher education — and lower expectations. The student body at Greendale Community College is made up of high-school losers, newly divorced housewives, and old people who want to keep their minds active. Within these not-so-hallowed halls, Community focuses on a band of misfits, at the center of which is a fast-talkin’ lawyer whose degree has been revoked, who form a study group and end up learning a lot more about themselves than they do about their course work. In addition to McHale, the series also stars: Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie and Chevy Chase.

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Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 at 11:00 am |
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Recap stalling tactics: Encouraging Chuck news (and some great disguises) and Pam changes seats at The Office


Full plate here at work today, so no time just yet to recap the awesomeness that was last night’s comedy lineup on NBC, aka “When Gibbons Attack.”

But to tide you over in the meantime, I’ll just share one of the best deleted scenes The Office has had in a long while. It addresses the oh-so key issue of Pam joining Jim’s and Dwight’s sales desk cluster. As usual, the best deleted scenes are the ones that never should have been deleted.

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Also, things remain active on the “Save Chuck!” front, with the webisphere keeping the attention level up and the fandom tensely awaiting word from NBC, which should make its decision on or before Tuesday.

For all the latest news, and Web master James Fan’s action proposal to the network, check out PleaseSaveChuck.com. James links to some encouraging reports from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

And for a few laughs, check out this blogger’s carefully (and obviously painstakingly) compiled list of John Casey’s best disguises. A lot of people love the DJ, as do I, but my favorite has to be the nerd, from “Chuck Versus the Dream Job.”

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Posted by Brian Howard on Friday, May 1st, 2009 at 9:40 am |
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Save Chuck! Oh, and check out tonight’s comedy lineup on NBC


Well, I’m down to three shows that I watch regularly and they’re all on Thursday nights.

Chuck, Heroes, Sarah Connor, BSG and Flight of the Conchords have all called it a season. I kind of wish what remained were spread out a little more. It makes for a solidly funny but exhausting effort for this whiny TV blogger.

Before I lay out the must-see lineup, I want to remind you all to check out PleaseSaveChuck.com for the latest on the efforts to save the best show on television. The NBC upfronts are Tuesday, so a decision on Season 3 is imminent. Watch the show on Hulu, buy a Subway footlong, send a letter to Ben Silverman and tell your friends. Saving Chuck is the must crucial task facing our nation. You know, besides all the other stuff.</p>

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Posted by Brian Howard on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 at 10:01 am |

Chuck’s sci-fi dilemma: Does being a bit of everything mean being too little of any one thing?


So I was reading about the Chuck season finale over at Time magazine’s TV blog, and a thought struck me.

Time has blogs? About TV? No, not just that. The writer mentioned a catch-22 that may have confronted the show from the start in its bid to attract new viewers.

The oddball brilliance of Chuck, as dozens of tributes recently have said, is that it marries action and comedy, heart and geek appeal, in a way few shows do. But to people who never got into Chuck, that may be a liability. My guess is that people look at it and see a spy show that’s not hardcore enough to be impressive, a drama that’s too frothy to seem high-stakes, and a comedy that’s too dramatic to be a sitcom. Maybe it’s heresy, but I don’t think our hope is to convert these people, God bless them. It’s for Chuck to be able to survive without them.

That’s rough stuff for a fan to digest, mainly because it rings true. I’ve often struggled to find the shorthand to categorize Chuck. It’s easily the funniest hour-long on TV and the drama resonates. It’s a bit like The Office that way. Still, I doubt comedy and drama fans are steering away from Chuck, though, mainly because other hour-longs — Grey’s Anatomy or Desperate Housewives , for example — meld the two successfully, not that I’d compare either to Chuck.</p>

<p>I think it may be the sci-fi. Chuck is at the far end of the genre’s spectrum from, say, Star Trek, which always went to pains to offer a scientifically plausible explanation for its fictional science. Chuck doesn’t do that. Chuck just tells viewers Chuck uploaded the Intersect into his head and then asks us to go with it. And we do.

(An expert’s take follows after the jump. Don’t forget to check out PleaseSaveChuck.com for the lastest news on efforts convince NBC to save the show. Also check out Chuck editor Matt Barber’s excellent update site.)

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Posted by Brian Howard on Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
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NBC’s ‘Series Finale’ tag at Chuck page freaks fans out for a while


Alan Sepinwall says not to worry, so I’m trying to stay calm.

But someone pointed out to me that NBC’s Chuck page was listing last night’s episode as a “Series Finale.” I caught it on a screen cap, which you see here, but thankfully the page has been updated and the offending words removed.

I’m not surprised. The Interwebs are all aTwitter over those two unwelcome words.

According to Sepinwall, that’s not how the network would announce such a decision, not to mention that any decision isn’t expected for a few more weeks. But it makes you wonder if the slip reflects the fact that the show’s fate was decided long ago.

Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 11:11 am |
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Odds and Ends: Chuck dominating reader poll, Heroes recap delayed by relative lack of interest


Heroes aired its Season 3 finale last night, but I didn’t catch it.

Oh, I will soon, mind you. I haven’t missed an episode since the show launched, no matter what peak or valley the show’s quality is in at a given time. Lately it’s been pretty good.

I blew it off anyway.

That’s because last night was Chuck Night, all Chuck, all the time, at least until I couldn’t stay awake any longer. After watching the incredible season finale, I went online and chatted with other dorks fans like myself, sharing in the all-around amazement at the culminating episode and lamenting the limbo NBC has currently put the show in.

I didn’t have the slightest interest in Heroes at the time, and thinking about how it was renewed months ago despite lacking Chuck‘s consistent appeal and high-end quality of writing and acting, it’s a wonder I’d ever have an interest in Heroes again.

So I’ll get to that recap when I get to it.

In the meantime, supporting my case for procrastination, the Remote Access reader’s poll is decidedly lopsided in its results. I plan to leave it up for at least two more weeks, but already Chuck is blowing away the competition.

The question is: What show now on the bubble would you most like to see renewed for the fall?

Well, of the 164 votes cast in the last week, Chuck has received 125, a whopping 76 percent. The next closest was Life with 11. Someone even cast a single vote for My Name is Earl. Go figure.

It’s in NBC’s hands now. Actually, it has been all along, but you know what I mean. All we can do is wait and hope the voices of we viewers have been heard.

Just to be safe, though, I’m going to Subway again for lunch.

Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 10:25 am |
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Chuck versus The End? Season finale or series finale, one of the best hours of television puts NBC on the spot


I braced myself for an anticlimactic episode, one that not only couldn’t measure up to Chuck Versus the Colonel but one that was designed to lack resolution. In other words, I expected a less than stellar cliffhanger from the Chuck finale, and I was OK with that.

Instead, the creators of Chuck perpetrated a far more sinister plot against both viewers and network programmers alike.

They gave us an episode in Chuck Versus the Ring that was so much better, so much more action-packed, so much more emotionally magnificent, so much more Awesome than just about all the previous episodes combined. And the cliffhanger at the end had nothing to do with the plot of the episode and everything to do with a complete and utter reinvention of the show in a way I guarantee you no one saw coming.

In doing so, creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak threw down the gauntlet to NBC and absolutely dared the Peacock to anger a huge swath of viewers — many in the 18-34 and 18-49 demographics — by not immediately picking up Chuck for a third season.

In other words, they used us. They knew we’d be gunning for bear after this episode wrapped and the realization dawned that it could all be over just so Jay Leno could waste the 10 o’clock hour.

This season finale (and that’s all I’ll call it) had it all, from a deliciously rocking soundtrack to an unbelievable mix of spy action and Buy More silliness. It had a villain worse than Fulcrum, and it had Jeffster crashing a wedding with Mr. Roboto. It had at least three Chuck-Sarah moments that could melt a cynic’s heart.

And it had the best line ever uttered on network television: Why are you letting Sam Kinison and an Indian lesbian ruin this wedding?

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Posted by Brian Howard on Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 11:01 pm |

If you didn’t eat lunch yet, then get on over to Subway and save Chuck!!!


So is tonight the season finale of Chuck or the series finale? The very question makes me nauseous.

I love this show, and I may never see it again. That stinks, to put it bluntly. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and you can help by joining the Save Bri’s Monday Nights– err, the Save Chuck campaign. More about that in a moment. First, the summary for tonight’s episode, the one that’s supposed to leave fans wanting to burn their living rooms down if it’s the last ever…

When Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome’s (Ryan McPartlin) wedding day finally arrives, Chuck (Zachary Levi) must save Ellie’s life and her big day from being ruined by Ted Roark (guest star Chevy Chase) and Fulcrum.

Now about saving Chuck, it wasn’t the subtlest of product placements when Morgan handed Big Mike that footlong teriyaki chicken sandwich from Subway a few episodes back.

Not subtle either is the nationwide campaign to keep Chuck on the air by fans putting their money where NBC’s mouth is. If Subway supports Chuck, then Chuck fans support Subway.

The LA Times the other day provides as good a summation of the efforts as any. But better than that is Zach Levi’s own rabblerousing of the fandom across the pond.

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Now get thee to a Subway!

Posted by Brian Howard on Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
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Fans, and yours truly, weigh in on why Chuck rocks and why it’s gotta come back


Chuck has to come back. Not to mix show references, but the fate of the city of Utica depends on it.

Why, you ask? Oh, because of about a bajillion reasons: Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Morgan, Jeffster, the Buy More, Big Mike and Morgan’s mom, living with the Intersect, living without the Intersect, the Nerd Herd, Nerdmobiles and Captain Awesome.

That enough reasons? No? You want more? That’s doable. I was asked to chip in a few thoughts to a collective fan brainstorm on the state of NBC’s best show — comedic, dramatic or otherwise. The resulting group dissertation appears at a blog called Megan Goes to Hollywood (worth digging for the photos alone) under the title The Best Show You’re Not Watching.

A word about that title first, because in all my rantings and ramblings in favor of Chuck, I haven’t talked numbers much. That’s because I know they haven’t been good, at least not good enough, otherwise renewal wouldn’t be an issue. That said, TVbytheNumbers.com is picking it to return, or at least gives it a better than even chance.

Fact is, just 6 million people tuned in Monday to see the show’s best episode yet. By comparison, more than three times as many people watched Dancing With the Stars. I’d rather chew on glass than watch dancing with anything or anyone. That’s just me. But still, of the more than 45 million viewers the major networks pulled in during the 8 o’clock hour, Chuck got 6 million? That’s almost as pitiful as it getting beaten by a repeat of Big Bang Theory.

I’d say Megan has that blog post title perfectly right.

Don’t forget to check out PleaseSaveChuck.com, GiveMeMyRemote.com, Strahotski.com or Zachary-Levi.net to find out how you can help Save Chuck!

Posted by Brian Howard on Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 9:47 pm |

USA Today breaks down which shows are coming back, which one’s probably aren’t and which are on the bubble


Upfronts, the event where the networks woo advertisers with glitzy presentations of their fall schedules, are a month away, but speculation has been rampant for months about what current shows will survive the summer.

Fortunately, USA Today has done what it does best: created a graphic that breaks it all down for easy consumption. You can view it here.

What’s immediately clear to me is how few shows I watch, considering I blog about TV almost daily. I can take personal credit for contributing to the potential or impending demise of dozens of these shows that I’ve never seen. If you’re a fan of one of these, sorry.

A few entries jump out at me:

Posted by Brian Howard on Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
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The Chuck recap: Chuck Versus the First Kill


I know you all watched Chuck last night, right? You watched because you heard it was the funniest, most charming and entertaining show on television and because you knew it was on the cancellation bubble. And you discovered that it was every bit as good as I and every other TV blogger always said, right?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, go here, here, here, here and here to read about the valiant efforts of the show’s biggest fans to lobby viewers to tune in and NBC to pick it up for a third season. Then do what I did and vote for Chuck here. And of course, spend some quality time checking the show out here.

OK, I’m off the soapbox. If people won’t watch after an episode like last night’s, “Chuck versus the First Kill,” they might never watch.

Aside from a few too many instances of Chuck making impassioned pleas to Sarah or the General or whoever else that “this is the only way to save my father,” I was pumped about this episode. I’m a little embarrassed to admit why, though.

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Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
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A plea to NBC: Bring back Chuck and I’ll give you the Intersect


The Watcher’s Maureen Ryan is asking for ideas about how we can lobby NBC to bring Chuck back next year. It boggles my mind how the network’s best show could get axed, but that was true also of The Office and 30 Rock at one time.

Here’s the episode summary for Monday’s “Chuck Versus the Dream Job”…

Chuck’s (Zachary Levi) life seems to be coming together: his long-absent father Steve (Bakula) has returned and he’s landed his dream job with his hero Ted Roark (Chase). Unfortunately for Chuck, neither turns out to be quite what he expected.

If you ask me, and you kind of did by being here, NBC would be CRAZY not to give Chuck a full-season pickup immediately.

Anyway, I’m pretty spoiler-averse, and that goes double for preview clips. But since Chuck is quickly becoming my favorite show on television, I couldn’t resist watching these, which are from next week’s episode. Chevy Chase, Chuck’s new boss, and Scott Bakula, Chuck’s dad, figure heavily.

I was a big Quantum Leap fan, so I’m pretty stoked about Bakula.

The video follows the jump…

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Posted by Brian Howard on Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 at 1:27 pm |

The Chuck recap: Chuck Versus the Broken Heart


Yeah, that was Tricia Helfer playing bad cop-naughty cop in the Buy More, and I’m pretty sure it melted my DVR. But at her best, the erstwhile Caprica Six paled in comparison to a sweet, thoughtful and quite-in-love-with-Chuck Sarah.

“Chuck Versus the Broken Heart” opened lots of cans of worms and left me with a very To Be Continued kind of feeling. That’s not a knock. If anything, I was only frustrated that it wasn’t a two-hour special, so I could see Scott Bakula standing in the doorway of that camper or see how Awesome gets himself out of Ellie’s doghouse or whether we’ll see more of Agent Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction, anyone?).

Guest star Helfer left me a little flat, and I think that’s because she was asked to play a specific role that didn’t lend itself to a lot of range. She was basically the female John Casey. And the stripper scene, while not unappreciated, was a little too obvious a turn. It kind of took me out of the episode because it seemed like obvious fanboy pandering.

But by the end of the episode, I’d seen enough to see the merit in a possible recurring character type role, if only as Casey’s cold-blooded soul mate.

The episode put Chuck’s spy training on hold, unfortunately, while it dealt with the nagging question of how Sarah can continue as his handler while she and Chuck have such obvious feelings for each other. I love that Casey put protocol aside by the end of the episode and stood up for Sarah, despite his obvious attraction to Forrest.

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Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 11:19 am |

The Chuck preview: BSG’s Helfer to ease fans’s withdrawal, melt your TV screen


Such has been my Battlestar Galactica withdrawal that I’ve already begun, just a week after the series finale aired, a complete rewatch of the series.

On Saturday I plowed through the amazing, big screen-worthy 2003 miniseries. (Do you recall that Gaeta was pronounced Guy-tah then, and FTL was referred to as hyperlight?) And last night I watched the epically intense 33, the series’ debut episode, which creator Ronald Moore and star Jamie Bamber (Lee) call their favorite.

I even watched earlier this month the original series pilot, which I can’t really recommend except for the most obsessive or old school fans.

With the Caprica release still a few weeks off, NBC has done a service to those suffering BSG withdrawal by casting Tricia Helfer (Caprica Six) in tonight’s episode of Chuck.
Read the episode summary after the jump…
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Posted by Brian Howard on Monday, March 30th, 2009 at 9:43 am |
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The Chuck recap: Chuck vs. The Predator


Orion is alive. I’d put money on it if I was the gambling type.

I’m not, but I’m just as sure that he wasn’t on that helicopter when the predator drone’s missile took it out as I’m sure that Jeff is a complex fellow. (And he is, isn’t he?)

“Chuck vs. The Predator” heated things up nicely for a series that seldom gets even half as serious as its subject matter. But after a while it gets hard to ignore the 900 pound gorilla in the room, and I don’t mean Casey. The fact is, Chuck’s been living the spy’s life for a while now, and it was getting a tad tedious seeing him play the lovelorn dork.

Well, he’s going to be a real spy now, whether he likes it or not, and I can see them stretching that transition out for a while as Beckman’s orders are carried out. The way that feisty little lady laid out the stakes at hand really shook me because I’d always sided with Chuck’s right to be his own man. Now I can see that if so many lives are at stake, he doesn’t really have the choice to turn his back on that.

The introduction of Orion was the perfect catalyst for that transition, too. It puts Chuck in the position of acting, instead of reacting, on his own. He’d already begun that by piecing together his search on the back of that uber-retro Tron poster. But now, with the schematic to the Intersect in his hands — or in his comic book, rather — he’s gone rogue. He can’t trust Sarah any more than he could Casey or the General. It should be pointed out, though, that Casey vouched for him and Sarah more than he had to.

That’s why I don’t believe Orion is dead. He was too deft with his use of technology in repurposing Predator Drones and scanning Chuck’s face to be derailed by a bunch of thugs. He was still communicating with Chuck’s laptop even as he was supposedly being taken to that rooftop. No, he’s alive, and he can help Chuck get inside the Intersect and in so doing get the Intersect out of his head.

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Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
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Death Watch: Chuck, Heroes to see casualties


Is it me or has Michael Ausiello gotten kind of ghoulish since he jumped from TV Guide to Entertainment Weekly?

He’s prepared a death list for your favorite shows, and it’s pretty grim. Well sure, it’s a death list. You wanted cheery? (Read the list here.)

I don’t watch every show on the list so it’s hard to be specific about what’s surprising and what’s expected. Still, two deaths on 24 and 1 on Supernatural both seem kind of low, even if I’ve never seen an episode of either.

Heroes, which I watch regularly, will have three deaths, which seems way high. Unless they’re the deaths of Ali Larter’s three obnoxious identities. In that case I’d call it about right. But Ausiello says one won’t stick, so you’re guess is as good as mine.

The one that jumped out at me, and it’s not entirely news, is Chuck. Who could be the one person getting offed by the finale? None of the regulars seem at all likely.

The show wouldn’t work without Chuck, Sarah or Casey, in my opinion. And it could never recover from killing off Ellie, Awesome or Morgan. Big Mike? Ridiculous. Anna, Jeff or Lester? Counter-productive ratingswise, at best. The colonel? Maybe, but why bother? Bryce Larkin? Possibly, but that just seems contrived to bring him back just to kill him.

Unless I’m missing someone, I don’t have a guess. I don’t even want to make one since, as Ausiello reports, exec producer Josh Schwartz says it’ll be “shocking.”

Fine, I nominate Lester.

Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
| | Comments Off on Death Watch: Chuck, Heroes to see casualties

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