Tonight, NBC finally puts Chuck out of its misery. The action comedy, which has somehow lasted five seasons, goes out with a two hour finale (8 p.m., NBC/CHCH).
Never a hit, the series about a Geek Squad computer nerd-turned-international spy (played by Zachary Levi) was on the verge of cancellation after two seasons when fans mounted a unique save-this-show campaign. They targeted one of the sponsors, Subway. The sandwich maker got behind the series, contributing to the cost one five dollar foot long at a time and Chuck stayed on the air.
Chuck also stuck thanks to social networking. The series ranked among TV’s Top-20 in SocialSceneTV ratings. All those tweets and posts are getting more and more attention from networks.
Not that the series was ever easy to find. NBC kept it around but you had to look for it. It never emerged as more than a cult show. It ranked 65th among U.S. prime time series after its first season and was down to 83 after season four.
It helped that some powerful critics loved the show. Mo Ryan, Alan Sepinwall and Jamie Poniewozik all hailed as as one of the most winning and entertaining shows on television. Go to Wikipedia and check out the number of press articles on the series at the bottom “References” section. This show got a crazy amount of ink.
The cast, including Canadian Vik Sahay (part of the show’s “Nerd Herd”) were always mobbed at Comic-Con. For those that loved it, it was their favourite show.
Still, at five million viewers a week, NBC just wasn’t prepared to keep it on life support. Episodes never seemed to be ordered 22 at a time. Only 13 episodes were ordered this season (bringing the total to 91) and the series was basically buried in a Friday night death slot. NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt was unequivocal about Chuck‘s fate at the recent TCA press tour, basically saying it was dead dead dead.
Have to admit I was a lot like most viewers–I barely watched the show. The premise was fun, the show was well cast, but there was always something else on. CBC’s recent attempt with InSecurity showed just how tricky it is to pull off the whole spy spoof thing.

Levi with spy-licious co-star Yvonne Strahovski

Chuck was produced on a Hollywood soundstage on the Warner Bros. lot, and those set visits were always a good time. The Big Box Future Shop-like store was loaded with real electronic goodies. You felt like anybody in the cast could re-boot your laptop if you needed help.
Lead Zach Levi has also earned a rep as TCA favourite. The 31-year-old always seems to close the place at NBC press tour parties and was among the last to leave this year at the Caltech bash. Levi, in fact, continued to party later at the Langham hotel bar and was set to launch into song with one of the promising young cast members from NBC’s upcoming musical Smash when a few Pasadena locals whipped out their iPhone cameras and stopped them both dead in their tracks.
Levi told a few of us he was looking at a few things but still had no concrete plans post-Chuck. Those who have heard him sing say the dude would be a hell of an addition to Smash. That would be cool, but Levi should know he’s already earned a backstage pass to future press tour parties.

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