Goodbye, Chuck

And so ends one of my favorite television shows.

Chuck hit that happy, feel-good spot that many shows have before -- from Avatar: The Last Airbender to Boy Meets World -- but it was unlike so many others. Really, how many well-paced shows do you know is a live-action-comedy-spy-drama?

I don't want to give away any spoilers, since I can't recommend the show enough (even when you have your doubts through its darker or less agreeable episodes). Right to the end, the show had some great throwbacks to the early episodes (making it worth ignoring occasional, gaping plotholes). Instead, as the series comes to a close, I thought I'd offer some fascinating trivia I learned from reading extended interviews with creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak.

Bear in mind that things changed so much over the series because of the chemistry among the cast and the constant threat of cancellation (most mid-season and season finales were written as a series finale, so they had to frequently find new ways to redefine the show).

Onto the trivia! (No spoilers, I promise)
  • The show was originally had (and shot with) a female love interest for Chuck named Kayla, who was central part of the show (and even part of the pitch), but the chemistry between Zach (Chuck) and Yvonne (Sarah) made the creators change their minds and re-cast them as the heart of the show. That makes sense with how much they stressed Chuck's heartbreak over Jill in the pilot.
  • Captain Awesome was originally intended to be a planted spy, but immediately became a favorite when everyone fell in love with him (after his only three lines), so they scrapped plans to turn him. Considering how he is the paradigm of athleticism, that brings a whole new light to his character and (in hindsight) you can really see how they would built that up. It makes it all the more amusing with the contrasting direction they ultimately took his character.
  • Jeff and Lester were scripted with far minor background roles, but there limited screen time and improvisation really impressed the initial viewers. They actually had to tone down their roles because people originally thought they were secretly the bad guys. Talk about a red herring!
  • They had big plans for C.S. Lee (Harry Tang) had he not left to join the cast of Dexter full-time, which means they would not have written him off so abruptly had it not been for that other (awesome) darker show. But could you blame him? He has such a fun role with Masuka.
  • The unanimous opinion was that nobody liked Morgan early on, so they diligently worked on making as likable as they liked the actor, Joshua Gomez. Since Chuck started off his journey as the bumbling idiot, as he matured and progressed, they used that opportunity to creatively have Morgan slip into the missing "idiot" role. I never thought of it that way because they executed it so naturally and effortlessly, and I believe preserving that overall dynamic/contrast kept the show's heart.
  • The first "big" change to Chuck and the Intersect was originally planned for season 1, had it not been for the writer's strike. In other words, they had it planned all along, contrary to my initial fears of what-have-they-just-done.
  • They originally thought that they'd have lots of money so as an ongoing gag, Sarah would have a different, ridiculous cover each season, but they didn't have enough money to keep building new sets. And we all know how NBC ultimately felt about funding the show, don't we?
  • Tony Hale's departure from the show was because NBC took away their money. They even wanted to have his character's twin brother come back to look for him (and take his place), but they couldn't afford having an additional cast member. Similar circumstances hold for the Julia Ling's character (well not the twin thing). Boo, NBC.
  • Two of the episodes from Season 2 hailed as their very best succeeded, in their opinion, because they had money. Time and money. Thanks again, NBC.
  • They purposely ended Season 2 with "To be continued" realizing that they could be "the biggest ***holes in the history of television", not knowing about a series renewal. Never paid attention to that!
  • Fedak goes on the record as saying: "You know, I have no intention of actually having Casey kill Chuck" back in Season 1 (despite dropping hints in the show), so he secretly enjoyed their interactions more than the fans did. Sure, you can't off a main character in the first season, but it was still pretty tense.
  • Linda Hamilton was looking to have a comic, warmer role (than her usual material) when originally approached by the creators, which worked out great for what they were seeking. She really was a great addition to the cast.
  • Timothy Dalton liked to come in and talk to his writer, and perform the part with the writer prior to shooting as he wound onstage if not more. To think this is James Bond -- such an amazing actor!
  • They purposely "made a decision for America" to not show Casey in a speedo in the "Kept Man" episode. I approve. The offscreen gag was good enough.
  • The overall structure of the fifth season, though planned from the start, happened to emulate the previous seasons where after the first two-thirds, they focused on individual characters in standalone episodes before showcasing the final arc of the season. This is more of my own observation, but again, I'm impressed by how well they wrapped it up, and I like how they made it follow the style of the previous seasons, even if unintended.
  • For the sky-diving sequence, they did multiple takes of a person in a cat suit diving from the plane. Hilarious.
  • They originally entertained the idea of things going sour for some characters: having a Thelma & Louise off-the-cliff ending for Jeff & Lester (which ended up being integrated into the "Bo" episode) and killing off Casey's character early in the season. Neither of those happened, so I don't consider that a spoiler.
  • They are working on a longer cut of the finale for the DVD. Now there's a must-have!
Source articles [spoilers abound]: part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4 - part 5

Thanks for a great five years, Chuck. As a quality show that still remains undiscovered by many, I look forward to rewatching you in years to come. And as a supportive fan, I went ahead and bought myself some Buy More merchandise, following the finale. Hats off to you, Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak.

As a bonus to any fans that come across this page, provided you've seen the show through the fifth season, you should watch the extended video interview with Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak at Google LA here.

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