Third-season premiere of 'Chuck,' Sunday on NBC
CHUCK: Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on NBC (then moves into its regular slot, Monday at 8 p.m.)
REASON TO WATCH: Saved by fans and a deal with Subway, "Chuck" is back for a third season. But is this mission impossible?
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Chuck Bartowksi (Zachary Levi) is no longer riding the Nerd Herd at Buy More but has moved on to bigger, better things — hopefully, a future with agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski). He has been transformed into Intersect 2 — the vast store of supersecret spy knowledge that was downloaded into his brain two seasons ago by a wayward college friend — and is training to become a spy. But "training" and "becoming" turn out to be separate matters.
Bartowski is — it seems — emotionally ill-equipped to become a spy, struggles with his pants (long story) and ultimately gets busted down. He loses the girl, the job, grows a beard, ends up on his sister's couch, and ... a new season begins.
SPECIAL BONUSES: NBC has been almost profligate in its love for this show — giving it good time periods, reasonable promotion and so many lives a cat would be envious. NBC's gone this far, and it's not giving up now. Special guest stars this season include Angie Harmon, Brandon Routh and Robert Patrick.
MY SAY: "Chuck" is, was and always will be a big, lovable, charming blob — or shaggy dog, which this sinuous and silly tale is. But as the third season begins, doubts begin to creep in. Isn't this really — after all — just a cartoon?
Sunday's episode feels frantic, and predictable, and the old familiar will-he-get-Sarah-won't-he-get-Sarah is worked into flashbacks, flashforwards and maybe even a real-time story line. So, I decided to jump to the fifth episode — NBC, bless 'em, sent out a batch of shows — just to see if the same-old-same-old persisted. "Chuck," alas, has turned into "Get Smart."
BOTTOM LINE: Would you believe "Chuck" is still charming? How about "fun"? Would you believe this is just a "cartoon"? Believe it all. But we've also been down this road before — 45 years before.