Just a few seasons ago, TV was so macho, my media cabinet got contact ‘roid rage. From Rescue Me to Entourage to The Unit, it was all about guys doing manly, dudely things. But this year may see the triumph of the shrugging, gawky, adorable beta male, thanks to two terribly likable new shows, The CW’s Reaper and NBC’s Chuck.
Created by Josh Schwartz (The O.C.), Chuck revolves around a geeky Seth Cohen-esque fellow (Less Than Perfect‘s Zachary Levi) who heads up the Nerd Herd — a computer fix-it team based inside a Buy More superstore. On his birthday, Chuck opens an e-mail from his old Stanford nemesis (now a secret agent) and thousands of encrypted images containing the combined secrets of the CIA and NSA are downloaded into his brain. So suspend your disbelief, basically, and just take Chuck as the story of a nervous, unlucky-in-love, pocket-pen-sporting guy who finds himself the unlikely center of Bond-style intrigue: A hot CIA agent (Yvonne Strahovski) wants his help with security issues; a tough NSA agent (Serenity‘s Adam Baldwin) would prefer him dead. (This character, who actually growls inanities like ”I break things, I don’t fix them,” would be the weak link here — but Baldwin gives his lines just enough twinkle to save them from DOA status. By episode 2, he’s undercover as a Buy More salesguy, threatening Chuck with a price gun, so I have hope.)
Chuck is packed with car chases, explosions, and even some nifty knife work with sporks. All the action is balanced by the loose-limbed Levi, who has a grin that makes you want to give him all your pudding, immediately. And while there are a few too many ”awkward-guy moments,” there are enough genuinely sweet ones to balance them out, especially between Chuck and his cooler, protective older sister, Ellie (What About Brian‘s Sarah Lancaster). Ellie, it must be mentioned, has a doctor/skydiver/rock-climber boyfriend (Ryan McPartlin) whom Chuck has dubbed Captain Awesome. That nickname alone makes the series worth watching. B+