Category Archives: television

Developing Quality Romance According To “Chuck”

The Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has required everyone to get creative in alleviating boredom. At some point, there’s only so much binge-watching you can do with new shows. That’s because, along the way, you find out just how many of them turn out to be utter crap. As such, you find yourself returning to older shows that you haven’t forgotten, but haven’t seen in a long time.

I found myself in that exact position recently. Over the weekend, I was in search of a new show and came across one that I once followed closely. That show is “Chuck,” a quirky, yet endearing spy thriller/comedy/drama from the late 2000s. It’s one of those rare shows that sounds good on paper, but is even better in execution.

The premise of the show is simple. A once-promising young man named Chuck Bartowski is stuck in a dead-end job at a Best Buy-like electronics store, his future having been derailed by getting expelled from Stanford after being wrongfully excused of cheating.

Then, one day he gets a mysterious email from his old roommate, Bryce Larkin, who just happens to be the one responsible for him getting expelled. That email turns out to be a top secret program called the Intersect, a compilation of every NSA and CIA secret ever assembled. It gets downloaded into his brain, making him the most valuable intelligence asset in the world.

It puts Chuck in a strange position that requires him to become a spy under the protection of Major John Casey and Agent Sarah Walker. Action, drama, romance, and various hijinks ensue. The show often has a comedic undertone, but it gets serious in just the right amount to still be entertaining.

I started by just watching the first episode.

Then, I watched the second.

Then, I watched five more.

The next thing I know, I’m already in season two and the show is every bit as fun as I remember. It’s even aged remarkably well. I believe that if this show came out today and was completely unaltered, except for some of the technology, then it would still be a hit. It might even do better than it did when it came out because of just how well every character is handled.

This brings me to the part about Chuck” that stood out most for me while re-watching it. Once again, it has to do with romance. There’s a lot I could say about how this show handles its romantic sub-plots, but I’ll sum it up in a simple statement.

This develops TV romance in a believable, balanced, and endearing way that everyone can appreciate.

A lot of shows have major romantic sub-plots that play out over the entire run of the show. Shows like “Castle” and “X-Files” are famous for drawing those plots out over years. The problem that often plagues these plots is that, by drawing them out, they often become stale. Some even become downright toxic. A show that successfully develops a balanced, sincere, believable romance is exceedingly rare.

I would gladly cite “Chuck” as one of those rare success stories. From the first episode to the emotional series finale, the primary romance that drives the plot of this show is between Chuck and Sarah. It’s set up in the first episode as a ploy for Sarah to get close to the man who possess the intersect, but it evolves into so much more over the course of five seasons.

There are many things that make this romance great, but a big part of what makes it work is how it gets the basics right. It’s a romance that never feels lopsided, forced, or insincere. It’s also not a romance that robs either character of their agency or their personality. It doesn’t move too fast or too slow, either. It evolves in a way that feels real and heartfelt.

Chuck and Sarah isn’t a run-of-the-mill, love-at-first-sight type romance. It’s also not one of those pretty-girl-falls-for-dorky-guy romance either, although that is how it seems initially. It starts off basic. One day, Sarah walks into the store. Chuck sees her and is attracted to her beauty. Call it shallow, but that’s how many romances start in the real world and this one certainly doesn’t remain shallow.

As their relationship and their partnership evolve, each character develops in their own way. Through their romance, we learn where they came from and who they are. Chuck was once a promising student at Stanford who had big dreams that got crushed by forces beyond his control. Sarah is the daughter of a con-man who was recruited to put those skills to use for the CIA.

Both characters have traits and histories that function outside the romance. They each develop along their own path. Chuck goes from being a bumbling, anxious, often-unwilling spy to a determined, capable, and dedicated agent. A big part of that evolution is due to the influence and support of Sarah.

Sarah goes from a simple role-player into someone with her own hopes, dreams, and ambitions. She has plenty of changes to become cold and callous like her partner, John Casey. She chooses to avoid that path and Chuck is a big inspiration for that choice. He makes her better, just as she makes him better. That’s exactly what a healthy romance should do.

As for the evolution of their romance, it’s hardly worthy of a fairy tale. Throughout the course of the show, Sarah and Chuck find themselves caught up in other romantic entanglements. Sarah has a romantic history with Chucks rival, Bryce. Chuck has more than a couple flings that range from a girl working at a sandwich shop to his lying ex-girlfriend, Jill.

Remarkably, none of these side-romances come off as basic obstacles. There are reasons and motivations behind these romantic pursuits. Even if Chuck and Sarah have feelings for one another, circumstances and uncertainties keep them from developing a functioning relationship, at least at first. Eventually, they are allowed to get together, be together, and even get married.

In many shows, that level of maturity is an endpoint. For “Chuck,” it’s another key component of their romantic evolution. That’s a big part of what makes both the series and the romance work. It doesn’t just end when the guy gets the girl. Being in a relationship and consummating that relationship is just part of what makes it function. The show finds a way to work that into the plot and it works beautifully.

There’s so much more I could say about the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, but there’s no way I could capture the full scope of their love story without recounting nearly every episode. That’s why I highly recommend bingeing the show on whatever platform it’s on. Last I checked, the show is on Amazon Prime.

In just watching the first two seasons, it’s easy to see how much time, effort, and thought was put into the Chuck/Sarah romance. It also helps that the acting skills of Zach Levi as chuck and Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah are maximized through plenty of dramatic moments.

It’s a romance that helps develop and benefit both characters over the course of the show. It’s easy to root for them and you really feel it when they’re hit with some devastating moments, especially in the penultimate episode of Season 5. It also shows that balanced romance can be told over the course of a show without it getting stale, hallow, or toxic.

In real life, quality romance occurs when two people bring out the best in one another. Chuck and Sarah prove that over five memorable seasons of “Chuck.” Their love may get messy, complicated, and convoluted at times, but it still feels real and genuine. If you’re a romance fan in any capacity, I encourage you to revisit this gem of a show.

Even if the romance doesn’t do it for you, the show is worth watching for Jeffster alone.

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, romance, sex in society, television

Why Do We Root For Characters Like Bojack Horseman?

Why do we root for people who do awful things?

Why do we root for the crazed killer in a slasher movie?

Why do we celebrate anti-heroes over traditional, upstanding heroes?

Why do we want people who do irredeemable things to be redeemed?

These are questions are similar in that they have a common theme, but they apply to a wide variety of situations. It feels like those questions have become more relevant in recent years as the standards for quality TV, movies, and characters has risen, which I’ve called the Walter White effect. While it can make for compelling stories, the questions themselves have distressing implications.

I’ve found myself contemplating those questions more seriously after the final season of “Bojack Horseman.” While I love this show and have praised its themes in the past, the final season really pushed the envelope on how far a show could go in telling stories about broken characters.

There’s no getting around it. From the first episode to the series finale, it’s abundantly clear that Bojack Horseman is not a respectable person. He’s a self-centered, narcissistic, alcohol, ego-centric asshole who has hurt people, exploited people, and taken full advantage of his celebrity status. If we knew someone like this in real life, we would never root for them. We’d probably root against them.

However, as I watched this show over the years, I still found myself rooting for Bojack. In following his story, learning about who he is, where he comes from, and how he deals with his problems, I genuinely hoped that he would find some semblance of peace in the end. Even as his sordid deeds started to come to light in the final season, a part of me didn’t want to see him fall, especially when he’d made so many strides.

Bojack isn’t the only character with this issue. There are countless other characters in popular culture, such as Don Draper and Wolverine, who do many awful things throughout their story. I’m a fan of those characters, especially Wolverine. At the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that he’s done terrible things that are on par with Bojack’s crimes.

At the same time, I root for Wolverine. I also find it easier to root for him over Bojack because while Wolverine is largely a product of what others have done to him, Bojack is a product of his own awful decisions.

Bojack has no special powers or excuses, outside being a celebrity. He has his share of issues and circumstances, from verbally abusive parents to substance abuse to legitimate mental illness. However, throughout the show, he’s still the one who makes the choices that ultimately hurt him and his loved ones. Moreover, he spends a great deal of time avoiding the consequences or downplaying them.

This is why I think the final season of Bojack Horseman” was so impactful. While I did often root for Bojack throughout the show, the final season made it a point to remind everyone of the terrible things he’s done. The show is brilliant in how it has everything collapse around Bojack, but not because of circumstance. Once again, his own terrible choices and endless excuses are what do him in.

Seeing him face real, actual consequences for his decisions helped give the show a sense of balance when it ended. Bojack didn’t have a happy ending. Very few characters did. At the same time, he wasn’t killed or endlessly punished. It just left him in an uncertain state where he faced consequences for his past choices. Now, he has to make new choices moving forward.

It’s not satisfying for anyone who’d been rooting for Bojack. At the same time, it’s cathartic for that part of us who wanted him to face consequences for the awful things he’d done. Even so, the fact we rooted for him in the first place is oddly jarring and I think it speaks to a part of our nature that’s difficult to understand.

On some level, I feel like people want to see horrible people redeem themselves. Redemption stories are powerful in both the world of fiction and the real world. I think it’s in our nature to want to see good in everyone, even when they’ve done awful things. The power and desire to forgive is real.

However, does that mean we should let horrible deeds go unpunished? It’s one thing to forgive someone for a lie, but what about someone who abandons his best friend when he gets fired? What about someone who nearly chokes a woman to death in a drug-fueled rage? What about someone who takes advantage of a woman with amnesia?

Those deeds are all things that Bojack did over the course of Bojack Horseman.” There are many others, some of which he never faced consequences for. Even though he’s an extreme example, even by fictional character standards, we still root for him. We still want him to find redemption. I think that says more about us than it does about him.

Awful people will do awful things, but when we see them trying to make things better, it’s hard not to cheer them on. I believe its in our nature to want to see others be the best they can be. The challenge is balancing that inclination to root for them and the need to punish shitty behavior.

Bojack’s story is over, but there are plenty of other characters like him that we root for. It’s not wrong to root for them, but it’s important to maintain a proper perspective. Redemption can be a powerful story. However, can there be any redemption without consequences?

I don’t know the answer. If you have some insights, please share them in the comments.

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Report: Rosario Dawson Has Been Cast As Ahsoka Tano For “The Mandalorian” (And The Galaxy Is More Awesome)

At a time when the stream of bad news seems endless and unyielding, you need to embrace the good news as much as you can, no matter what form it takes. Most of the time, you have to focus on the little things. While those can be good, there’s still a place for big, awesome revelations that make the world feel slightly less terrible.

Late yesterday, a uniquely awesome story broke in the world of Star Wars. Say what you will about the movies, but “The Mandalorian” was a perfect manifestation of everything that’s great about Star Wars. It had a little of everything on top of the galactic level of cuteness that is Baby Yoda. It’s hard to imagine this show getting any better.

Well, according to SlashFilm, “The Mandalorian” is about to raise the bar once again. This time, it comes from a familiar source and one that has a special place in my heart. That source is Ahsoka Tano, a character I go out of my way to praise and chrish with every midichlorian in my being. If SlashFilm’s report is true, she’s about to make her live-action debut in the next season of “The Mandalorian,” courtesy of Rosario Dawson.

SlashFilm: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2 Casts Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano

We have exclusively learned that Rosario Dawson will appear in The Mandalorian season 2 and are excited to report that she will be playing a fan-favorite character previously only seen in the Star Wars animated productions. Dawson will be playing a live-action version of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi padawan apprentice who appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. This would be the character’s first appearance in live-action.

I cannot put into words how excited I am. I’m already a fan of Rosario Dawson, having grown fond of her character in “Daredevil” and “The Defenders.” She has what it takes to bring Ahsoka to life. While Ashley Eckstein will always be Ahsoka’s true voice, I believe Rosario Dawson can bring her spirit to life.

Ahsoka reflects the best of what Star Wars can be. She embodies the journey, the struggle, and the hardship that comes with doing the right thing when everyone else is doing so much wrong. Her instincts aren’t always right and her attitude isn’t always endearing, but there’s no denying her spirit.

She’s a special soul and one that the world of Star Wars needs right now. I really hope this report turns out to be true. I look forward to seeing Ms. Dawson don her Togruta attire. Between her and Baby Yoda, the future of Star Wars looks both bright and adorable.

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“Paradise PD” Season 2: My Take (And Hopes For Season 3)

Some TV shows aren’t made to be dramatic, profound narratives on the human condition. They don’t stop at just being entertaining, either. Sometimes, a TV show is just there to be hilariously obscene, absurd, and funny. It doesn’t appeal to everyone, but there’s a place for it in the entertainment landscape. It’s a dark, dirty place that few admit to liking. It’s there, none-the-less.

I’d argue that, at this moment in time, “Paradise PD” has anchored itself in that dirtiest of dirty places. Not long ago, I cited the trailer for Season 2 as a means to call out the people who whined and complained about shows like “The Simpsons” and “South Park” back in the 90s. At the same time, I consider myself a fan of the show. I’ve been eagerly waiting for season two since it was announced late last year.

Well, this past weekend, I reserved a good chunk of my time to binge all of season 2. I bought myself a box of donuts, a case of beer, and an extra-comfortable pair of pants so I could take in this wildly obscene show in all it’s glory. After completing all eight episodes, catching my breath from all the laughter, and cleaning the entrails off my now-tainted soul, I feel I can make a full critical assessment of this season.

Simply put, it’s goddamn fucking awesome.

Yes, it’s obscene. You will see graphic depictions of male genitalia, fecal matter, breasts, and blood. You will also hear un-bleeped profanity, including the kinds of F-bombs that even “South Park” can’t drop. There are entire plots revolving around public masturbation, the ability to take a shit in a public restroom, and grown men comparing the size of their testicles.

Trust me, it’s every bit as NSFW as it sounds and then some.

It still works. You’ll hate yourself for laughing at some of the gratuitous violence and sex, but you’ll still laugh hard. It’s the kind of show that takes full advantage of being on Netflix and not subject to the censors of cable or network TV.

In many respects, “Paradise PD” feels like what its predecessor, “Brickleberry,” should’ve been. That’s not just because it has the same creators in Roger Black and Waco O’Guin, as well as the same aesthetics. “Brickleberry” barely walked the line in terms of how absurd and obscene it could get. “Paradise PD” doesn’t just jump over that line. It shoots in the balls and pisses on the entrails.

The characters in “Paradise PD” don’t try to be deep or introspective in the mold of “Bojack Horseman.” However, they’re a bit more balanced compared to “Brickleberry.” The main protagonist, Kevin, is still an idiot with many pathetic shortcomings, but he is sincere. He wants to be a good cop and, at times, he proves that he can be in the right situation.

Other characters, like Gina and Dusty, have a few defining traits, but they’re allowed to mix things up every now and then. Everyone in the show gets a few more layers in Season 2 and while their conduct still makes them walking FCC fines, they’re still likable, more so than almost every character in “Brickleberry.”

There’s even an overall arc, of sorts, for the season. It’s not overly complex. You can even skip a few episodes and still not be lost. It still has some dramatic stakes on top of the dick, poop, and sex jokes. They even build on some of the stakes that were established in the first season. It also leaves room to develop them even more in Season 3, if there is one.

I genuinely hope this show gets another season and not just because this one ended on a cliffhanger. This show, as obscene and dirty as it is, fills its niche perfectly. Again, it’s not for everyone. If you’re a child, a devout Christian, a radical feminist, or just someone with incredibly thin skin, this show probably won’t appeal to you. If you have a healthy sense of humor and a strong gag reflex, then “Paradise PD” is definitely binge-worthy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take a long shower while trying hard not to laugh at everything Hobson said.

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The Golden Age Of TV Just Got More Golden: HBO’s “Last Of Us” Announcement

In this age of fake news, baseless rumors, and 4chan leaks, it’s easy to be cynical. Even when you see news or rumors that seem genuinely good, it’s hard to believe it’s real. Sometimes, you feel like you live in a world where no news or rumors could possibly be that good. Therefore, it must be wrong or fake.

Then, every once in a while, something comes along that reminds you that genuine good can still happen in this crazy world. Even if it seems rare, that doesn’t make it any less awesome. That’s how I felt when news broke yesterday that HBO, fresh off the heels of turning “Watchmen” into an incredible TV series, announced that it was making a show based on the video game, “The Last of Us.”

CNN: HBO is turning “The Last of Us” video game into a TV series

To those who haven’t played this game or aren’t familiar with the story, it’s hard to appreciate why this news is so incredible. I’ve written about this game and its two titular characters, Ellie and Joel, before. However, the impact of this game goes beyond that. This is one of those rare games that isn’t just a game. It’s a narrative experience that hits you in ways you don’t expect.

On the surface, the primary experience is that of a post-apocalyptic survival horror game that just happens to be one of the most critically acclaimed games of the past 20 years. What makes it so special is how it evokes so many emotions along the way. I knew when I bought the game that it was heavy on drama. I braced myself, thinking I could handle it, especially after seeing “Logan.” It still wasn’t enough.

I’m not the only one who had that experience either. Many others have shared their experience with this game. It really is an emotional roller coaster in all the right ways. The idea that HBO is going to take that experience and build a show around it is just too amazing for words.

At the moment, there aren’t many details, other than the fact that Craig Mazin, who produced “Chernobyl,” is working with the game’s creator, Neil Druckmann. However, given how hard HBO has been working to fill the void left by “Game of Thrones,” I’m encouraged that they have that much more incentive make this show as incredible as the game.

I’ll definitely be following news about this announcement closely, moving forward. In the meantime, for those who don’t play video games and need proof that this game will make an awesome show, I offer you this.

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A Message For The Moral Crusaders Of My Childhood (Inspired By The Trailer For “Paradise PD” Season 2)

I’m old enough to remember when parents, teachers, and politicians protested incessantly about shows like “Beavis and Butt-Head” because they were too obscene.

I’m old enough to remember when parents, teachers, and politicians complained endlessly about the lyrics and themes of gangasta rap music.

I’m old enough to remember when parents, teachers, and politicians whined constantly about the violence depicted in every episode of “Power Rangers.”

Hell, I’m even old enough to remember when those same parents, teachers, and politicians said that “The Simpsons” were too immoral for prime-time TV. Those memories make me feel much older than I care to admit, but that’s beside the point.

I have a message for those same parents, teachers, and politicians of that era. I know some are no longer with us, but I know for a fact that plenty are still alive, healthy, and as vocal as ever about bemoaning anything obscene, objectionable, or fun. To those people, I have one simple request.

Watch the following trailer for “Paradise PD” Season 2 and then tell me how you feel about all those other shows you whined about throughout the 1990s. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

For the record, I’m a huge fan of “Paradise PD.” I’m very excited about Season 2. I know it’s a show that takes vulgarity, obscenity, and gratuitous violence to levels that even “South Park” won’t touch, but it’s more fun than a pervert in a panty factory and I intend to enjoy every second of it.

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The “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” Filter: A Simple Process For Making Choices

How do you make good choices?

How do you know when something is right, just, and ethical?

How do you go about determining the morality and ethics of any given situation?

These are the kinds of questions that lawmakers, philosophers, scientists, religious leaders, and YouTube commenters debate constantly. It’s one of those deep, fundamental issues that everyone contemplates regularly, but few can claim to understand. The world is so chaotic and complicated. It’s incredibly difficult to surmise a simple, concise, consistent standard for making good choices.

However, there are ways of simplifying that daunting process. It may still be impossible to completely resolve such issues for every person in every situation, but we can make it easier. As it just so happens, one of the greatest TV shows of all time, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” provides us with an important tool that also happens to be hilarious.

Using that tool is simple. It goes like this.

If a certain choice, response, or recourse seems like someone that the Gang would do in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” then chances are it’s not the one you should follow.

To anyone who has watched this show in any capacity, that makes total sense. For those who haven’t had a chance to watch this hilariously obscene middle finger to every sitcom ever made, here’s just a sample of what I’m talking about.

Even if you’re not familiar with the show, this should at least get you familiar with the implications. I’ve written aboutIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” in the context of its masterful handling of dark comedy. I concede that this is one of those shows that isn’t for everyone. It’s hard to explain to most people the appeal of a show that finds humor in baby funerals, crack binges, and unauthorized Lethal Weapon sequels.

At the same time, it’s because this show dives head-first into dark comedy that it paints a clear picture on what goes into making bad decisions. There’s no getting around it. The characters in this show, also known as the Gang, are not morally upstanding people. In fact, they don’t even try to be moral. Nearly every episode involves them pursuing some elaborate plot based entirely on selfishness, greed, ego, or misguided pettiness.

They’re not stupid on the level of Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin, but they aren’t very smart either. Everything they do, from hoarding gasoline in an oil crisis to stalking a waitress, is incredibly simplistic. It can always be reduced to a basic level of selfish narcissism that never goes beyond basic.

It’s because the Gang’s choices are so basic and self-serving that the show is so funny in the first place. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” essentially takes the unique setup of a sitcom to amplify all the terrible traits and tropes that frequently go along with other shows that try too hard to be deeper.

At its core, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” doubles down on the simplicity of having characters who don’t even try to be moral. Through 14 seasons, the Gang actively avoids any effort to change or grow in a meaningful way. Charlie, Dee, Dennis, Mac, and Frank are the same selfish narcissists they are in Season 14 as they are in Season 4.

Even as the show has gotten bolder and more absurd with the Gang’s antics, their motivations are the same. They don’t need to be overly complex to be funny. That’s what makes these characters and the entire premise of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” such a great filter.

The next time you’re in a situation where you need to make a decision, try and apply this filter. What would Sweet Dee do? What would Frank Reynolds do? What would Dennis, Mac, and Charlie do? If you can determine that, then you can also determine exactly what not to do.

Even if it’s not specific, the moral filter of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” can act as a reminder. If you’re going to be exceedingly selfish and narcissistic in making decisions, then you’re tempting fate the same way the Gang does with every absurd antic. Doing so will rarely pan out well for you and those around you.

If you need further proof, just look at Rickety Cricket.

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