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First, the good news.

Best Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Years of Devotion to How I Met Your Mother and Scrubs has been painful at times, as both of these hilarious but criminally under watched shows suffered from time slot shifts and near cancellation more than once. But HIMYM‘s fifth season was all but assured this year as it experienced a small uptick thanks to it’s new lead in. Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady’s superior Friends meets Seinfeld meets SciFi convention multicam sitcom has quickly become the most reliable funny show on the boob tube.

Best Comedic Performance- Male

Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

The lanky actor with a slight lisp and a gift for comedic OCD reactions has been the breakout  star on a solid ensemble cast. A virtual unknown before the show, he has quickly become the front man for the cast, doing more press than all the others four combined. And if anyone has seen his spots on Craig Ferguson, he is charming, funny, and Un-Sheldonlike. But nothing tops TBBT Christmas episode, in which Sheldon hugs Penny ( Kaley Cuoco)- that is physical comedy at it’s best.

Best Comedic Performance- Female

Jane Krakowski as Jenna on 30 Rock

She has always been funny ( look at her character on Ally McBeal), but this year, Jenna has been inspired, even profane ( black face? Seriously?). Jane and Tracy Morgan are making a brilliantly idiotic comic team. Jenna’s vacuous presence makes up for a more uneven season.

Best Drama Series

Chuck (NBC)

Okay, it’s one of the funniest shows on TV. But this spy dramedy mashup is also one of the most affecting shows I have ever had the privilege to watch. The Josh Schwartz /Chris Fedak run show has vastly improved in it’s second season ( and it’s first, strike shortened season wasn’t bad to begin with). Wildly inventive while being almost religiously devoted to geek world references ( plus a deep love of the 80s- the show adores Spies Like Us to the point of ridiculousness, but you love every minute of it). Bonus- an awesome soundtrack. Well, it is a Josh Schwartz show.

Best Dramatic Performance- Male

Zachary Levi as Chuck Bartowski, Chuck

We in the know and who loved Less than Perfect  remember Levi as being comically gifted ( and a great singer- ” Luck be A Lady” was a series highlight for me). But his portrayal of the Nerd Herder with a government computer in his brain is a gentle mix of comedy and pathos. He breaks my heart as often as he makes me laugh. And now that he knows kung fu, I’m all agog. Brilliant.

Best Dramatic Performance- Female

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen, Mad Men

As the girl who walks into the mean manly man world of advertising, she delivers a subtle, heart breaking performance. She has suffered tremendously for her ambition on both a personal and a professional level, but do not mistake her for a pushover. Moss, so winning on The West Wing as Zoey Bartlett, has really grown into a spectacularly nuanced actress.

Best Series Finale- Till it wasn’t

Scrubs (ABC)

In perfect cohesion with the rest of the series. Everyone was there. Hooch really is crazy. Beardface, Snoop Dogg Intern/Resident, Gloria, even those who have passed. A sweet sentimental moment where J.D. ( Zach Braff- still so good here) sees his future. Small cameo by Bill Lawrence himself. Then ABC ruins my deep affection for this perfect episode of a much beloved network cannon fodder show by bringing it back for a ninth season. It still is a moving show, but I can’t imagine Scrubs without J.D.

Best Series Finale That Is Actually A Finale

ER (NBC)

The Thursday night lead out for fifteen seasons, ER  stopped being the big focus of NBC somewhere around the time George Clooney left. Lord knows I barely watched it in the last decade. But I tuned in all the same. And it, too, was a perfect finale. In fact, it really wasn’t a finale at all. Yes, old timer cast members came back for a visit, but it felt organic, not forced. The episode mirrored the pilot in many ways, yes, but it felt like it was true to the show as a whole. It was special because it wasn’t special.

And now the bad:

Worst “Comedy”

Kath and Kim ( NBC)

Just not funny. Too bad. I love Molly Shannon.

Worst ” Drama”

Knight Rider ( NBC)

This show wasn’t that good in the 80s when Hasselhoff was the MAN. Did Silverman and co. really think it would work now?

Moments from the season that should be remembered:

  • Adam Lambert’s gorgeous version of ” Mad World”, Kris Allen’s stunning rendition of ” Falling Slowly”, Allison Iraheta ‘s exquisite ” Someone To Watch Over Me”, and whatever that note was that Danny Gokey let loose at the end of ” Dream On” which wasn’t even human. ( American Idol)
  • An injury plagued season of Dancing With The Stars that was more entertaining than it had any right to be.
  • Barney Stinson is in love with Robin Sherbatsky!
  • While we’re on the topic of HIMYM, damn, they did the lamest/coolest job of hiding Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders pregnancies.
  • I cannot reiterate how hilarious the hug Sheldon gave Penny in the Christmas episode of The Big Bang Theory is. Just genius.
  • Chuck Bass says ” I love you”. Twice.
  • The entire second season of Chuck. This show is so much better than Heroes.
  • House losing his mind. Kutner’s suicide. Amber. Huddy sex that wasn’t real.  ( House).
  • The performance of Harvey Keitel in the short but glorious run of ABC’s Life On Mars. yes, I was the person watching.
  • Barack Obama elected to the office of President of the United States of America. ( every network imaginable).
  • The Daily Show
  • The White Stripes showing up to sing ” We Are Going To be friends” on Conan O’Brien’s last Late Night
  • Jimmy Fallon not totally sucking as he took over Conan’s slot.
  • Jimmy is still no match for Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show.
  • The Colbert Report
  • Hugh Jackman hosting the Oscars. The Theater geek in me died a glorious,rapturous death. I loved most of it.
  • Gray Gardens
  • Almost everything on the Food Network’s prime time sked.

So this lead me to the question of the day. What was your highlight of the 2008-2009 TV season?

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Chuck has been officially renewed. It does start after the Olympics in March, it will continue to be on Mondays, and Ben Silverman has said there is a chance of a back nine pick up if the original order of thirteen episodes goes well. Either way, Chuck will be back for a third season. That’s all we really wanted, right?

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Chuck Update

  1. Please ignore all rumors- NBC did momentarily have Series Finale on the official Chuck webpage, but that has been fixed. NBC may be stupid, but they are not THAT stupid. Also, there is no merit to the suggestions that ABC would pick up Chuck. There is no financial incentive for them to do so. This is not a Scrubs situation. NBC will announce Chuck’s fate on May 5, liek it has been said by every executive, Josh and Chris, and television critic for the past month. As Chuck would say, don’t freak out.
  2. I will be posting my ruminations about “Chuck vs. the Ring” later on. Work has been busy and I’m still going over my notes.
  3. Do not, however, get complacent about the ” To be continued” message at the end of the show last night. Continue to do all the things the fan pages suggest and keep the pressure up.

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Yes, Chuck fans, today is the season finale.

Now, there are rumors floating about that Chuck has been picked up for thirteen ( no truth to that), Nikki Finke saying that the show is safe ( I have issues with Ms. Finke at times, some things she wrote during the WGAstrike hurt some writer friends deeply, so I take what she says with a grain of salt). Let me be clear- THERE IS NO TRUTH TO ANY OF THESE RENEWAL STORIES. So do not think that we are in the clear ( I suspect Chuck will be renewed, because of the help we fans got from prominent TV critics from the Chicago Tribune, The NJ Star-Ledger, and Ausiello at EW.com, which turned a grassroots movement that would probably been effective to a point into a national story not seen since Jericho was cancelled the first time). If we are lucky to see our favorite Buy More employee and the gang back for season three, we cannot give up the big fight- we have to continue to tout the show at every possible moment and make sure people tune in for season three.

The fact is, rarely do these fan based reactionary movements work. the most famous one is of course the Jericho ” nuts” campaign, which saw Les Moonves’ office filled with peanuts. The most successful one in history was the letter writing campaign that saved 80s cop classic Cagney and Lacey, a show cancelled after it’s first season only to return for another five (it also had Ms. magazine backing it). There is also The Family Guy, cancelled by Fox only to come back years later due to the ratings the show got on Adult Swim. That show is also still on the air after many seasons.

The thing that is different about the Chuck campaing, though, is the fan ingenuity. It was a fan who came up with the Subway campaign. See, Subway is prominent in it’s product placement on the show, including the character of Morgan Grimes ( the invaluable Joshua Gomez) singing the $5 footlong jingle a couple of episodes ago. Fans actually praise the product placement on Chuck- it’s obvious, sure, but it’s done in the most fun loving, goofy way. That is why this idea got legs. We all know product placement is the wave of the advertising future on TV, as the rise of DVRs and TV on DVD attest ( not to mention the continued popularity of torrent files). What could be more effective than showing both the advertiser and the network that the idea actually works? NBC has been the most aggressive network in this arena ( see: entire episodes of 30 Rock based around McFlurries and such). They are dying to prove that product placement works. We are helping them prove a point by showing the advertiser that we are watching and listening. It’s easy to be cynical and jaded about the practice, but damn it, we aren’t idiots. Advertising dollars propel the TV industry- that’s why Neilsens, however ineffective, are still the standard we use to gauge viewership. The assumption is if 1% of the population are recorded as watching a certain television show, the number correlate out by formula, there by 2 1/2 Men scores 17 million viewers in a week ( I really don’t know how accurate that is, honestly. No one I know likes that show, but almost everyone I know watches The Big Bang Theory at some point during the week).

The money train, though, is the most important thing to the networks. And that has been part of Chuck’s problem. See, Heroes ( craptastic as it is right now) is owned outright by NBC/Universal, it gets all the money from DVD and International sales. Chuck is produced out of Warner Brothers studios, which means that NBC has to pay the WB a licensing fee, and they don’t garner a huge chunk of those DVD and International sales.  That is why, despite comparable numbers ( Heroes still draws in a few hundred thousand more, plus a bit more in the oh-so important 18-49 demo), Heroes pulled in an early renewal call and Chuck- well, by all accounts, it’s on the positive side of the bubble, but it’s on the bubble none the less.

All things being considered though, Chuck has everything going for it- it’s like Lost and Heroes in it’s dense mythology, but unlike both of those shows, it’s actually funny, light hearted, positive, and charming on top of smart and thrilling. It’s not weighed down by a ridiculously massive cast that requires maneuvering ridiculous amounts of story lines. It says great things about family and friends. It’s actually quite family friendly ( I know last weeks Chuck-Sarah make out session was a little steamy, but as my preteen daughter pointed out, when was the last time you saw a show that actually encouraged responsible sexual practices and said condoms are important and don’t sex someone up without one. Yeah, but you know, I’m one of those ridiculously open liberal parents that allows my kids to swear because there are worse things in the world they could be doing, like robbing liquor stores). And the cast has shown in the last few weeks that they really appreciate us as the fans.  Few shows have the majority of their cast and crew talk to the hosts of a fan podcast to discuss things the way Chuck’s cast and crew did last week for Chuck vs. The Podcast. Few show runners would engage their fans in interviews, thanking them and encouraging the ” Take It To the Man” attitudes. Few would actually say ” Send Nerds” ( as in the candies) like  Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak did. Fans often feel passionately about their shows, but there often seems like there is a wall between creators and fans, and we never even know if they know how passionate we are about what they do. The Internet has changed this somewhat, and I have seen show runners get majorly involved now in fan communities ( Criminal Minds Fanatic has a notoriously close relationship with Ed Bernaro and the creative crew on that show). Chuck falls on that side of the TV world. A lot of that, I’m convinced of, is Josh Schwartz being so frakkin’ young himself, growing up in the era of video games and the rise of the Internet. Chuck’s NBC page uses integration really well, and Schwartz ( who also produces the CW’s Gossip Girl- talk about a Sophie’s Choice situation in the Schwartz home Mondays at 8 pm) is savvier than most about the ways to use the Internet community. 

Another fan based movement happens on the mother of all Internet driven commercial real estate- ITunes. Chuck is available on ITunes, and  so is the music. Chuck fans have been encouraged to of course purchase episodes off of the music store, but there has also been a push to buy the music featured. The Chuck soundtrack is heavy on two things- indie rock ( Bon Iver, Phantom Planet, Spoon, Flight Of the Conchords) and eighties classics ( Rush, Journey, Twisted Sister, Huey Lewis and The News). I know I have bought songs simply because I heard it on Chuck first. And I have apparently forgotten how much I loved Huey Lewis as a kid. I would like to thank Chuck for reminding me.

And more on that eighties thing- well, it’s less about the eighties per se than the genius way this show pays homage to the popular culture of the people of my age group. Emmett Millbarge- totally Spies Like Us. The Godfather? Well, you know that the Buy More is just a different kind of mafia, right?  Casablanca is probably referenced in this show more than one could possibly realize. There have lines cribbed from everything- James Bond, The Warriors, Quantum Leap, Jerry Maguire… part of the fun is realizing that yes, Nicole Richie and Ben Savage’s characters are, in fact, named Heather Chandler and Mark Ratner ( from the two greatest high school movies ever- Heathers and Fast Times At Ridgemont High).

Then there is that cast. Adam Baldwin as the indomitable Maj. ( now Col.) John Casey- a mix of his characters in My Bodyguard and Firefly ( Jayne Cobb=John Casey on earth and with a badge). The beautiful Yvonne Strahovski ( nicknamed Strahotski by libido charged fanboys) has grown into her difficult role of kick ass chick with a gun and a heart. How can you hate a show with a character nicknamed Captain Awesome, and Ryan McPartlin’s character has developed from one note joke to the person Chuck first tells about his secret. Sarah Lancater’s Ellie Bartowski is a smart woman who loves her brother to the point of almost smothering him, but she genuinely cares about what he is doing with his life. Jeff and Lester provide hilarious comic relief at the Buy More, and let’s face it, Jeffster is the coolest lame ass band in TV history. Morgan Grimes is the devoted best friend, and the Chuck-Morgan bromance is the stuff of legend. Then there is Zachary Levi as Chuck- handsome but not so much so as to be unbelievable as a geek, but not so geeky as to be off putting. He’s charming, affable, and funny, and a really great actor. I’m actually sure of the fact if it wasn’t for the show’s lead, the show would not work. Sometimes character and actor just mesh in a way as to become one. From all accounts, Zac Levi is an awful lot like Chuck in real life- video gamer, sweet, generous, and warm.

There are many reasons why Chuck deserves a third season, most of them listed above. But let me just say one more thing before I go and Twitter some more about the Subway thing and the season finale and just how beloved this show actually has become. I can tell you right now that the first two episodes were fun but didn’t inspire diehard loyalty from me. It wasn’t until the show’s mythology began to develop around the middle of season one I became hooked. What was a funny little spy show became deeper and more involved in “Chuck vs. the Alma Mater”, when you began to get a sense that the reason for Chuck to become the human intersect was bigger than originally thought. This is one show that has gotten better with each episode. Hurt by the ten month layoff the strike caused, being in the most competativetime slot ( Mondays at 8 ET- opposite House, Dancing With the Stars, The CBS comedies The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, and Gossip Girl on the CW), this show deserves so much better than NBC has given it. And the best thing I think NBC, after handing over five hours of prime time to a comedian ( even money from me Jay’s show fails), being in fourth place, and with little looking all that promising for them, is too reward a loyal, if small, audience.

Here’s hoping for season three of Chuck, with at least thirteen, preferably twenty two, episodes. There are worse things that could happen.

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Okay, sorry I slacked off the last two days, Chuck fans, I was simply so tired I couldn’t function all too well. To make it up to you all, some Chuck goodies.

I know we’ve all seen it, but here we are again: the promo for tomorrow’s episode, the season finale- Chuck vs. The Ring.

Next, a pic of the two men I adore, Zac Levi and Adam Baldwin. I love me some Chuck and Casey…

Maj. (now Col.) John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Chuck Bartowski ( Zachary Levi)

Maj. (now Col.) John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Chuck Bartowski ( Zachary Levi)

And now, the new hot Chuck viral video: JEFFSTER!

For good measure- cast photos:

Mark Christopher Lawrence, Joshua Gomez, Scott Krinsky, Julia Ling, Zachary Levi

Mark Christopher Lawrence, Joshua Gomez, Scott Krinsky, Julia Ling, Zachary Levi

Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Yvonne Strahovski, Zachary Levi, Adam Baldwin

Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Yvonne Strahovski, Zachary Levi, Adam Baldwin

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Chuck on the beach

Chuck on the beach

Another picture of the smoking hot Zac Levi as Chuck Bartowski. Remember to watch on Monday, April 27 at 8 PM ET on NBC ( City TV in Canada). Please remember to grab yourself some Subway $5 footlongs and drop off a comment card, ask for a recipt and mail it to Subway headquarters. Also add a note to NBC in Burbank.

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Chuck season finale promo. Ack!

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