Tube Talk: Slacker geeks leading double lives TV’s new trend

July 1, 1993

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-119264757113982.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.z.about.com’, ‘The cast of NBC’s Chuck.‘);

Slacker geeks leading double lives seems to be a trend this season. On NBC’s Chuck, our hapless hero works as a computer repair guy at the fictitious Buy More’s Nerd Herd (think Best Buy’s Geek Squad). After accidentally downloading an entire server of the government’s most sensitive information, Chuck (Zachary Levi) finds he’s become one of the government’s most vital assets because the only copy of that information is now stored in his brain.

Meanwhile, on Reaper, hapless hero Sam (Bret Harrison) works a dead-end job at the equally fictitious Work Bench (think Home Depot). While “hero” might seem an odd thing to call the devil’s bounty hunter, Sam is helping save the world from all kinds of evil by facing down demons and eradicating them. Buffy—who had her own thankless job one season at the Double Meat Palace—was a heroine, so I guess that makes Sam a hero, too.

At their core, Sam and Chuck are both slackers who’ve been given a second chance to do something with their lives. Knowing they’d sold his soul to the devil before he was born, Sam’s parents never pushed him to excel, and he dropped out of college and wound up at the Work Bench. Chuck landed a job with the Nerd Herd after his time at Stanford University was cut short when his dorm mate framed him for stealing tests. Yep. That’s the same guy who sent Chuck the files now lodged in his brain.

Chuck and Sam try to hide their secret lives from their managers, who, incidentally, have offered both guys a chance to ascend to assistant manager status. Could their newfound responsibilities be increasing their confidence in the workplace?

While Sam’s best friend, Sock (Tyler Labine) and work buddy Ben (Rick Gonzalez) help round up and trap the demonic souls and deposit them at the DMV, Chuck’s best friend and fellow Buy More employee, Morgan (Joshua Gomez), doesn’t have a clue about his friend’s double life. He really thinks the beautiful blonde CIA agent, Sarah (Yvonne Strzechowski), is Chuck’s new girlfriend, and that the NSA agent posing as Buy More’s newest employee (Adam Baldwin) is just a creepy co-worker who always seems to be watching Chuck.

Both reluctant heroes have allies, yet Chuck hides his secret life from his sister (Sarah Lancaster), and Sam hides his from his crush, Andi (Missy Peregrym). Sam has it a little easier, since he only works with Andi, but Chuck lives with his sister.

As far as their respective bosses, we know Sam’s is evil, if not deceptively charming, since he is the devil (Ray Wise). Chuck has never met his mysterious governmental bosses, but from what we see of them in videoconferences with the agents, they seem colder and scarier than the devil himself.

The shows sound a lot more alike on paper than they really are, but Chuck is the show I enjoy the most. It’s a bit smarter and a little more stylized than Reaper. Then again, Reaper has an immensely watchable and charismatic devil in Ray Wise.

What I like about both shows is that there’s more to these unassuming guys than most people around them will ever know. Battling demons or international espionage, these slackers rule.

Programming notes: Chuck airs at 7 p.m., Mondays on NBC and Reaper airs at 8 p.m., Tuesdays on CW.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to tubetalking-paula@yahoo.com.

from the Oct. 17-23, 2007, issue

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