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The Green Room: Chuck Co-Creator Chris Fedak Thanks Fans

April 6th, 2011 by Rebecca Harper Editor

With Hulu’s second annual Best in Show winner announced, we spoke to “Chuck” co-creator Chris Fedak to see if he’d share some thoughts on his show winning the competition and talk to us about the series and the growth of its characters over the last four years.

Hi Chris, we were hoping to talk to you about “Chuck” and how it won Hulu’s Best in Show. I have to admit I was surprised a little bit, because it won by a landslide, over “Dexter.”
Chris Fedak, co-creator, “Chuck”
: Well, first of all, thank you so much. It’s great to win, and we’re always in awe of our fans. They’re an amazing group. They’ve been fantastic to the show in years past and we’ve always relied upon then. I guess it’s kind of a testament to how much they really did the show, and we really like making the show for them, so it’s really cool.

Chuck” beat out three other critically acclaimed shows — “Modern Family,” “Community,” and “Dexter.” We asked this of Josh Gomez [who plays Chuck's sidekick, Morgan, on the show]: Do you think this indicates that “Chuck” belongs in the pantheon of all-time greatest TV shows?

Wow. I think it when it comes to the greatest of all time TV pantheon, I’ll let the critical historians 100 years from now make that decision. We’re just excited to be on the air, making our show, and being the absolute best action-spy comedy set inside a big box store that we could possibly be. We’re of course huge fans of all of those shows. It’s great, but I think I’ll leave the absolute pantheon to the experts.

Speaking of big box stores, I have to ask how that came about. “Chuck” came out at about the same time as “Reaper,” both taking place inside megastores. What is it about that kind of environment that inspired you?

Essentially, you have to go back to 2007. Imagine the fact there was actually two shows with a strong big box component that also had a strong genre component. At the time, Josh [Schwartz, co-creator of "Chuck"] and I were just amazed that there was going to be two shows. We thought obviously we would be the only show doing this. It didn’t turn out to be the case. The show is a mash-up. It’s a combination of one part “The Office,” one part “24,” one part “Alias.” When you mash those shows together, what happens? What we were really excited about is if you built the show like something like “The Office,” where you essentially met all these characters and you loved them, and then how terrifying it would be if Sydney Bristow or Jack Bauer came into the office, because you knew, when those people showed up, that someone was going to get shot, and someone was going to get tortured, and someone was going to get killed. That’s where the initial germ of the “Chuck” show came from. So the big box store was always there at the beginning. That was the basis for the idea: what happens when people from another genre, from an action show, walk into that world. It’s made for a really fun show that’s always been about bending genres. It’s been a lot of fun for us to be working with something so unique.

We asked our guest critic, HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall, what he thought was the secret formula to “Chuck.” And he said it was made with a lot of love directed at its characters and pop culture. What do you think of that?
I think it’s spot-on. I think this is a show designed for people who 1) love pop culture, 2) love TV, and 3) love movies and music. And in some ways, it’s also a love letter to spy shows from the past. When you take all those things together, we don’t have the largest audience in the world, but we do have an audience that just adores the show and really digs what we do. It’s made for that kind of passionate fan base that we talked about earlier. For us, it’s exciting to make as how that can be that specific and have fun with that.

Much has been made of the Subway campaign from 2009. Are you guys still seeing some sort of residual impact of this?
Well my father tells me he still goes to Subway every night we have an episode air, so I think there is some residual. You’d have to ask the experts at Subway if they see an uptick on Monday nights from “Chuck” viewing parties. It’s one of those things where it was very exciting in Season 2 when it was a toss up if we were going to come back or not, and the Subway campaign was a really clever idea by our fans to show how they could influence the show — and of course, looking at our integration partner Subway was a great way to kind of show their support for the show. It was a very clever and savvy campaign by our fans. I think that also speaks to our fans: it’s a very bright crowd. Our fans know about every campaign associated with our show. It’s kind of amazing. We’ve had two seasons since then.

I think that’s a true testament — people typically hate product integration.
The one benefit we have with product integration with our show is that we did set our story inside a store. So that helps a little bit.

Let’s talk about Season 4. I’d say the characters have grown a bit; you’ve shown that they can progress beyond that post-college world where they don’t know where their future lies. What have been some of your favorite moments this season?
I think this season has really been about change, especially for our characters. The show started off as a show about a quarter-life crisis, with Chuck not sure what he wanted to do with his life. But it’s now four years later, so he’s much more of a man than he used to be. Just from Chuck’s perspective, we’ve had some great moments this season where he’s coming to realize that he needs to take the next step with Sarah Walker. Just looking at this season, I immediately think about episode 13 when he finally asked Sarah to marry him. It’s really bookended by episode 11, where he starts to ask her to marry him, and in episode 13 after the birth of his niece, in the hallway with the someone vacuuming at the far end of the hall, he decides to ask Sarah to marry him. I think for us, just working on the show, that was just an epic moment that we’ve been building to for four years. Much like, in the same episode, Ellie and Awesome giving birth to their child. It’s so interesting to take these characters who in the pilot only had a couple of lines and progress them through the show this season.

I think that Chuck seeing his mom for the first time and beginning to understand her backstory and why she left so many years ago was also a very important component to his journey this year. We’re working on our season finale now where, for him to have a happy ending and for him to survive, he’s going to have to become the hero he has to be. If he can do it, this is his greatest test. The finale will very much be a giant moment for Chuck Bartowski moving forward.

You’ve had an incredible run of guest stars through the years. Who have been your favorites, and who can we look forward to seeing in the rest of the season?
Back in the day, we’d say we were the “Love Boat” of spy shows. We found it really fun to write for guest stars. Just off the top of my head, I’d say there’s people like Chevy Chase who, in Season 2, was amazing to work with and actually write that character, Chevy Chase as a villain. I think we were the first show to kill off Chevy Chase, which is kind of a shocking thing to do. I’m kind of amazed my that. We’ve also had John Larroquette. I was a huge “Night Court” fan for many years. It was great to not only introduce him as Roan Montgomery but also to bring him back this season. That’s the kind of fun thing about our show. We’ve built this spy world, much like “Alias,” which is one of my favorite shows and helped to rejuvenate the genre. In Season 4, we revisit this spy world with guest stars like Dolph Lundgren. But I really enjoyed the character of Alexei Volkoff [played by former James Bond Timothy Dalton, and named after the Russian wrestler Nikolai Volkoff, a nod to Chris' days as a WWF fan]. We’ll get to see him again in our next episode.

Now what about the season finale? Since the fate of “Chuck” hasn’t been decided yet, will you leave things hanging?
We’ve always been inclined to do really crazy season finale episodes. This one is called “Chuck vs. the Cliffhanger,” so you know it’s going to be a big one.

Last comment: about 9 hours ago 5 Comments

The Green Room: Josh Gomez Talks “Chuck” and Best in Show

April 5th, 2011 by Rebecca Harper Editor

With “Chuck” soundly beating “Dexter” in Hulu’s second annual Best in Show, we asked “Chuck” star Joshua Gomez (who plays Chuck’s sidekick, Morgan Grimes) about the contest and maybe even give us a little scoop about the rest of the season via email. Stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with the show’s co-creator, Chris Fedak.

Hulu: “Chuck” finished out the competition soundly beating three of the most critically acclaimed shows — “Modern Family,” “Community” and “Dexter” — of the last few years. Do you think this is validation that Chuck belongs in the Greatest of All-Time TV Pantheon?


Josh Gomez:
It proves that “Chuck” FANS are among the Greatest of All-Time TV Fans! There are a lot of great shows out there right now, and we’re proud to have healthy competition. We love making “Chuck,” and we couldn’t do that without all of the support from our fans.



What was it about Season 4 that you think got “Chuck” fans mobilized to get out there and vote? After all, the show didn’t make it to the Final Four last year.
What it was was the end of an era known as “Lost!” It’s one of my favorite shows, and I might have had a tough time choosing last year.
 But back to this year: Season 4 has had some of my personal favorite episodes, and overall has been so much fun for me, thanks to Morgan joining Team Bartowski. Chuck and Sarah are moving forward in their relationship, Morgan even has a great girl (despite her overly protective Dad), and the good guys are still beating the bad guys. Life is good on Chuck.
 


We asked our guest critic, HitFix.Com editor Alan Sepinwall — a huge fan of the show — what he think the “secret formula” is to “Chuck.” He said this: “The show’s made with a lot of love, for both its characters and for the pop culture that its writers and fans grew up on, and that comes across.” How much of this do you think is true?
I would say a lot of that is true. The show really speaks to our fans. It has witty humor, fun references, and TONS of heart. It’s a show that attracts young, hip people, nerds (like myself), and even many families watch and enjoy it together. We hope to bring quality entertainment to our smart and loyal fan base. 
 


What do you think the “secret formula” is? 


It’s a show about an ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation. Well, a super-extended, possibly permanent extraordinary situation with the Intersect being in his head and all. But Chuck is someone people can relate to. And so is Morgan. It’s exciting to play a regular guy that has to help save the world from bad guys. It’s basically like my childhood dream. Maybe that’s the secret formula.



Do you think this confirms that the Chuck fan base is one of the most loyal and enthusiastic in TV? What do you think makes them so passionate about this show?


Umm … YES!!! Many of our fans relate to the show, as I’ve already mentioned, and many are also tech savy. Plus they RULE. Thanks everyone!!!
 


What can we expect from Season 5? And are we in for a 2012 repeat of Best in Show?


Season 5 — fingers crossed that we get there — will be awesome (pardon my McPartlin voice). We’ll be revealing another game changer the end of Season 4. Next season, there will be more action, more fun, more goofiness, more heart, more everything. I can’t give details, but I think you’ll love it. 


Last comment: about 8 hours ago 5 Comments

Announcing the Best in Show Winner: “Chuck”

April 4th, 2011 by Rebecca Harper Editor

On March 1, we challenged you to vote for the best show on TV today with the help of television critic Alan Sepinwall, Senior Editor for the entertainment site HitFix. While Alan got a five percent voice in which shows would advance in each tournament-style round — and his say only swayed the results in one challenge, when “Vampire Diaries” took a bite out of “True Blood” in round one — it was ultimately up to you, the fans, to make the call in Hulu’s Best in Show. After 5 million votes and some heated competition — rabid “Supernatural” fans rallied around their beloved CW series, only to see it eliminated in week two; “Dexter” surprised many of us by slashing through “Glee” with ease that week, as well — there was room for just one winner: “Chuck.”

While the series — a favorite of Sepinwall’s — may not be at the top of critics’ lists, one thing’s for sure: “Chuck” fans are a passionate lot. They snacked on Subway sandwiches as a sign of loyalty in 2009, helping convince NBC to renew the show; this year, it seems, they came together on Hulu to show their support for the nerd-turned-super spy’s fourth season.

To wrap up Hulu’s second annual Best in Show tournament, we went back to Alan Sepinwall for his take on the “Chuck” phenomenon this year.

Hulu: In 2009, “Chuck” fans rallied to save the show by buying Subway sandwiches. Do you think that its popularity in Best in Show is a similar attempt to get the show back for a fifth season?
Alan Sepinwall:
That was definitely the attitude in that “Chuck”/”Community” match-up [in Week 4]. “Community” had just been renewed, while “Chuck” is still very much on the bubble. And while I don’t believe this contest is actually going to influence NBC’s decision one way or another, fans of a show like to feel like they can do something to try to help.

So what’s “Chuck’s” secret formula? What do you think resonates with fans — particularly those who are online?
“Chuck” is, like its hero, unapologetically fun and warm and eager to please. It’s not trying to be cool because it can’t be, and I think that’s a lot of what the fans love about it. The show’s made with a lot of love, for both its characters and for the pop culture that its writers and fans grew up on, and that comes across. Its appeal isn’t wide enough — or else it wouldn’t be on the bubble every year — but the people who love the show really love it.

Earlier in the tournament, there was a controversial round where “Chuck” edged by “Supernatural” — much to the dismay of SN fans. It’s all speculation at this point, but how do you think the competition would have turned out had “Supernatural” won?
I could have easily seen “Supernatural” winning out. That show’s fans are also crazy-passionate, and they beat out “Chuck” and a bunch of other cult-ish shows to win that TV Guide magazine cover contest a few months back.

The final round came down to “Dexter” and “Chuck.” What would have been your dream playoff?
My four favorite shows in the bracket were, in no particular order, “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad.” None of them ever wound up being matched against each other — for which I’m a little glad — but I think a final round between one of the hilarious NBC comedies and one of the gripping AMC dramas would’ve been pretty spectacular. Of course, I’m not sure how I would have voted in such a circumstance. Ron Swanson or Don Draper? Troy Barnes or Walter White?

And finally, who’s your money on for next year?
Well, if “Chuck” gets renewed, you can never count that show out. Otherwise, I’d install “Community” as an early favorite, based on how it’s done in the contest the last two years.

Last comment: about 7 hours ago 6 Comments

Best in Show: The Final Showdown

March 28th, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

This is it.

We started with 32 shows and now we’re down to two. After four rounds of heated competition, you decided that either “Chuck” or “Dexter” is the best show on TV. Now it’s time to pick a winner for Hulu’s second annual Best in Show. Voting is open until we announce a winner on April 4.
Will Dexter carve out a place for himself in history, or will Chuck covertly sneak in as the best show of 2010-2011? TV expert and HitFix.com Senior Editor Alan Sepinwall is here to explain what the shakeout of the Final Four means, how this final pairing can shape TV’s future, and to which show he’s handing his final, five-percent vote for Best in Show.

Hulu: If “Dexter” wins this thing, does that make it a candidate to be an all-time great? It gets overlooked by the Greatness Hype that has pervaded “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Boardwalk Empire” discussions. Doesn’t that belong in those discussions at this point?
Alan Sepinwall:
With all due respect to the fans who have pushed it this far in the contest, I have to say no. “Dexter” is a show with a brilliant lead performance that had a great first couple of seasons (though the second season ended poorly after a great start) and has — outside of the Michael C. Hall/John Lithgow acting duel in season 4 — been largely going through the motions ever since. A fun show. Not an all-timer.

“Dexter” dominated “Glee,” a show you thought had a very good chance to win the whole contest. “Community” completely derailed all of its competition, until it faced off against “Chuck” in this round. Meanwhile, “Chuck’s” only challenge came from “Supernatural,” which arguably had the competition’s most vocal support. Should we have foreseen this final coming early on?
Given what I know A) about the passion of “Community” fans, and B) how last year’s Best in Show went (where the guest critic had a stronger vote and wasn’t a “Community” fan at the time), I have not been surprised in the least about “Community’s” success. Nor “Chuck’s,” for reasons I’ll get to below. As I’ve said, “Dexter” crushing “Glee” was by far the biggest shocker of the tournament for me, though in retrospect “Glee” losing to a show whose support we all underestimated.

“Dexter” has been heavy on guest stars this season. While this is used as a cheap trick on a lot of shows, “Dexter” seems to use them effectively and genuinely. Can shows use this season as a primer on how to work cameos effectively?
“Dexter” uses guest stars well in part because its regular characters other than Dexter (and, at times, his sister) aren’t particularly deep, and aren’t allowed to know about Dexter’s other, more interesting, life. So they have to put him up against non-regulars whenever he’s being himself. But even “Dexter” has had a spotty record with guest stars. Most of them were good this season, and Lithgow was fantastic last season, but Jimmy Smits (an actor I usually like) was a real misfire the year before.

Where are these “Chuck” superfans coming from? Did you have any idea how avid and vocal their fan base is?
Given that I was there to witness the fan campaign that helped save the show from cancellation two years ago, I’m not the least bit surprised by how much they’ve been supporting their show here. These are people who went out and bought Subway sandwiches to help keep their favorite on the air when it was most vulnerable; for this, they didn’t even have to spend money.

In a couple of years, are we going to look back at any show and say, “How could that have possibly not won Best in Show in 2011?” And are we going to be embarrassed by any show’s particularly lengthy run?
“House” (which was a strong show once upon a time but is now mostly running on fumes) took out the two shows that I’d easily consider to be the best of Best in Show: “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” I understand why it happened — many, many, many more people watch “House” than either AMC show — but I think history is going to look far more kindly and frequently on Don Draper and Walter White than on Greg House.

We want to thank you again for supplying five percentage points of brilliance to this contest. So for the very last time: Who do you see winning Best in Show?
“Chuck.”

Last comment: about 17 hours ago 40 Comments

Best in Show: The Final Four

March 21st, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

Well, that was close.

If the “Dexter” vs. “How I Met Your Mother” matchup in the Elite Eight of Hulu’s Best in Show is any indication of how testy the Final Four is going to be, we’re going to need to provide some padding. The Showtime staple barely edged out Barney Stinson and friends in the closest vote to date.

And to ensure that we’re giving you all the time you need to cast your vote in the last round (which kicks off next Monday, March 28), we’re extending Best in Show through April 3, with the grand champion announced on Monday, April 4. So will it be “Community” or “Chuck” versus “House” or “Dexter?” Hitfix.com Senior Editor — and his 5 percent of the vote — is here to dissect the madness of the third round and help break down the Final Four.

Hulu: “Chuck” is getting a substantial late push after barely surviving its Round 2 matchup against “Supernatural.” Do you now think this show has a legitimate chance to overtake the juggernaut that has become “Community” in the next round?
Alan Sepinwall:
“Chuck” had an easier match-up this time. In the real world, Modern Family is much more popular than Supernatural. Online, though, sci-fi, fantasy, and other genre shows tend to arouse more passion, so I’m not surprised the “Chuck”/”Supernatural” race was much tighter. I really don’t know how “Chuck”/”Community” is going to go. “Chuck” is a show whose fans love it so much they helped save it from cancellation two years ago, but “Community” has as obsessive and fiercely loyal a fandom as any comedy I’ve seen in a long time. My gut says “Community,” but in a squeaker, and I’d put the winner of this match-up as the favorite for the final round.

Going into the tournament, did you think the Final Four would shape up basically like this? Is there any show that has shocked you by its lengthy run?
“Community” seemed a fairly obvious call from its bracket, and I figured either “Chuck” or the winner of the “Fringe”/”Supernatural” Round 1 matchup seemed likely to come out of that bracket. I’m a little surprised “House” has done so well, though pretty much every match-up has pitted it against a show with a smaller (albeit sometimes more vocal online) audience. The real shocker to me, though, was “Glee” not getting out of Round 2. Everyone I know who saw the bracket as constructed figured it had the easiest path to the Final 4 of any show, given the draw and the size and passion of the Gleeks.

Should “The Office” take notice of its sound thumping in the Elite Eight? Does this forebode a nasty turn in critical reception when the show is left Michael Scott-less?
I’m having a hard time finding people who don’t think the show should end when Steve Carell leaves. Though at this point, I almost feel like the show has the potential to be better in the short term without him, as it’s been getting a little tired the last few years.

“Dexter” vs. “”How I Met Your Mother”” was one of the closest votes in the history of Best in Show. Was it tough to narrow down these shows when the criteria for greatness — one a gritty, pay-TV slasher; the other a standard network comedy — is so disparate?
Once we got out of the first round, there were a lot of apples and oranges comparisons that had to be made. In that case, I just went with the show I was still enjoying more, regardless of the very different styles they offered.

How big of a coup is this “Dexter” win for Showtime? Could its un-PC, violent — but gorgeously written and well-acted — show could build up enough name recognition to beat a funny, all-ages comedy that most people know and a lot of people like?
“Dexter” fandom has done a very impressive job of mobilizing itself. It helps, I think, that lots of people watch the show on DVD rather than Showtime, which would mean their most recent exposure to the show was the Emmy-winning season 4 with John Lithgow, rather than the murkier season 5 with Julia Stiles and company. But if you look at the Final 4 as a whole, the only show left that’s a mass-appeal hit is “House”; everything else is a show with a small, crazy-passionate audience.

With your Elite Eight choice of “Mad Men” gone, which of the Final Four shows do you think most deserves the title of Best in Show?
Definitely “Community”, with “Chuck” second and the other two off in the distance.

Last comment: about 9 hours ago 16 Comments