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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 7 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 7 hours ago 5 Comments

Green Room: April 1, 1996

April 1st, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

It looks like banks—those trusty, warm and cuddly institutions we’ve all grown to love—might be trying to pull a fast one on us for trying to be faster with them.

That’s right, banks might start charging you to use their automated teller machines if it’s not your bank’s ATM. Before you get out your phone book to find out where to call and complain, here’s Good Morning America to explain. Listen up, especially if you’re pinching pennies for one of those Sony Playstations.

As if.

Can we “scream and holler,” as that Internet video segment asks above? Yep, that would probably be a good thing to do. It might save us some time if they try to get tricky in the future.

But, first, let’s all congratulate money correspondent Tyler Mathisen on his floral/dove tie. It’s so Chandler.

There’s one thing I know to be true: ATM fees might come and go. But Friends are forever.

Last comment: Jul 14th 2011 2 Comments

The Green Room: Jackie Chan’s Still Kicking

March 29th, 2011 by Rebecca Harper Editor

A quick visit to Twitter this morning quickly derailed whatever else I was planning to do. Could it be? One of the a.m.’s trending topics was “RIP Jackie Chan.” Sure, April Fools’ Day is right around the corner, and celebrity death hoaxes are a dime a dozen these days.

But that didn’t prevent me from setting on a fact-finding mission: If the kung-fu master had passed away, surely Google would know. Despite some fake websites designed to corroborate the hoax (including a faux news story that included a quote from President Obama), a simple search easily put the rumors to rest: the actor is alive and well. His Twitter and Facebook accounts confirm this, stating that he “is fine and is busy preparing for the filming of his next movie.” While we can’t leak the movie, we do have a flashback to his 2001 animated series, “Jackie Chan Adventures.”

This latest Internet death rumor brings to mind one of my favorite discoveries on Hulu, “Abel Raises Cain,” a media prankster who devised elaborate schemes as a form of social critique. He even faked his own death — funeral and all — and got the New York Times to write his obituary. Now that’s a well-executed death hoax, folks.

Last comment: Dec 27th 2012 2 Comments

Green Room: A Life Tip Via Guinea Pig

March 24th, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

Hulu finagled a show today called Guinea Pig. It was described to me as “Jackass meets Mythbusters, but from Canada.” It was delivered slathered in maple syrup by Steve Nash, signed by the entire cast of Degrassi.

And, yep, it’s a show about a guy getting sprayed with some calienté pepper spray before he gets shot in the, uh, cajones with a taser. It is, in fact, muy bueno.

I know. Very learned, all of this Spanish, from a guy who has spent a lot of today watching a guy get punched in the face by a professional boxer.

These shows are my speed right now. Because of these wonderful programs, I know that the worst possible thing a policeman can do to you is overdo it with pepper spray. It’s supposedly one of the worst experiences in the world. This is worse than getting shot in a fleshy part of your body, and this show confirms it.

I know this, and I have no idea how to make an omelet.

I’m not particularly proud of this, but, good God, have I become an expert in shows where people are shoved into tubs of ice. And I have learned to make the best of it.

A couple of days ago, I rented Jackass 3 and guiltlessly cried laughing the entire time. Sounds impossible, but it isn’t if you do it right. And by do it right, I mean you should pick up a damn book—any book, preferably one of those ones without pictures in it—and read it, invest yourself in it, then wait for the screams. Wait for the screams, yes, then rewind and cry laughing.

You will feel so good about yourself.

Maybe get a Rosetta Stone, or something, and aprender some Español. When your obsession grows too big, you’ll know when the guy is screaming for help after he breaks his tibia on Telemundo.

Ben Collins is an Assistant Editor at Hulu. You can email him here or reach him on Twitter @globesoundtrack.