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Pune/ India, Irvine/ CA, now Boulder/ CO
Welcome to my blog! I'm Hrishi from Pune, India. I am an earth system scientist currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at CU-Boulder. Here I mostly write (though not as frequently as I hope to) about my travels, landscape photography, scientific computing, book and film reviews, fitness, cooking, and science communication. Feel free to navigate based on the labels below. My website: hrishikeshac.wix.com/hchandan

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tumbling down the rabbit hole: How I came to know, like, love, and got obsessed with 'Chuck': I

Spoiler alert: I’ve tried to keep spoilers to minimum, but this post has spoilers on the pilot episode.

Chuck! 
     This one word pretty much summarizes everything I have been doing after work hours for last 2 months. I've now watched the entire show, twice (2 x 91 episodes). Yes, in two months! All my other hobbies have come to a complete stop. Daily things like cooking, eating, sleeping- all necessary to maintain my productivity at work, housekeeping- to maintain relations with my roomie who has shown extraordinary love and patience to tolerate the constantly on TV, and keeping minimal hygiene- to avoid being a temporary social outcast, are the only activities that have been distracting me from watching Chuck!

     First of all, let me admit that I'm pretty embarrassed to write these Chuck-related posts. I've read, and loved several stories- from books, movies, manga, and TV shows, but I've never been so obsessed with any of them. The ending of His Dark Materials did affect me for weeks, but I got over it eventually. I would have considered myself a diehard fan of HDM, LOTR, and Harry Potter, but the intensity with which I feel about Chuck is many fold stronger than with them. My love for them was not irrational. And no matter how much I've liked a book/movie/TV show, I've never rewatched it immediately. Its hard to keep things rational with Chuck. I might have written worth at least 100 129 single-spaced pages while I rewatched the show, and I was (I am) so embarrassed to go public about it, I even considered posting a new, Chuck-centric blog and going by a pseudonym. But then I thought, this is a part of me, and there are several fans spread across the internet who rever Chuck with a similar passion. So why care to hide? 

     It all began with me raving about X-Files. Indeed, isn’t that show just awesome?! Mulder and Scully are so seriously professional-never crossing the line between partners/friends, and lovers (as of S4), and the stories are so logical (considering outrageous paranormal themes that dictate the episodes) that within no time, X-Files became my favorite show! X-Files is one of those rare, intelligent shows that acknowledge that the audience is not stupid, and hence don't dumb themselves down. 

     But as I continued watching, the initially-rare horror themes started surfacing far more often, and started giving me nightmares! Coming home from office, cooking my own dinner, and then experiencing the intense, dark, gloomy X-Files everyday, suddenly didn’t seem like a good idea anymore. The opening whistle started sounding even more ominous as days went by, until one day, I had an epiphany- "I don’t have to do this! Nobody’s forcing me to watch!". That is when I went back to the Netflix homepage, and saw the recommendations from the awesome Netflix algorithm, and that’s when an action-comedy which Netflix believed I’d love, caught my attention. Chuck.

     Now, action-comedy (according to show creator Chris Fedak, '24' meeting 'The Office') is not a genre I’ve watched many shows of. I remember watching only one, and loving it- Firefly. In fact, I even drew a sketch of the spaceship. The poster of Chuck, however, looked far less interesting, and was good example of the kind of shows/movies I would avoid watching. That is why Netflix’s estimation of my probable rating amused me. I’ve grown to be a firm believer in Netflix’s algorithm. I’ve liked ALL the movies/shows it recommended me. Norwegian Headhunter, French Tell No One, Brazillian Ellite Squad 2 are some examples of awesome movies I may never have heard of without Netflix’s algorithm. So when Netflix said “Our best guess for Hrishikesh: 4 + stars”, I was intrigued. Plus the show description made it sound like a lightweight fun show, which served as a perfect antithesis to X-Files. While I’ve written all this at length, in that moment, it was a spontaneous decision, sparked by me wanting something far lighter than X-Files, and the fact that Netflix thought I would love Chuck. So without a second’s delay, I clicked on the pilot- Chuck Vs. The Intersect. 

The pilot is about a Stanford-dropout-underachiever-computer-geek, Chuck, who works at Buy More (ala Best Buy) and lives with his over-protective sister Ellie and her awesome boyfriend, Captain Awesome. He’s not dated a girl in last 5 years, and his best friend is a slacker. Then one day, he accidentally/mysteriously gets a computer with government secrets, called the intersect, into his head. Both CIA and NSA send agents (Sarah, and Casey respectively), to get Chuck, to retrieve the intersect, only to realize that Chuck doesn’t have the intersect, he is the intersect. Amidst Casey/Sarah's attempts to kill/save Chuck, he helps them avoid an assassination, and diffuses a bomb. In the end, CIA/NSA realize that he’s a good guy and decide to keep Sarah (who acts as his cover girlfriend but whom Chuck falls for at first sight itself) and Casey (who hates the very guts of the likes of Chuck Bartowski, and is very wary of femme fatales like Sarah walker) to protect Chuck and use him as an 'asset'. 

    From the first scene itself, I liked Zachary Levi’s Chuck. A nerdy underachiever with a not-so-smart-nor-funny best friend, socially awkward, but not unpleasant. Despite his tragic past(getting kicked out of Stanford, and getting dumped by girlfriend), he doesn't complain much, but rather prefers his shell, and does things like running away from his own birthday party. He demands immediate sympathy, from those who can feel him, and care and protection, from those who fight for underdogs/underachievers. 

     The pilot seemed pleasant and light and funny. I liked the fact that Chuck used his inherent common sense and computer knowledge, and not the intersect, to diffuse a bomb using a porn virus! There were some good characters namely Sarah Walker, John Casey, and Captain Awesome. Some of the scenes, like Chuck downloading the intersect into his head just by clicking an email, made me realize immediately that I need to switch off common sense(*) and logic else I won’t be able to continue. 

 I enjoyed watching the pilot, but didn’t think much of it. It was a really witty and funny episode, but that was it. I didn't find anything special about it(**). 

The second half of this post can be found here.

*Almost all the spy action in Chuck should be taken with a grain of salt.The biggest plot-hole perhaps is the fact that the real CIA sends only offshore missions, while most of Chuck's missions are based in Burbank! But Chuck's plot-holes are almost always unimportant, and hence can be easily forgiven. In fact, I realize now that I fondly remember them, just like all other Chuck moments!

**Season 3's Nacho Sampler, The Other Guy, and S5's The Baby, throw a new light on the pilot by giving it a context on Sarah's life just before the pilot, and what she thought of Chuck during the pilot. And also, the series finale has too many callbacks on the pilot. Rewatching the pilot with all this context was an amazing experience! So much so that I continued rewatching the next episode and the next, and ended up rewatching the entire series. 

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