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Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season(TV) (2011)
No more Mr. Nice Spy! Chuck is back and he’s the Chuck you know: the hapless Nerd Herder hopelessly devoted to sexy super spy Sarah.
For more about Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season and the Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray release, see Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 13, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Zachary Levi, Joshua Gomez, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Sarah Lancaster
Director: Patrick R. Norris
» See full cast & crew
Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review
"I'm kinda starting to think that my mom might be one of the bad guys..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 13, 2011
If anyone can, Chuck Bartowski can. And has. For four seasons, Chuck has dodged cancellation, stuck to its guns and delivered everything its faithful fanbase could want and more. It's darted from comedy to action thriller to drama to comedy again, without so much as nick or scratch. Budgets have been reigned in, sure, but NBC continues to give the Little Spy Caper That Could the benefit of the doubt; a rare gesture in this age of merciless cuts and ratings-driven brutality. In return, Chuck's fourth season doesn't take anything for granted. Bigger, badder guest stars. EMPs, shootouts, martial arts, deadly toxins and explosions aplenty. Misadventures in love and life with the Buy More crew. Reunions, surprises, betrayals, twists and turns... Season Four has it all. And yet, somehow, Chuck feels as if it's treading water, saving its fiercest attacks and funniest jabs for its upcoming fifth and final hurrah. Don't get me wrong, the fourth season isn't careless or negligent by any means, but as more of Chuck's family and friends have learned about his extracurricular activities, as more of his CIA colleagues have taken up residence in his personal life, the series has begun to lose its once-carefully honed balance and a bit of its average-spy-guy charm.
With the Buy More destroyed and Intersect-ed superspy Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) on the outs with the CIA, where could Chuck possibly go this season? Back to the Buy More and the CIA, of course. In a move worried series fans should have seen coming, General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) and the CIA have restored the Buy More to its former glory and established it as a base of operations, complete with a newly constructed underground Castle. Chuck reluctantly resumes his life as a Buy More Nerd Herder and Beckman's walking encyclopedia or international threats, and soon finds himself jetting from Moscow to Rio De Janeiro with senior agents John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), the latter of whom has finally accepted her role as the love of Chuck's life. (Not to mention a ring, as the two begin planning a wedding.) Meanwhile, Morgan (Joshua Gomez), who uncovered his best friend's secret last season and was summarily recruited to the agency himself, is reinstated to the CIA and promoted to Buy More manager. Other fan-favorites return as well. Morgan and Casey "reacquire" Jeff and Lester (scene hijackers Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay), Ellie and Captain Awesome (Sarah Lancaster and the hilarious Ryan McPartlin) prepare for the arrival of a baby girl, Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) is back, and Chuck's mother Mary Elizabeth (Linda Hamilton) sits at the center of one of the season's biggest mysteries. Oh, you want guest stars too? Will Timothy Dalton, John Larroquette, Armand Assante, Summer Glau, Robert Englund, Harry Dean Stanton, Robin Givens, Gary Cole, Dolph Lundgren, Olivia Munn, Lou Ferrigno, Bronson Pinchot, Steve Austin, Richard Chamberlain, Isaiah Mustafa and Ray Wise work? And that's not even all of them.
I didn't know what to expect from Season Four's Linda Hamilton arc, but I was nervous. Scott Bakula was a stroke of casting brilliance in Season Three and his brief run as Chuck's absentee dad was fantastic... until he was unceremoniously removed from the equation. It was the missed opportunity to end all missed opportunities and I still can't help but shake my head. Then there was the suggestion that Hamilton might just be a villain. Chuck versus his mom? I was willing to bite, but to invest? I had been burned with Bakula and I wasn't about to open my heart to Hamilton. But it wasn't long before creator Chris Fedak coaxed me into caring. Even though Bartowski's search for Mary and -- teensy spoiler alert -- his reunion with her are threatened by double crosses from all sides, the heart of their story has, well, real heart. As does the entire season really. Chuck has always worn Fedak's heart on its sleeve and Season Four doesn't suddenly sprout ice in its veins. Hamilton is a terrific addition to the show (as is Dalton, even if I hesitate to describe his role for fear of revealing too much) and, if nothing else, allows the writers to dig a little deeper into Chuck himself, who has been evolving, devolving and re-evolving from the outset. Just be warned: with such a crucial storyline coming to dominate the season, the inevitable standalone missions and one-off adventures that pepper Season Four make it a bit more episodic than previous seasons, but Fedak prevails, yet again. The genius of Chuck, if you can call it that, is in its knack for serving up lovable lugs, likable losers and endearing everymen. Even the villains are fun and feisty, and death always comes paired with the disappointment that we won't see a certain character again. Mary Bartowski may hold Chuck's attention, but the series doesn't forget Sarah, Casey, Ellie, Devon, Morgan or the Buy More crew for a second. It bounces from hero to hero, friend to friend, and spy to spy without losing its momentum.
The downside? There's just so much going on. Whereas early seasons wavered between action, comedy and drama, Season Four takes dramatic leaps from one to the other. Rapid-fire pop culture references are deployed to unify the series' competing tones, but too many episodes reel from one beat to the next, making it tough to laugh at a random joke one minute, gasp at a dangerous close call the next minute and be moved by whatever personal drama the Bartowskis are working through after that. Too many characters know what Chuck actually does for a living, too many people are privy to the dealings of the CIA, too many agents and rival agents try to come at Chuck from the same angles. As much as Season Four serves as a step forward for the series, it also serves as a step back. Fedak has injected elements earlier seasons could have used and refined aspects of the show that required some work. Credit where credit's due. But in doing so, he's left new, arguably greater needs unmet and allowed previously airtight areas begin to leak. The cast is still delivering the same sharpshooter performances, the production team is still defying their budgetary constraints (most episodes look far more expensive than they are), and the writers are still doling out quotable quotes and Star Wars-marinated one-liners. But the show isn't quite as cohesive as it once was. Again, Season Four isn't a bad season. Far from it. I laughed, I cheered, I felt as connected to Chuck and his besties as ever, and I came back, week after week, ready to have a good time. I just didn't have as good of a time as I have in the past. Maybe the formula's wearing thin, maybe the concept is growing stale, or maybe it's me, not Chuck. Whatever the case, the series' fourth offering may have kept me on board -- from beginning to end even -- but it didn't draw me in or entertain me as readily as previous seasons.
Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Chuck's high definition video presentations are always difficult to evaluate. Far from the slick spy caper visuals newcomers might expect, the series' problematic aesthetics are prone to garish noise, severe grain and unreliable clarity. And while many of The Complete Fourth Season's issues can be attributed to shooting much of the show in 16mm -- meaning some of the more unsightly aspects of Chuck aren't actually "issues" -- there are still too many other anomalies present to give its 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode a free pass. Edge halos, minor artifacting, brief banding, soupy digital noise, crush, poor delineation... Chuck stumbles from episode to episode and narrowly survives the fray. Thankfully, colors are bold, primaries pack punch, black levels are deep, and detail is quite good at times. Every now and then, a refined closeup or wonderfully resolved sequence serves as a reminder of the presentation's finer qualities and makes everything a bit easier to stomach. Granted, contrast is often overblown (complete with hot whites and oversaturated skintones) and textures are sometimes softer than usual, but most of that traces back to intention, nothing more. All that said, my Chuck video scores tend to be slightly lower than those of other reviewers (professional and casual), so I would suggest setting your expectations according to your personal impressions of previous season releases. The Complete Fourth Season's encode is comparable to its Third Season counterpart, which was already a marked improvement over its First and Second Season predecessors. In the end, diehard fans will be more forgiving of the uneven presentation and videophiles will be left wondering where Fedak's intentions end and Warner's encode begins. Everyone, though, will agree that Chuck isn't exactly the best looking show on television.
Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Finally. After three seasons of lackluster lossy audio mixes, Chuck earns a full-fledged DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. It isn't a revolutionary lossless experience, mind you -- the series' sound design isn't that amazing -- but it kicks harder, lands more blows and beats its previous season releases to a pulp. Dialogue, while a bit too weighty at times, is clean and clear on the whole, and rarely succumbs to the playfulness of the show's faux-Bond score, the comic intensity of its action, or the oomph of its more explosive peril. LFE output goes big without going home, dispensing hearty thoom after meaty thunk and making the most of Bartowski's spy vs. spy hijinks. For the most part, the rear speakers stick to the shadows until fists start flying, but there's enough ambient effects, enveloping environments and ricocheting directionality to keep the soundfield involving. It isn't as immersive as I would like but, again, look to the series' sound design rather than Warner's lossless mix. The biggest improvement over the previous seasons' audio is just the crispness and precision of it all. I've reviewed some startlingly good lossy TV tracks (Fringe: The Complete Second Season leaps to mind), but Chuck's first, second and third season Dolby Digital offerings simply didn't have that killer instinct. The Complete Fourth Season's DTS-HD Master Audio assassin does, though. I suspect Chuck's loyal legions will be thrilled.
Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I like Chuck, I do. It somehow manages to reinvent itself each season while retaining everything its fans have come to love about the show. The cast is exceptionally likable, the guest stars are a blast, the comedy clicks, the action is fun, and the intrigue is intact. Season Four doesn't quite go in for the kill, though, and doesn't best the series' second season. Did that stop me from watching? Nope. Did that prevent me from enjoying Chuck, week in and week out? Nope. Should it make you reconsider The Complete Fourth Season? Not at all. The 4-disc Blu-ray edition definitely isn't a looker -- its video presentation is too unwieldy and problematic -- but it still eeks by. Its supplemental package isn't exhaustive, but it still has a few surprises up its sleeve. And its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track isn't going to bring your home theater crashing down, but it still sounds great. While I doubt Chuck's fourth season release will win over many new converts, longtime fans will be reasonably satisfied.
Chuck: Other Seasons
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Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray (Updated) - July 11, 2011
On October 11th, 2011, Warner Home Entertainment will release "Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season" on Blu-ray. The season collection features all 24 episodes of the computer geek-turned-secret agent's most recent adventures; during the fourth season, Chuck (Zachary ...
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