On Sunday (April 4) afternoon, “Chuck” packed a WonderCon ballroom for a spirited panel that kicked off with an airing of Monday night’s episode, a fairly major episode that was meant as the season finale when it looked like “Chuck” was only airing 13 episodes this season. It was subsequently extended to 19, but that doesn’t mean that “Chuck vs. the Other Guy” isn’t still formative.
Due to spoiler discussion and then a six-hour drive back down to Los Angeles in a downpour and limited computer batteries, my recap of the panel got delayed.
Note that I’ve done this in a live-blog format, but I’ve trimmed the segment relating to Monday’s episode and I’ll do a separate story on that later tonight. So the live-blog contains zero spoilers about Monday’s episode, but it does contain a few teases an spoilers about upcoming guest stars and a couple very minor hints at things that will happen in the last six episodes…
3:26 p.m. Pacific (Sunday). After the applause dies down for Monday’s episode and the available “Chuck” gang — Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, Zachary Levi, Josh Gomez and Adam Baldwin — is seated, the press conference, moderated by the esteemed Mr. Eric Goldman of IGN, begins.
3:27 p.m. A problem: Monday’s episode is terrific. The best of the season. It also featured twists, major plot developments and more twists and those are the things that are being discussed as the panel begins. Clearly you don’t want that part included in this live blog, though I’ll transcribe and post something after Monday’s episode airs elsewhere.
3:32 p.m. That wasn’t so much spoiler talk, was it? Now on to questions from the crowd, starting with an important one: What can we do to save the show.
3:33 p.m. Levi has been elected the speaking representative on this issue, noting “The most effective television watching is live television watching. To add to that, watching it any other way than live is, I hate to say this, is almost non-effective. Advertisers need to know that their advertising dollars mean something. If you zip through commercials on the DVR, which is beautiful for us with the DVR and I do it too, or you watch it on Hulu where you only have one commercial break, none of that means anything, really at the end of the day, to advertisers. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just kinda the way it is. So if you want to support the show in a way that really resonates with the people advertising on the show? Watch it live and tell other people to watch it live. Especially your friends with Nielsen boxes, I guess.”
3:34 p.m. Schwartz adds, “Somebody here must be able to hack into Nielsen?” And Levi adds, “We’re nerds. Hack nielsen! That will be our new campaign: Hack nielsen.” And Schwartz chimes in with, “Save ‘Chuck’: Hack Nielsen,” which is as t-shirt and Twitter meme-friendly as anything you could possibly hope for.
3:35 p.m. Hack Nielsen.
3:35 p.m. Schwartz and Fedak have received no indications from NBC regarding renewal.
3:35 p.m. The next questioner begins his query with, “Hi, my name is Hack Nielsen.” His actual question is for Levi about his transition from nerd to badass and playing that shift. Levi says, “When I read the pilot, I hoped that Chuck would eventually get better at this job, that he would start as this very ill-at-ease… This is a world he knows nothing about. And that was much more art imitating life at that point, I think, because that’s who I am. But then he goes on more missions and gets a little bit better and a little bit better and then he gets Intersect 2.0, so he doesn’t always need Sarah or Casey to save him and sometimes he’s doing the saving. And that’s all excellent and fun and it’s been an incredible adventure to do that.”
3:36 p.m. On spoilers for the last six episodes of the season, Levi says, “I literally would love to tell you guys everything, but at the same time, really don’t ask. To me, if I’m a fan of the show, I don’t want anything spoiled. I don’t want to spoil anything. So I’m not going to spoil anything. You’re just gonna have to watch.”
3:37 p.m. The next inquiry comes from a fan hooked on the show by her 82-year-old dad. Levi does an “Old Man” impression. He’s assured that his impression isn’t all that good. She actually wants to ask about guest stars.
3:38 p.m. “Well, Scotty Bakula’s back in a really big and awesome way,” Levi teases. But it’s better than that. Levi adds, “Christopher Lloyd and I may or may not call him Doc in the episode. Dude, it was ridiculous. I wet myself.” Lloyd will play Chuck’s therapist. Levi and Gomez were apparently equally excited by Lloyd’s appearance, which they call “awesome.”
3:38 p.m. Yes, there will be more ’80s references to come because, as Schwartz puts it, “We know no other way.”
3:39 p.m. How has Levi dealt with Gomez’s slightly reduced profile and occasional absences this season? That question is posed with an unrelated follow-up regarding their favorite Subway sandwiches. Naturally the second part gets answered before the first, with Baldwin saying, “I actually like Subway’s Tuna-Roni… It’s a surprisingly delicious combination” Heh.
3:40 p.m. To that first question, Levi says, “It’s a bummer. It’s a bummer not having Josh Gomez in every episode. It’s a bummer not having Ryan [McPartlin] and Sarah [Lancaster] in every episode. It’s an unfortunate thing that happens in television and film… As you go season to season on a show, things happen and budgets are changed and so that’s certainly not, I don’t think anybody’s super-stoked about it. I think we’d all love to be working together in every episode, but it is what it is. And I think that these guys have done the best they can… sometimes Morgan has to go to the Leadership Seminar in El Segundo.” To that last part, Baldwin adds, “It could be worse. You could be going to Hawaii.” Harry Tang reference!!!!
3:41 p.m. Oooh. Julia Ling will be back at some point. Nice! Perhaps someday we’ll explain why her character had such impressive martial arts skills in one episode.
3:41 p.m. Will we get some follow-up on the introduction of Casey’s ex and daughter several episodes back? Baldwin hesitates, aware of spoilers. “I think I can speak in general terms that when you introduce a character that brings and audience in and wants more of that character, the character tends to have a resolution. I don’t know what that might be. I mean, I do. We shot it already.” To this, Fedak adds, “We haven’t forgotten that we introduced that super-huge thing.”
3:43 p.m. Is “Chuck” a prank-heavy set? Gomez replies, “I play a prank where I pretend not to know my lines.” Baldwin calls on an absent cast member by saying, “Yvonne’s is flatulence, I think.” What follows is two or three minutes of Strahovski references and defecation jokes. Even the moderator is a smidge confused how we went off on this tangent.
3:45 p.m. Will the show ever make a reference to Baldwin’s character from “Independence Day”? Baldwin jokes, “If we could have a Major Mitchell reference, that would be terrific.” He then says that he needs to get on the phone to Will Smith to make sure his character is in the sequel.
3:46 p.m. In a cute moment one of Levi’s old community theater chums from Ojai shows up to ask a question. Levi does a believable job of pretending to remember the guy and even takes his contact info for future use as a coaster.
3:47 p.m. Levi pauses to note that it’s Easter. “Happy Easter everybody. Lot of devout Catholics out there? I don’t think so…” He also echoes somebody on the panel’s reminder that it’s Passover and mentions having just been to a Seder. This reminds me of the press tour before “Chuck” premiered when Sepinwall and I were trying to figure out if the Bartowskis were Jewish and we made the mistake of assuming that Levi was Jewish. They’re not and he isn’t.
3:48 p.m. “Somebody tweeted Happy Zombie Jesus Day… That was pretty hysterical,” Levi cracks. He’s kinda being unamused by it being funny, but the audience laughs along.
3:49 p.m. Gomez and Levi were asked if they were friends before or if they just because friends on the show. “No,” Levi says. “No. And we’re not friends now either.” They actually bonded over video games, “Call of Duty” in particular.
3:51 p.m. Will we ever hear Chuck sing? Levi grew up doing a lot of musical theater. “Whee,” he says, “‘Oklahoma!'” He adds, however that the “Chuck” musical episode would be jumping both the shark and The Fonz jumping over the shark. “What if you flashed and you were in Vegas,” Gomez suggests. Schwartz warns that they wouldn’t want to step of Jeffster’s toes and promises, “You’ll be seeing more of Jeffster! than you can ever possibly…”
3:53 p.m. Favorite episodes? Schwartz says Monday’s episode and the Season Two Christmas episode. Fedak singles out “Chuck vs. the Beard,” Levi’s directing debut. Levi can’t single out a single favorite, though he also calls his directing episode one of his favorites. Gomez just says, “Ditto.” Levi asks, “What are you, Demi Moore in ‘Ghost’?” Then Schwartz and Fedak pantomime making pottery together, “Ghost”-style. Baldwin’s favorite was “Chuck vs. the Tic Tac,” because he got to get revenge on Robert Patrick, recalling their interactions on “The X-Files” back in the day.
3:57 p.m. How do you keep the show’s soul with the characters changing. “It’s about a regular guy who has become better as a spy, but he’s still distinctly Chuck and that’s important,” Fedak promises, saying that Chuck won’t suddenly become Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne.
3: 59 p.m. Don’t forget to watch “Chuck” on Monday night at 8 p.m. You can watch college basketball afterwards.
4:00 p.m. Hack Nielsen.