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Chuck vs. That Other Twentysomething Slacker Given Great Responsibility - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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November 7th, 2007

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12:45 am - Chuck vs. That Other Twentysomething Slacker Given Great Responsibility
We humans are drawn to patterns. We like to see things in relation to other things, as this helps us form and comprehend a more cohesive reality. And thus, every television season, we cannot help but see strong similarities between some of the new crop of shows. For instance, could you really tell the difference between Invasion, Threshold, and Surface? This season, we had two shows about twentysomething slackers working in specialty stores who had new roles thrust upon them in a science-fiction-y or fantasy fashion. Those shows were Chuck and Reaper, and now, seven episodes into both shows, let us pit them against each other in various categories in order to determine which is better, because if there's another thing humans like, it's winning stuff.

Chuck vs. Reaper

"Chuck" vs. "Reaper"

Winner: REAPER. That's a cool name. Come on now. Chuck could be about anything. A guy named Chuck. A girl named Chuck. Who knows?! Reaper promises death and hell and all that good stuff.

Titles of Episodes
"Chuck vs. X" vs. "Usually Some One-Word Thing Related to the Soul or Maybe a Pun"

Winner: CHUCK. Sure, they stole it from The Tick, but you've got to love a show with episodes called "Chuck vs. the Sizzling Shrimp" and "Chuck vs. the Sandworm."

A terribly cute animation set to "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" vs. A two-second non-credit sequence with a nametag that reads "Have a Bad Day"

Winner: CHUCK. I love the credits! They're so much fun, and they fit the show so well.

Director of Pilot
McG vs. Kevin Smith

Winner: REAPER. Seriously, what the hell kind of a name is McG?

Josh Schwartz vs. Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters

Winner: CHUCK. Josh Schwartz created the pop-culture phenomenon known as The O.C., and Fazekas and Butters...wrote a bunch of Law and Order: SVU episodes.

Veronica Mars Writers
Phil Klemmer vs. No One

Winner: CHUCK. What. This is an important category.

"Guy gets intelligence data loaded into his head" vs. "Guy works for the devil to send souls back to hell"

Winner: REAPER. That just sounds way cooler.

Delivering on Promise of Premise
"Chuck gets flashes of subliminal images to identify potential terrorists and threats to national security" vs. "Sam gets sent on wild goose chases for no good reason"

Winner: CHUCK. Chuck has already gone back to the pilot and starting answering questions about what's going on. Reaper has yet to build a coherent mythology.

Main Character
Chuck (Zachary Levi) vs. Sam (Bret Harrison)

Winner: CHUCK. Chuck is incredibly endearing, but Zachary Levi grounds him as a person with his own hopes and dreams, but stuck in a bizarre situation. Sam is also likable, but...he just seems to complain a lot. Bret Harrison gives good awkward, though.

Best Friend/Sidekick
Morgan (Joshua Gomez) vs. Sock (Tyler Labine)

Winner: REAPER. Morgan is Chuck's weak link, although he's been improving lately. Sock is much funnier and a lot more fun. Tyler Labine has fifteen times the charisma of Joshua Gomez. That being said, Morgan has actually had character development already, and I'm not sure whether Sock actually has a character.

Hot Brunette Who Must Be Kept in the Dark About the Main Character's Secret
Sarah Lancaster vs. Missy Peregrym

Winner: REAPER. Missy Peregrym is so pretty! I think the cute-character look is much better for her than the bad-girl Candace look.

Hot Blonde Who Gets to Know What the Main Character Is Up To
Yvonne Strahovski vs. Allison Hossack

Winner: CHUCK. Sorry, Allison Hossack, even though you don't appear to have aged in ten years, I haven't seen you in your underwear.

Love Interest
Sarah vs. Andi

Winner: CHUCK. There doesn't really seem to be much to Andi as a character, even though she seems very nice. Sarah has a complex past, and she's a ninja. It's really no contest.

Ellie vs. That Brother of Sam's We Like Never Fucking See

Winner: CHUCK. Again, no contest, and I really like the relationship between Chuck and Ellie. It's sweet.

The Little Boss
Harry Tang (C.S. Lee) vs. Ted (Donavon Stinson)

Winner: CHUCK. Oh, Masuka! Even though Ted's schmucktasticness is entertaining (and his Halloween costumes were awesome), Harry Tang is much more memorable and more fun to hate.

The Big Boss
CIA Director Graham (Tony Todd) vs. The Devil (Ray Wise)

Winner: REAPER. Look, it's Candyman vs. Satan. Ray Wise is one of the strengths of the show and usually the main reason people go ga-ga over it. He has a lot of fun with the role, even though the characterization is kind of wonky. Why is he so interested in Sam? Doesn't he have other bounty hunters?

Buy More vs. The Work Bench

Winner: CHUCK. I like Best Buy more than Home Depot. Plus, the Buy More actually satirizes the store it's standing in for, whereas The Work Bench is kind of just...there.

Actual Work Done in Workplace
"Chuck and his pals actually service customers, and Chuck does most of his spy stuff after hours" vs. "Sam and friends are always running out during work hours and they're always stealing supplies and it's a wonder they haven't been fired yet"

Winner: CHUCK.

Diversity in the Workplace
Big Mike (African-American), Harry Tang (Korean), Anna Wu (Chinese), Lester (Indian), and Morgan Grimes (Hispanic) vs. Ben (Hispanic)

Winner: CHUCK. Um, Josie's black? Does that count?

Crisp, clear, vibrant vs. Dull and slightly washed-out

Winner: CHUCK. I don't know why it just looks like a real show, whereas it looks like they're using old filmstock for Reaper.

Abrupt shifts between dramatic scenes and comedic nonsense vs. Clear comedic focus with some drama mixed in

Winner: REAPER. I still feel like it's more cohesive tonally.

A wide variety of plots that mix Chuck's spy action with his home life vs. About two plots

Winner: CHUCK. Last week's Halloween episode was about the only episode that broke out of the Reaper formula, which is Sam going after both a soul and Andi's heart and only catching the former, getting farther and farther away from the later. But Chuck goes on stakeouts and meets different kinds of agents and terrorists and actually has relationships with multiple characters.

Continual forward progress on Chuck's relationships with the other characters, exploration of various characters' pasts, and an ongoing Buy More storyline just for the fun of it vs. Approximately one intriguing piece of the overall arc

Winner: CHUCK. There's so much more going on on Chuck. With Reaper, the whole Sam/Andi thing showed promise at first but then was killed when the Devil made it clear she couldn't know about him. And there just never seems to be any big movement in the larger arc to spice up the fact that every week is the same story: catch an escaped soul and everything goes back to normal until the next time.

Josh Schwartz's iPod vs. All the good music was in the pilot

Winner: CHUCK. I was impressed with the music in the Reaper pilot, but it hasn't really lived up to that selection, whereas Chuck has used Teddybears, Beck, Jet, the Shins, Spoon, Gnarls Barkley, the New Pornographers, Finley Quaye featuring Beth Orton, Oasis, and the Fratellis. To name a few.

Number of Zork References
2 vs. 0

Winner: CHUCK. Sam is likely to be eaten by a grue.

Household Objects Used to Defeat Evil
Um...porn? vs. Dirt Devil, remote-control truck, toaster, dove, sweater, snow globe, meat thermometer, and 8-track tape

Winner: REAPER. Look, I had to give it something. And I love the vessels. They amuse me. And they lead to Delores Herbig at the DMV.

Five bazillion vs. 3 or something

Winner: CHUCK. I'll admit I kind of stacked the deck a little, but, honestly, it wasn't very hard because Chuck appears to be the superior show in almost every respect. It makes me wonder why I watch Reaper at all. It's not like it sucks or anything; it's perfectly enjoyable and entertaining and fun. And I've heard there are some interesting developments in the future. But I would not be sad to lose it, although I would feel bad for Bret Harrison having another show cancelled. It's weird that from the pilots, my opinions were reversed; hell, I hadn't even planned on checking out Chuck at all. But here we are, seven weeks later, and I recommend checking out Chuck and passing on Reaper if you were to choose only one.
Current Mood: quixoticquixotic
Current Music: Massive Attack - Angel

(46 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")


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[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
I recommend checking out Chuck and passing on Reaper if you were to choose only one.

I made that choice after three episodes when we still hadn't had a reason why the devil made it so hard for Sam to find the demon of the week other than it gave them a story to tell.

It's funny, three episodes is also what it took for me to decide Life was the best new show of the season. I never thought I'd be saying I was Pro-Life, but damn if I'm not forced to now.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
Life is on tonight! Life is on tonight! Whee! It really is the best new show, and it stars Damian Lewis and features a bunch of Deadwood alums dropping in. How can that not be awesome?
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 09:13 am (UTC)
I agree with pretty much all of this. I have given up on Reaper for now (have only so much time for TV at the moment), even though it was one of the shows I was most excited about (Chuck I checked out because people were talking about it in the vm4).

On a completely different note, when you do a google search for 'outrageous fortune season one promo', your lj comes up on the second page.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC)
I am forced to agree with you, even though the last Reaper had the awesome Mercedes McNab in it (and managed to have Andi in it without either Sam or Andi making googly eyes at each other and they actually acted like friends).
Date:November 7th, 2007 09:31 am (UTC)
"Chuck appears to be the superior show in almost every respect. It makes me wonder why I watch Reaper at all. It's not like it sucks or anything; it's perfectly enjoyable and entertaining and fun...I hadn't even planned on checking out Chuck at all. But here we are, seven weeks later, and I recommend checking out Chuck and passing on Reaper if you were to choose only one."

A world of word, my friend. I'm exactly with you - Chuck was my "yeah, I'll check it out because it fits with my Monday Night Double" show, and Reaper was the show I was most excited to catch out of all the newbies, and now (outside of the prior two weeks being a wee bit slow) Chuck is all about keeping me - especially now that they have finally kicked a mythology into things. Whereas, Reaper has...Missy, Sock and Ray Wise (and laughably bad FX).

Plus, Chuck has Australia's own Yvonne Strahovski, and that is a bonus no matter who you are.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
Okay, so, you're right on all of that, and maybe I haven't given Chuck a fair chance because I sort of usually flip over in the middle of it after How I Met Your Mother (yes, I KNOW I TiVo HIMYM and could watch it later, but why?) but I have not been able to sit still through more than 5 minutes of Chuck, while I gave Reaper a season pass. I think I'm more charmed by Sam, and I also think that, while Chuck's in a fucked up position, I'm more intrigued by the underlying free-will-in-question premise of Reaper where like. . .he will have to spend his eternity in hell for a decision his parents made, only maybe not really because the Devil is lying about his contract only OH NO his dad is BURNING parts of his contract WTF?

So, it's REaper for me. NO science, just what doesn't bore me. ; )
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
I would be more intrigued by that question if the show really appeared to want to tackle it. The scene with his dad is the one intriguing thing so far, and I hope they continue with that whole arc, because it's interesting.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
Since I don't watch Reaper, I can't really compare them, but if you just compare Chuck to a constant of Moderate-to-Good you'd get about the same results, I think:
Name is kind of dull, opening credits are cute, Big Boss/Bad is a little weak in development, continuity and character development is already good, tone suffers a bit, multiple interesting relationships and story arcs, Morgan is annoying, and no household objects are used to defeat evil (only Adam Baldwin's elbow).

Date:November 7th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)
And stereo equipment. Didn't Adam Baldwin heave stuff at that one guy in the cage?
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 03:01 pm (UTC)
I like both shows. Not equally. Lately, I have found Chuck to be superior. I consider Reaper candy for my brain. I tape Reaper but watch Chuck as it airs, which tells my story, really. Don't give up on Reaper just yet. It might just surprise you. Grrr... here comes the snow again.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
Reaper has been on the verge of losing me all season, but unseenlibrarian had a great theory based on this last episode that would point at there being much more of an arc and a plan to Reaper than has previously been shown. Plus, it does make me laugh, and it's not like I have to pick one or the other to watch - but Chuck is definitely the superior series.

Also, Bionic Woman should almost be in this particular head-to-head deathmatch, except it's probably the lame duck of the three despite significant improvement in episode quality over the past couple of eps.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
Bionic Woman needs to keep the lead drunk and British and it would sweep everything.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 03:43 pm (UTC)
I've only watched two eps of Reaper and the rest are stacked up on my DVR. I'd been feeling okay about that anyway, and this post only makes me that much happier with the sitch so far. So many, many good points you have made about Chuck, which is turning out to be far better than I expected in so many ways.

Now if only it would get a full-season pickup (which Reaper has, if I'm not mistaken.) The strike has everything wonky this season, including Heroes, and right when I'd caught up (I need all of those eps that KB signed up for, dammit!).

I guess I'll keep those Reaper eps around in case the strike doesn't wrap soon. Give the writers their 8 cents a DVD set (etc.), for pete's sake!
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
Plus, Reaper has no Adam Baldwin fighting bad guys with home appliances. Also, no equivalent of Captain Awesome! Who should totally earn several points all by his awesome self.

Ray Wise crack me up and I like Sock and Ben, but Chuck made me invested in all of the relationships to a much greater degree than Reaper. The awesome music doesn't hurt, of course.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
Plus, Reaper has no Adam Baldwin fighting bad guys with home appliances.
Ha, I forgot the microwave! That could have helped Chuck in that category a little.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
This is exactly the conclusion that I came to last week. Although I love both shows a great deal, Chuck is the superior show. Besides the excellent use of Cake and all the other reasons you mentioned, it seems like Chuck has a better-developed sense of humor, which is very important to me. Case in point, the moment that clinched Chuck's superiority for me: the Ryan/Marissa "Countdown" parody. Last night, Tamara and I watched that scene from The O.C. and noted all the ways that it was exactly the same.

Unfortunately, I can't watch Chuck at it's regular time for at least three more weeks. Both slots on my Tivo are taken up by shows I'm very attached to, HIMYM and DWTS. I have my old VCR hooked up to rabbit ears, but I worry about HIMYM's ratings a lot and I need to be able to see DWTS without static. So, for the next three weeks, I have to watch the re-runs on Saturday (even though they tricked me a couple of weeks ago and I missed the Comic Con episode).
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
Case in point, the moment that clinched Chuck's superiority for me: the Ryan/Marissa "Countdown" parody.
That was so awesome. I was thinking, "Ha, they used this song on The O.C. for a very similar scene that was, um, more romantic in nature. Oh, wait...oh, Josh Schwartz."

Aw, you and Tamara! You guys are having all sorts of fun without me.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
I guess Chuck won for me awhile ago since I'm still watching it, and I gave up on Reaper after one episode.
Date:November 7th, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC)
You should post this in th TV Whore blog. It's very well done. And fun!

Sam is likely to be eaten by a grue.
Dark times for Reaper. But maybe Sam stole a lamp from The Work Bench...
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
You should post this in th TV Whore blog. It's very well done. And fun!
Yeah, I think it'd be a good fit, if Rae didn't mind the double-post.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)
What a nice and fun post about the show.

Chuck is fun! I mean, Reaper is nice, but I don't get some of the stuff at the Work Bench all the time. However, I love Ray!
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
Okay, you've got me wanting to ditch my date with Reaper downloads in favour of Chuck downloads now.

And, yay, winning stuff!

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