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Saying a sad goodbye to 'Chuck'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Friday is going to be a very sad night for me. I already know I'll need to have the Kleenex ready because tears are a certainty. That's because at 8 p.m. the two-hour series finale of "Chuck" begins on NBC.

In the five and a half years I've been writing this column, shows that I've liked, and even ones I've really liked, have been canceled, but only one that I loved ("Ugly Betty") has suffered that fate. And even of the canceled shows I love, none were around as long as "Chuck," which has spanned five seasons.

In fact, "Chuck" is one of only four shows out of the 41 new ones that premiered in 2007 that is still on the air today. (The others are "The Big Bang Theory," "Gossip Girl" and "Kitchen Nightmares.") That's not too shabby for a show whose renewal each season was never a lock.

Speaking of renewal, "Chuck" also has the honor of being one of the few shows whose rabid fan campaign paid off. Sure, we took traditional routes like writing letters, starting Internet petitions and raising awareness of the show through social media, but we also showed NBC that we were buying what they were selling - literally.

In spring 2009, an uber-fan started a campaign not to flood executives' offices with items symbolic to the show (a common strategy), but to flood one of their big advertisers, Subway, with our business. It worked, and "Chuck" returned for its third season that fall -- with Subway as a corporate sponsor to help cover production costs.

So what is it about "Chuck" that inspires such fervor amongst its fans? Well, for me, it's the fun.

When I first read about the show, it sounded like an "Alias" or "24"-esque spy drama, an action-packed story about a computer geek turned super spy after government secrets are embedded in his head. And while it does have plenty of action, it's also much more light-hearted and sweet than either of those shows.

It's as much about family and friendship, about being there for and protecting the ones you love, as it is saving the world from bad guys. There's plenty of butt kicking but an equal amount of wit and comic relief.

Now, that sort of genre blending is much more common (think of all USA's hit shows), but when "Chuck" premiered, darker, grittier fare reigned supreme. Most of the other dramas it premiered with -- "Moonlight," "Women's Murder Club," "Life" and "K-Ville" among them -- were hardly feel good fare.

"Chuck" was a bright spot. It was original, and it was great escapism, which was especially nice in its original Monday night timeslot. It's stayed that way over the years, even now when it's been relegated to the Friday night death slot to finish out its run.

I can't complain about the timeslot, though, because I'm just glad "Chuck" has been able to actually finish out its story instead of being canceled abruptly and leaving us hanging. This last 13-episode season has allowed the writers to take the story to the ending they want and give some nice closure for the fans and characters.

Chuck (Zachary Levi) has gone from common nerd to super spy and back to nerd, though not quite so common anymore. He's got the girl of his dreams in Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), and she's finally got a family, which she's never had before. They're planning a cozy life and a family together -- if things don't go horribly awry in Friday's finale, that is.

Chuck's BFF, Morgan (Joshua Gomez), also has the girl of his dreams and has been able to escape Chuck's shadow to come into his own. Even the gruff John Casey (Adam Baldwin) is back in the romantic saddle, tentatively, and he now has a solid relationship with the daughter he had to abandon to serve his country.

Chuck's sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her husband, "Captain Awesome" (Ryan McPartlin), have found happiness as parents. Things are even looking up for his slacker Buy More co-workers Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) now that Jeff has stopped sleeping in his van and cleared his head of its toxic carbon monoxide fumes.

After five seasons, these characters have become like friends to me and countless other fans, so just as I would wish the best for my friends in their futures, I want Chuck and his crew to ride off into the sunset in the best possible way. I'm going to be very sad come fall when there's no new "Chuck" to look forward to, but I know I'll see the gang again, both on DVD and in new projects.

nnn

Series premieres: "Russell Simmons Presents the Ruckus," 10 p.m. today, Comedy Central (stand-up comedy); "Bering Sea Gold," 10 p.m. Friday, Discovery (dredging crews try to extract gold); "Extreme RVs," 9 p.m. Sunday, Travel Channel (lavish, custom-made RVs); "Key & Peele," 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Comedy Central (sketch comedy); "Sorority Girls," 9 p.m. Tuesday, TLC (establishing the first British sorority); "Undercover Princes," 10 p.m. Tuesday, TLC (three royals hide their titles and look for love).

Season premieres: "Inside the Actors Studio," 8 p.m. Tuesday, Bravo (featuring George Clooney); "Tosh.0," 10 p.m. Tuesday, Comedy Central.

Bonus episode: "30 Rock," 9 p.m. today, NBC.

Season finales: "Celebrity Wife Swap," 9 p.m. Tuesday, ABC; "Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood," 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oxygen; "The Exes," 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, TV Land.

Specials: "David Blaine: What is Magic?" 10 p.m. today, TLC; "Tony Bennett: Duets II," 9 p.m. Friday, PBS (with Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin and more); Screen Actors Guild Awards, 8 p.m. Sunday, TBS and TNT; "Fashion Police: 2012 SAG Awards," 10 p.m. Monday, E!; "Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials," 8 p.m. Wednesday, CBS; "Mobbed," 9 p.m. Wednesday, Fox (a man uses a flash mob to try to reconcile with his brother/bandmate).

Awards show: Of note: Florence + the Machine on "Austin City Limits," 10 p.m. Saturday, PBS2; "Glee" pays tribute to Michael Jackson, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Fox.

W.Va. alert: John Corbett stars in the fact-based TV movie "A Smile as Big as the Moon," about a special ed. teacher fighting to take his students to Space Camp, at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com.


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