February 2, 2009

GREAT TV SHOWS WORK...:

No Grumpy Guy, He’s 46 and in Repose (JOE RHODES, 2/01/09, NY Times)

In “Chuck” he plays no-nonsense secret agent John Casey, protecting loose-limbed amateur Chuck Bartkowski (played by Zachary Levi), a computer nerd who has accidentally had the contents of a super-secret government computer downloaded into his brain. But even before “Chuck,” Mr. Baldwin had received sterling reviews and a growing cult following for playing similarly grumpy characters on “The X-Files” and “Firefly.”

“The guy does more with a grunt than most actors could do with a monologue,” said Josh Schwartz, the executive producer of “Chuck.” The extent of Mr. Baldwin’s built-in fan base became apparent to Mr. Schwartz only when the “Chuck” cast appeared at last summer’s Comic-Con International, and “4,000 people went insane whenever Adam said anything.”

Mr. Schwartz said it was the creator and co-executive producer Chris Fedak’s idea to cast Mr. Baldwin as Casey, an idea he embraced as soon as Mr. Baldwin read for the part. “You totally believe him as this N.S.A. agent who’s happy to torture and kill people, but he’s also really, really funny,” Mr. Schwartz said. “He gets the comedy without ever breaking character. And his preparation is astounding. Adam really relishes all these details: How does Casey sharpen his knife and fork before he eats? He’s worked all that stuff out.”

Mr. Baldwin said, “I came up with the idea that Casey has a bonsai tree, and I brought in the Reagan photo that’s in his room.” He added, “I try to make sure the military vernacular is as accurate as possible. For the comedy to work, you’ve got to buy that Casey is a serious guy who’s somewhat incredulous about this geek being inserted into his life.”

After last year’s debut season ended abruptly because of the writers’ strike, “Chuck” struggled to find an audience until just before its holiday hiatus in mid-December, when critics, particularly online, started noticing that the show’s ratings had improved 12 percent from the season premiere. NBC is bringing the show back with a hefty marketing push, including a 3-D commercial during Sunday night’s Super Bowl telecast and a 3-D episode on Monday night.


Lusting After Guns, and the Affections of an Ex-Boyfriend (GINIA BELLAFANTE, 2/01/09, NY Times)
On “Burn Notice” (Thursdays on USA), producers correctly foresaw the comic potential of using a woman who looks as if she has stepped out of Burke’s Peerage and Gentry to play someone who appears to live in the pages of Jane’s Defense Weekly. A former operative for the Irish Republican Army, Fiona is in southern Florida catering to the needs of her ex-boyfriend, Michael (Jeffrey Donovan), a former spook who has been excommunicated — “burned,” in spy jargon — by whatever malfeasant government agency had been employing him. While he is trying to figure out who tossed him to the curb without an exit interview, Michael shakes down crooks with Fiona’s unfailingly useful assistance; she can build explosives the way the rest of us make toast.

When their operation requires her to baby-sit for a 6-year-old boy, in hiding, she initiates a game of toy soldiers. “My guy has an M2 Browning .50 caliber,” she explains. “It’s a belt-fed weapon. Your guy has a Mark II pineapple fragmentation grenade, short range, so it needs a really, really good hiding place. Let’s see if we can get you some more tactical support.”

Fiona is a character with no memorable precedent: a genius joke-take on girls with gun lust, the joke being that above all else she is every woman who needs to be sent a copy of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” next-day delivery.


...right up until the supporting characters start to experience personal growth.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 2, 2009 9:16 AM
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