Category: Chuck

'X Factor,' 'Idol,' 'Biggest Loser' lead in product placement

XFactor-EpParty-Pepsi_ScBTS_0009[1]Reality shows like "The X Factor," "American Idol" and "The Biggest Loser" may lead the way in product placement on television in terms of dollars, but, according to a study, scripted shows generate far more memorable moments.

For instance, it doesn’t take a house to fall on Tessa Altman for her to know that her new life in the burbs is nothing like her old one in New York City. But it did take a can of sugar-free Red Bull to hit her in the head to drive the point home to viewers.

At least, that’s one scene that stuck out to the audience of “Suburgatory,” making the integration of the energy drink into the ABC sitcom one of the most memorable product placements of the year.

The finding is part of an annual study from Nielsen, a research firm that tracks brands that pop up, either paid or unpaid, in TV shows, and rates the impression of those on-air mentions and placements on the audience. Red Bull in “Suburgatory” was second in viewer recall only to Sheldon on CBS’ hit “The Big Bang Theory” using Purell after handling a live snake.

Among the other well-recalled placements: Det. Beckett (Stana Katic) tools around in a Ferrari on ABC’s cop drama “Castle,” characters play Hasbro board games Scrabble and Monopoly on “Desperate Housewives,” and Subway sandwiches make a high-profile appearance on NBC’s “Chuck.”

For this particular data grab, Nielsen considered only the brands that were both seen and mentioned on network TV shows between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30 of this year. Scores come from the percentage of viewers who could recall, within 24 hours, which products they saw while watching TV shows (excluding the ads).

The industry numbers cruncher also rates the “top 10 prime-time programs with product placement.” Most of those shows — “American Idol,” “The Biggest Loser,” “The X Factor” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” — have multi-year, multimillion-dollar deals in place that include star treatment for sponsor brands.

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'Chuck' recap: A satisfying ending, but what about Season 5?

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Had that been the series finale of “Chuck” it would have been a terrific place to leave things, even with the cliffhanger that sets up what happens next year (in the show’s almost certainly final 13 episodes). Big emotions were expressed. Risks were taken. Lives were forever changed. It was the show at its very best, and even if the journey there was all over the place, this show has proved twice this season that it doesn’t have a problem coming up with finales that conclude its storylines with the maximum amount of both closure and excitement.

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'Chuck' lands fifth season, producer confirms

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Good news for all you “Chuck” fans out there. NBC has officially picked up the series for a fifth season, as confirmed Friday by co-creator and co-executive producer Josh Schwartz on Twitter. Schwartz thanked the series’ rabid fan base for keeping the show on the air for an unprecedented (given the series’ low ratings) five seasons. He also said there will be more details soon.

Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall has some of those details already, including the fact that the order, at present, is for 13 episodes. Will that order have the potential of expanding into more episodes, as the series did this year (when a 13-episode order was extended to 24 episodes)? Or will those 13 episodes be a curtain call for the show, bringing its total number to 91 episodes broadcast? We’ll hopefully know more by the time the fourth season finale airs Monday.

“Chuck” had been in a perilous position heading into upfront season. The show’s normally low ratings had sagged to catastrophically low over the last few weeks as the show took its typical hit from Daylight Saving Time. But NBC apparently still has enough faith in the show to bring it back, and rumors that the series had been renewed were circulating as early as Tuesday, before Schwartz confirmed them Friday.

Photo: Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Chuck (Zachary Levi) will get at least one more season on NBC. Credit: NBC

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'Chuck' recap: Does this show deserve a renewal? Let's discuss

'Chuck' recap: Who is Hartley Winterbottom?

Complete Show Tracker 'Chuck' coverage

--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

'Chuck' recap: Does this show deserve a renewal? Let's discuss

Chuck There’s some hilarious stuff in the penultimate episode of Season Four of “Chuck” (and maybe the next-to-last episode ever), but there’s also stuff that doesn’t work so well, and much of that stems from the worst decision the show has made this season: the decision to make Vivian Volkoff such a big player in the season’s endgame. In theory, I like the idea of there being this exact opposite to Chuck in every way, but in practice, the development of her character has been so scattered and random that it’s hard to gain much sympathy for her or even build up a good dislike of her. She’s just kind of there, neither as a cautionary tale or a good villain.

I know that the reason this has developed this way is because the show has been renewed and nearly canceled so haphazardly over the years. This season alone, episode 13 was one where the producers had every reason to believe they’d never be coming back, and then they had to come up with a storyline for another 11 episodes of television. This was accomplished well in some cases (I really liked the reveal about Alexei Volkoff’s origins last week) and poorly in others (Vivian might have made more sense stretched over an entire season, instead of a handful of episodes). It’s hard to hold this against the show, but every time it starts to build some momentum, as it did last week, there’s Vivian again, holding things back.

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'Chuck' recap: Who is Hartley Winterbottom?

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"Chuck Versus Agent X" was something like four or five different episodes of "Chuck" smashed together awkwardly, until it seemed as though the writers had a bad case of attention deficit disorder while writing this one. And yet, I liked at least two of the stories and was mostly tolerant of a third, so I had a pretty good time. Plus, there was a strong twist to close out the episode and send the show into the final two episodes of the season (and, most likely, the series, considering how bad the ratings have been lately).

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'Chuck' recap: Don't waste Gary Cole!

NUP_143956_0284 It took a while, and the episode nearly lost me, but the latest “Chuck” finally found its way into my heart. To be honest, I was ready to write this one off as among the worst episodes the show had ever done. But then Gary Cole’s Jack Burton became more integrated in the action, and I was much more into what was going on.

Let’s start with the episode's two big problems. 1) It took forever to get Jack involved in the storyline. When Gary Cole first popped up back in Season 2, he was a highlight of that year, simply because having him be Sarah’s dad was such a perfect bit of casting. Sarah comes from a life as a con man’s daughter? Of course she does! And he often tried to teach her all about running cons? That makes even more sense!

But Monday night’s episode stranded Jack off on his own for the first half, and, even weirder, it had him hang out with Captain Awesome, instead of his daughter and future son-in-law. It’s not that there was anything inherently wrong with this idea. Ryan McPartlin is a lot of fun when he’s playing comedy, and Gary Cole, of course, is a great comic actor who can make even pretty lame writing seem funny. But if we’re going to have Jack on the show for just one episode, then we want to see him with Sarah and Chuck, not with Awesome (even if Awesome is, well, look at his name). So this was fairly disappointing.

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'Chuck' recap: Return of the Volkoff(s)

NUP_143778_0392 For an episode that had so many elements that just didn’t work, I still kind of liked the latest episode of "Chuck."

Much of that can be laid at the feet of Timothy Dalton, who made his big return as Alexei Volkoff, villain of the year. At the same time, let’s offer a tip of the cap to Adam Baldwin and Joshua Gomez, who’ve turned their Casey/Morgan routine into something like a fine comic sketch, with perfect timing and the two acting like a couple that’s been married for ages.

Beyond that, there was a lot of clumsiness, mostly stemming from yet more ridiculous Chuck and Sarah relationship stuff and, well, the fact that Vivian Volkoff is not the villain her father was. But the good stuff was good enough to keep me going.

The central idea of the episode was that the CIA needed to get its hands on a mega-super-weapon called “The Norseman,” and the only man who could possibly make that happen was Alexei Volkoff himself.

The show kind of wrote itself into a corner with this. If Volkoff had actually made some sort of shift toward good in prison, that would have felt far too abrupt in his character arc. (The dude spent DECADES as one of the top baddies.) If he was still a bad guy, then the episode lacked a certain amount of suspense, because the question of which side Alexei was playing would be answered in the most obvious fashion. Thus, the resolution was probably going to be a disappointment either way, though the show at least gave something intriguing a shot by tying Volkoff’s return to evilness directly to the re-emergence of his daughter.

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'Chuck' recap: Everybody loves a murder mystery

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Though it was silly and predictable, “Chuck Versus the Muuurder” is the first episode of “Chuck” in a while I don’t feel like I have to make excuses for. I really enjoyed the show’s central conceits, and I found myself getting drawn into the murder mystery, even though I figured out the killer from the word go. This was pretty clearly an episode designed to save a little cash, confined as it was to some of the show’s standing sets (though it boasted a hefty guest cast), but the show figured out a way to make staying in the same place pretty exciting, via a nice combination of unexpected death and explosions. “Muuurder” even finds a way to tie everything together with the season’s ongoing plot, as we find out that the person behind the infiltration of the castle is someone we already know, and we discover that Father Bartowski’s plans for his daughter may not have been as altruistic as we might have previously thought. All in all, it’s a pretty aces episode of “Chuck.”

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'Chuck' recap: A few new uses for apple juice

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One of the things that's always bothered me about "Chuck," even in its very best episodes, is the fact that it will often move too quickly. Material that would have been awesome playing out over arcs of several episodes will be hurried through in a single hour, making that episode feel chaotic and also making other episodes that could have benefited from such material feel oddly empty. The biggest flaw in the "Chuck" picture has always been world-building, to my mind. The show never feels like it extends beyond the confines of an individual episode in the way the best series do. It's hard to imagine that the guest stars of the week have lives outside of the times they intersect with Chuck, and the show's version of Burbank feels oddly shallow. By extending story lines, by making things feel more consistent, the show could very easily fix this, all the while keeping with its usual format. Yet it rarely bothers to do this.

"Chuck Versus the A-Team" is a good example of this. For a few weeks now, we've been wondering just what Casey saw behind that giant metal door at the end of the inexplicable hallway (as Chuck and Sarah note, cheekily, there must have been some new construction they missed). It hasn't been the most important question hanging over the series -– that would probably be just what's up with Vivian Volkoff -– but there's certainly been an air of mystery around the whole thing. Now we find out what's behind the door, and it's just ... another team for Casey and another version of Castle. Sure, the plan has involved turning Rick and Vicky (two of the agents who briefly worked in the Buy More and were known as "Greta" earlier this season) into Intersects like Chuck, but the reveal doesn't really match the extreme amount of buildup. What was behind the door was just a mirror image of what was on the other side? It's all very strange, like if that magical wardrobe in the Narnia books opened, instead, to a Super Cuts or something.

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'Chuck' recap: I'm finding it hard to care about your problems

NUP_143466_0001 If there's one thing an episode of "Chuck" can’t afford to be, it's boring. This is a show that thrives on fun, and boring is the enemy of fun. The problem with what the show is doing right now is that it is almost entirely dependent on an untested actress playing a character we just met last week, and that means that we need to be far more invested in Vivian Volkoff and her metamorphosis from normal British chick to super-villain than we are right now. I'm not saying this can't change, but I'm not totally buying it just yet. A lot of that stems from the actress playing Vivian, Lauren Cohan, who's been fine in other things I've seen over the years but isn’t quite selling the idea that this otherwise normal girl could become a figurehead of menace (at least, I assume that's where we're heading, and the ending makes it pretty darn clear we're going this way). Also, her accent isn't the best (though that wouldn't bother me nearly so much if the writing for the character were better).

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'Chuck' recap: I have no idea what's going on, but I like it

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Every single act in tonight’s episode of “Chuck” felt like it was from a different episode of the show entirely. I don’t say this is a bad thing! Normally, it would have been, but the show somehow managed to make all of this feel vaguely cohesive, even as you were constantly aware that things could completely crumble and fall apart at any moment. There was a lot of STUFF crammed into this episode, but it all largely worked. Were there issues around the edges? Sure. But for an episode that began with a light-hearted, silly scene set at Valentine’s Day and ended with a villain’s daughter discovering her (probably evil) destiny? It worked better than it had any right to.

The most interesting thing here is the introduction of Vivian, Volkoff’s daughter, who ostensibly requires Chuck, Sarah and Casey’s protection but reveals herself to be pretty handy with a gun when all is said and done. And when the episode ends, she finds her way to her dad’s office and discovers… a strange glowing light. So just what’s going on here? Has she stumbled upon some sort of secret weapon Volkoff was keeping hidden away from the CIA, to be broken out only when his daughter was ready? Is there some sort of massive treasure he’s hidden away for her, the better for her to be rich? Or is this just going to turn out to be whatever was in Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase, somehow wandering its way over to a light action drama on America’s lowest-rated major network? Whatever the case, Vivian went from a character who seemed like just another girl of the week to someone who could tie together the back half of the season the way her father tied together the first half. I’m not sold on Lauren Cohan’s accent work (which comes and goes as she plays the character), but I’m intrigued by Vivian. I want to see where this goes.

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'Chuck' recap: A trashy homage that turns into trash

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There are weeks when I'm on the same page as "Chuck," and everything's just peachy. There are weeks when I'm on the same page as "Chuck," but the show's execution leaves something to be desired. And then there are weeks when I can see what "Chuck" is trying to do and can even sort of accept that it's pulled that off, but it's doing something I just have no interest in. "Chuck Versus the Cat Squad" was an episode like that. I wasn't a big fan at all. In fact, it might be my least favorite episode of the season so far. But at the same time, if you loved it, I'm not going to blame you for loving it. It was just celebrating a kind of TV I've never liked all that much, all the while refusing to be as campy as it would need to be to amuse me as much as it wanted to. And if that works for you, cool. But I couldn't get on that wavelength.

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