We're in for the most awesome season of Chuck ever! In fact, Chuck star Zachary Levi and the producers of the NBC comic spy series promise Chuck will be at his most bumbling, glitchiest and butt-kicking best when the series premieres its third season on Sunday, Jan. 10, at 9 p.m. with two enormous episodes. And if that's not enough for the Chuckites of the world, another mammoth episode will air in the show's regular timeslot the next day on Monday at 8 p.m.
"For two years I kind of sat on the sidelines and watched Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski, Casey and Sarah respectively, kick bad guys' butts and was very jealous of that," said Levi during a conference call with journalists, which also included executive producers Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak. "Not that Chuck should have been able to do it at that point. He was much better at running away or screaming like a little girl. But now that he has this new Intersect 2.0 and the abilities that come with that, he is able to kind of lend a hand in the kick-buttery, if you will."
What we viewers know up to this point is that Chuck Bartowski, unwitting spy thanks to accidentally downloading all the government's secrets into his head, has now been upgraded to Intersect 2.0. So suddenly he's not only flashing on information, as he has for the last two years, he's also flashing on physical abilities that make him an expert at things like kung fu.
Here are 11 awesome developments we have to look forward to with Chuck's third season:
1. Chuck may be SuperChuck, but he's still Chuck!
"He's still the kind of somewhat bumbling hero, and I think that's what brings so much of the heart and premise of the show and keeps that there. Though Chuck now has these abilities, they're fleeting, they're in and out, they're glitchy," said Levi. "This new door that we walk through now just lends itself to both more action and more comedy, which I think is good all the way around, and it doesn't change the heart of the show, which I think some fans I know were maybe concerned, like, 'Oh, gosh, now he's Jason Bourne. It's not going to be the same show anymore.' I can guarantee you I am no Jason Bourne."
2. However, prepare for the evolution of Chuck!
We're "really trying to take advantage of Zach's skills and abilities, as an actor, to really grow that character up," said Schwartz. "I can imagine it would be very frustrating if he was still sitting in the car, scared of everything like he was in the beginning of season one. ... He really has come a long way, I think, as a character and as a guy... man, dare I say 'man'? ... We've really tried to make an effort that Chuck evolves."
"This season very much is like we're building a hero here," said Fedak. "And so for each season essentially it's been a process of going from a regular guy, to a guy who's going to get out of the car, to a guy who's going to have true adventures and to be a hero."
And it's certainly "something that Sarah Walker is very cognizant of and concerned about, because, you know, she fell in love with the guy. She didn't fall in love with the spy. And as she watches the guy become the spy, that's going to be a source of really good angst between the two of them. Not really good for them, but really good for audiences," Fedak added.
3. The kick-buttery of it all!
So, Chuck 2.0? What does it really mean for Chuck? "Most of it is fighting-oriented, you know, various forms of martial arts, in different kind of aspects, be it for a moment or for a whole full-fledged fight," said Levi. "But, yeah, [playing] musical instruments and, as you see in the previews, I may or may not speak Thai."
There may also be "some dancing and some vehicle maneuvering or whatever the case may be. ... I don't know, skydiving would be awesome. I don't know how we'd fit that in the budget, but to have a little bit of that going on would be cool, or bungee jumping or ... I'm personally, in my own life, a very big fan of extreme sports and adrenaline and all that stuff," he said. "To throw anything at him will certainly be out of his comfort zone and make for good entertainment, I think."
4. The infinite possibilities of Intersect 2.0's glitchiness!
"With the new Intersect you have to keep in mind that it was designed for a super-cold emotionless spy like Bryce Larkin. Someone who could essentially handle all these new abilities," said Fedak. "Now the problem is that's it's been downloaded into a guy like Chuck Bartowski, who's filled with emotion. And anxiety, fear, he's in love with his partner, all the things that actually don't help the Intersect don't help with these abilities."
That means sometimes the Intersect works "perfectly, and sometimes, when he gets flustered, when he gets upset, it begins to essentially fritz out, and he's not able to flash," Fedak added. "Now, in regard to the abilities themselves, there's a lot of abilities. ... They're infinite, really, in some ways. I didn't know Spanish guitar would be in the new spy Intersect, but, you know, it's in there. So it's really funny to kind of see what else was hidden in there by the Intersect scientists."
5. Chuck's secret is revealed ... again!
Last season Awesome, aka Ellie's now-husband Devon (Ryan McPartlin), discovered that Chuck was a spy. Well, Awesome is going to find himself sucked into "the spy side of the story" again. And "somebody else this year is going to learn Chuck's secret," said Fedak.
Beyond that, "Casey's harboring a secret of his own that he's kept quiet from the team and that's going to come into play this year as well," said Schwartz.
6. Prepare for an even more bizarre Buy More experience!
"The Buy More will always be a dysfunctional hotbed of competingly bizarre personalities," said Schwartz. "They're going to face their own challenges this year, cutbacks and potential management overthrows, a new assistant manager coming into the mix, someone you may know from the show. ... There'll be a new comely young lady who's going to come work at the Buy More this year, played by Miss Kristin Kreuk. She plays Hannah, and she's going to set multiple hearts aflutter, not just Chuck's."
Now that Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome are married, "Chuck and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) are getting their bachelor pad." That unfortunately means the whole Benihana chef thing didn't work out for Morgan.
We'll see the return of Jefster, get a glimpse into the scary world of Lester's bedroom and discover what Lester wears to bed. And "Jeff, I think, actually has gotten weirder this year, if that's even possible."
7. More cool guest stars are on board this season!
Considering last season's overwhelming wealth of guest stars, which included Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula, can it get any better this year? Well, the producers tell us there will be major arcs for Smallville's Kreuk, when she joins the Buy More, and Superman Returns' Brandon Routh, when he takes on spy duty as a new member of the team. Other guest stars also on board are Vinnie Jones with a "Guy Richie villain energy," Armand Asante as a Castro-type dictator, Robert Patrick as an ominous soldier from Casey's past and Stone Cold Steve Austin as a baddie Chuck gets trapped with on a plane.
8. Chuck directs Chuck!
Apparently playing the ultimate computer nerd, enduring those heavy duty romantic scenes with Sarah and engaging in the kick-buttery of it all isn't enough for Levi. He also directed an episode this season. So which is harder, being a spy or directing a spy show?
"Oh, I would have to say 100 percent being a television director. And I can only say that because being a spy is completely fictitious, I suppose. And not that it doesn't have its difficulties," said Levi. "but directing an episode of television, and maybe even specifically our show ... there's a lot to the show. There's mini-genres. It's a cornucopia of genres, if you will, a horn of plenty. And there were certainly moments where I felt like I couldn't go on like this. I was very, very overwhelmed at a couple of moments. But overall it was just the most incredible experience, and I'm happy to be through it and done with it and really happy with the product that we got from it so. But, yeah, it was difficult."
9. Mission: Subway integration!
Remember the big deal involving Subway, where the sandwich people actually agreed to help kick in some bucks for the Chuck production if the brand was integrated into the series? "The name of the show is now Jared," joked Schwartz. "It's actually going to be far less of an integration, I think, than people feared or predicted at the end of last season. It won't be much more than what you saw last year."
"We started production early, so you won't even see it actually until a little later on in the season. But it'll be very similar to last season," added Fedak.
10. 13 episodes + 6 episodes = A LOT MORE CHUCK!
NBC initially picked up Chuck for 13 episodes. However, they liked what they saw so much that they ordered an additional six episodes. But how will that affect the series creatively?
"The season was being built to have this incredible end-of-season run as you get up to 13," said Schwartz. "And as I said to Chris, well, 13, what a great season finale that he wrote. And of course it's merely just another episode now with the back six. ... So then it was incumbent upon the writers to top that. So for the fans they're going to get a whole extra dose of insanity, which I think is going to be really exciting and raises everybody's game."
Luckily, the season began early enough that they were able to deal with how to incorporate the new episodes, said Fedak. The back six ended up turning into a new arc. "We had time to kind of figure out what those six huge episodes would be. And it's also a glimpse into what season four is going to be."
11. A fan-powered Chuck!
At the end of last season things seemed on the wrong side of the bubble for Chuck. "I think for all of us it was pins and needles and mixed with incredible pride in the sense that, like, well, we've put our best foot out there," said Schwartz. "All of a sudden, completely outside of our own power, this fan base uprising began. And it started out small, and it just grew and grew, and suddenly, you know, the show, which had at times lived below the radar except amongst its most passionate fans, really found a narrative, I think, in the broader media."
"It is really humbling," said Levi. "We knew that we had fans, and furthermore, I knew that we had really passionate fans. We're fortunate to be kind of in this world of like, you know, Comic-Con love. ... And Comic-Con fans, fans of sci-fi fantasy, they are the most die-hard will-stay-with-you-to-the-bitter-end fans, and tend to really know how to band together when it comes to the Internet and blogging and vlogging and any other -ogging, for that matter. And making sure that you don't go down without a fight. And our fans did just that and continue to do just that."