Chuck has all the ingredients. Chuck is funny. Chuck has attractive and talented leads. Chuck should appeal to anyone and everyone. It has pop-culture references, it has over-the-top action. It has drama, but is not a downer. There is nothing about Chuck that would turn away a prospective viewer. It has nothing holding it back. And yet, despite all the support it has seen from NBC, the show is floundering in the ratings. It is routinely at the bottom of the barrel in its time slot on Mondays at 8pm. It is one of those television mysteries that really hurts for a fan. It’s like you know a secret that no one else knows or cares about. If the ratings don’t pick up for Chuck, the series will soon cease to exist. This is a fundamental truth for TV shows – no matter how great a show is, no matter how much faith a network has in it, at the end of the day ratings talk. Why, then, is Chuck such a ratings failure?
The obvious, and routinely noted, reason for Chuck’s poor showing in the ratings is its brutal time slot. It’s up against the juggernaut that is Dancing with the Stars. Right away, that steals away a ton of avid TV watchers. CBS has two established comedies against Chuck – The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. Both shows have a loyal audience. Fans of those shows aren’t going to randomly switch their time slot allegiance. The teenage crowd, meanwhile, is watching Gossip Girl on CW. That show does worse in overall ratings versus Chuck, but it dominates in the all-important young person demographic. Finally, FOX has Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles up against Chuck. That show is also now a cult series that caters to a similar audience as Chuck. It’s safe to say that both of those shows are stealing viewers away from the other.
So – it’s really easy to point to the schedule as the main culprit for Chuck’s fledgling ratings. But, it can’t be the only reason. TV has proven time and time again that, regardless of the competition, any show can succeed. The audience is out there, a show only has to find it. Chuck is decidedly better here in its second season than it was in its first season. Viewers might have tuned in early on in season one, thought the show was OK, and then brushed off Chuck for good. A bad first impression is almost impossible to overcome. Word of mouth has to be great for viewers to give a series a second shot. This has yet to happen for Chuck.
Chuck may also be perceived by audiences as a hybrid. They’re not sure if it’s an action show or a comedy. If your premise is unclear, viewers are less prone to checking it out. Or, it could have to do with Chuck’s perceived serial nature. Maybe audiences think that they’ll be lost when tuning it for the first time (which, honestly, they probably would be). Whatever the reason is, the truth remains: Chuck is not a popular show and it troubles me. If you have any theories as to why, please enlighten us in the comments section below.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of NBC)