The big news out of the "Chuck" panel at Comic-Con? Linda Hamilton will be playing Chuck Bartowski's long-lost, presumed dead mother, as long rumored and finally confirmed right before the panel began. "We've learned to take our cues from the people gathered here today," said co-creator Josh Schwartz of the capacity crowd of fans in Ballroom 20. He said Hamilton is an icon to fans of the show and genre fans in general, and he added that the fourth season of the show will feature the search for Mother Bartowski prominently. The search will play deeply into Chuck's work and personal lives, and we'll catch a glimpse of mom right away in the first episode of the season.
The news about Hamilton set the crowd buzzing, but what prompted the strongest reaction at the event might have been the whole panel being cut short almost promptly at 10:44, by this writer's clock. Considering how many panels are given a little wiggle room on the late side, it might have been nice to see this panel given the same consideration. Granted, the panel got a late start, and a highlight reel, goofy video of Chuck and Morgan addressing Comic-Con fans, and music video for Jeffster! cut down on the amount of time the panel was able to run, but the panel ended before any fans could ask questions of the cast, which is a poor move for a show with fans so dedicated they've poured heart and soul into saving the show multiple times over. Co-moderators Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg, both of Hitfix, seemed as baffled by the call by Comic-Con staff as the cast and co-creators, and it ended the panel on a wrong note.
But never mind that. A "Chuck" Comic-Con panel is always a chance for the show's faithful to gather to see their favorite stars interact with them in real life. Adam Baldwin, who plays the gruff John Casey; Josh Gomez, who plays Chuck's best friend Morgan Grimes; and Zachary Levi, who plays, well, Chuck, got the biggest responses from the crowd, but the entire cast and co-creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak were greeted warmly as well. The highlight reel before the presentation drew the biggest cheers for kisses between Chuck and Sarah, who stopped playing will-they/won't-they and finally got together this season, and Chuck killing the villainous Daniel Shaw, a character who drove many fans nuts when he and Sarah flirted with a hookup, but the real excitement came for the following videos.
First, Morgan and Chuck interrupted a Ring video that was ostensibly indoctrinating the audience into the organization's evil ways, joking about everything from the need to help us to Morgan using the assumed name Javier Bardem. After going through their DVDs to find the right "cure" - and finding "Serenity" in the process, to the cheers of fans (this is a show that knows it's audience) - the crowd was treated to a video of Lester dancing to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" in front of an ever-shifting green screen filled with assorted odd patterns and colors, as Jeff sprayed mist around him and also strutted his stuff. It's something that's virtually impossible to describe in a way that will make it sound funny, but if you imagine it for yourself, you can probably see how it was hysterical.
The cast came out after that, led by Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky (who play Lester and Jeff, respectively), but followed by the other actors, who joined the dance party (but for Baldwin, who went straight to his somehow-amusing sternness), then tossed T-shirts reading "Nerd" into the crowd. Sadly, not even Yvonne Strahovski had enough of an arm to get the shirts all the way to the back of the ballroom, but the steady build got the show's fans worked up into a lather, and the panel mostly consisted of everyone involved giving the fans exactly what they wanted from there on out.
There were more teases for season four. The Buy More has been completely taken over by the CIA, and every week, there will be a new green-shirted operative who's really good at what they do. They'll all be named Greta, and the first will be played by Olivia Munn, with the second played by Isaiah Mustafa (yes, the Old Spice commercial guy). Steve Austin (as in "Stone Cold") will return, as will Dolph Lundgren, and Schwartz teased a new spy team, as Chuck tries to keep his involvement in his father's secret spy affairs from his friends and family. "Chuck and Morgan are going to be a pretty bad but good - but bad - spy team," he said.
Levi and Strahovski were asked about changing Chuck and Sarah's relationship to a happy, romantic one, and Strahovski said she was pleased to finally be a part of the sunnier moments on the show. "I was very excited to finally be part of some of the happy stuff and some of the comic moments of the show," she said. "There's going to be more of that this season, I hope. Please."
The other breakout couple of season three was Casey and Morgan, as Casey was forced to take Morgan under his wing to help him learn to be a part of the CIA after Morgan learned Chuck's secret. Baldwin and Gomez joked about their working relationship, with Baldwin asking Gomez what he liked best about John Casey (his "soft hands," apparently) then saying that setting up shots between the two is always tricky for the cinematographer. "The phrase 'apple box please' is heard a lot," Baldwin, who towers over Gomez, said.
Sepinwall and Fienberg seemed to make a concerted effort to get everyone on the panel to speak, even though this resulted in Mark Christopher Lawrence and Krinsky only getting to say "Yes," when asked if they were worried that the explosion of the Buy More would lead to their unemployment. (Schwartz said the three had nothing to worry about. "These guys are a huge part of the show, and we can promise you, you will be back," he said.) As with all big panels, there wasn't enough time for everyone to get their moment in the sun. Strahovski and Levi, in particular, were a bit muted compared to previous Comic-Con panels, odd, since they're the series' two stars, and Sarah Lancaster and Ryan McPartlin (who play Chuck's sister and her husband, respectively) were largely glossed over, though Lancaster said she was pleased to have gotten a chance to hit Casey with a frying pan.
In the end, it was another triumphant panel for "Chuck" at Comic-Con, even if the abrupt ending to the panel left a sour taste. It's always nice to see a panel where the fans in the crowd and the people on stage have a mutual lovefest going on, and if there's any show on TV that has a hugely beneficial lovefest with its fans, it's this one. Levi went so far as to say that if the actors passed around buckets to collect money to keep the panel running (this, after the magic Comic-Con voice said the show was at an end), they'd likely collect enough money to go out for burgers, an assertion no one in the room, on either side of the panel, doubted. Not everything worked as planned at the "Chuck" panel, but the good vibes from the experience overrode any other problems.
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