TV’s Top 10 Characters – No. 8: Chuck Bartowski

Several of the characters on this Top 10 list made it because they are particularly interesting and entertaining because of some absolutely unique characteristic. For Chuck Bartowski, it’s just the opposite.

Chuck is a normal guy. He struggles to live up to his potential and would rather sit around being lazy and playing video games than concern himself with a legitimate career. That description fits countless other everyday Americans.

The only thing that separates Chuck from those other everyday Americans is circumstance. As he’s going about his quiet little life, one special day changes everything. He ends up accidentally becoming the government’s most important intelligence asset and is partnered with a beautiful woman whose job it is to protect him.

From that point forward, he is thrust into a world he never knew existed and takes part in dangerous and exciting adventures once a week. He mostly fumbles his way through his new life, but still manages to regularly save the day without doing anything extraordinary.

At its heart, Chuck is an Everyman story of wish fulfillment. Who hasn’t dreamed of becoming a spy and scoring a smoking hot woman in the process? Not only does Chuck accomplish exactly that, but he does it as any regular guy would. He isn’t suave or cool; he’s just honest, kind and intelligent.

The Chuck character gradually has evolved as the show has gone on, from slacker to hero. A show like Chuck has to go through such evolution to avoid becoming stagnant and boring.

But the core of the main character has never changed. He still puts the happiness of others above his own and has no desire to hurt people even when it’s justified. Now he just has some fancier skills and gadgets at his disposal.

This being the first live action character in this Top 10 list, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss how the character is acted. It helps that the man playing Chuck, Zachary Levi, is basically playing himself. Levi is a lovable nerd who gets excited when he gets to play with spy gadgets, so giving that same characteristic to Chuck becomes simple.

Chuck bridges several different genres, with different episodes focusing more on comedy, romance, action or drama. And because Chuck is in almost every scene, the show requires a lot of Levi. And he delivers on every level; making Chuck seem heroic but not superheroic. He’s just a normal guy, but he does great things.

Chuck is one of the most relatable characters to hit the small screen in several years, and that’s the most important component of an Everyman story. The audience has to see itself in the main character, and Chuck reflects almost everything the average person should aspire to be and actually can reach.

**Note: This is the only character on this Top 10 list that is on a show in danger of being canceled. And unfortunately, week by week the prospects for Chuck look more dire. But by the time such a decision is made, Game of Thrones will have hit the air on HBO. So this spot on the list would almost certainly be taken by Ned Stark.**

Programming Note: Chuck can be seen at 8/7c Mondays on NBC.

TV’s Top 10 Characters
10 – Stewie Griffin
9 – Sterling Archer
8 – Chuck Bartowski
7 – Manny Delgado
6 – Dexter Morgan
5 – Barney Stinson
4 – Don Draper
3 – Abed Nadir
2 – Phil Dunphy
1 – Ron Swanson
Honorable Mention – April 1


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