Decoding the 'Chuck' ads
You may have seen ads for NBC's new series Chuck during the network's summer shows, but have you read them?
Unless you can read really, really fast, chances are the spots -- which throw a dizzying blur of words and pictures on the screen in 20 seconds, set to frantically pulsing music. If you're lucky, you might make out a few phrases like "This is the naked truth" or "You should never park on railroad tracks" or, near the end, "Find Chuck this fall."
Now, I get that the ad mimics one of the visual tropes of the show, in which the hero (Zachary Levi) has a bunch of government secrets downloaded into his head via a visually encoded e-mail more or less accidentally sent to him by a CIA operative. But unless subliminal advertising really is more than a load of rich creamery butter, it's tough to get the full message.
Unless, of course, you're an obsessive nerd with a DVR like me, and spend a good 15 minutes pausing and unpausing the ad so you can write down all the text, which clocks in at nearly 300 words. I'm pretty sure I got it all from the spot that ran during Last Comic Standing on Wednesday, and so, to save you the trouble, here's the transcript:
We are considering you because you were smart enough to read this. This is the naked truth. Please continue reading all the information, at the end you will be asked a question. This is Chuck. [Picture of Zachary Levi] Chuck likes apple pie. You like apple pie. Chuck works at Buy More with the Nerd Herd. You should never park on railroad tracks. This is why (as any nerd would know) [shot of train plowing into SUV]. This is the Nerd Herd. They fix computers and stuff. You could be chosen (question to come). There have been 233 car accidents involving trains so far this year. The wind is 15 mph out of the south which is that way [arrow pointing to the lower right corner of the screen]. Chuck opened an e-mail that was subliminally encoded with government secrets. Here is the secret NBC recipe for apple pie -- Step 1: Go to the store and buy one. Please spay and neuter your pets [picture of a tiger]. Archers from the Middle Ages always carried a second string in case their primary string on their bow broke. This is where we get the sports term "second string." Now Chuck must work with government agents to help fight assassins and international terrorists. Is she bad ... or good? (Hot.) [Shots of co-star Yvonne Strzechowski.] Tigers are dangerous. Grrrr. Or is she just hot? [Strzechowski again.] That is not the test question, just a question. This is the test question: How many CHUCKs could a woodCHUCK CHUCK if a woodCHUCK could CHUCK wood? Please hold -- we are now analyzing you. [Pause] Analyzing complete. You have been chosen. YOU MUST watch. We will now download the necessary information into your head (this should not cause any pain). Find Chuck this fall.
[Blank screen] Your download is complete.
Did you see it?
(Go back watch again)
Are you sure?
What is Chuck's secret?
It then directs you to ChucksSecret.com, where you can watch the spot yet again and follow links to, for now, NBC's message board for the show and a clip from the pilot.
Chuck is one of the better pilots I've watched so far this summer; it's just fun to watch, and a nice changeup from the dead-serious tone of other espionage-flavored shows like 24 or The Unit. I hope, though, that the network rolls out a more straightforward ad campaign before the fall. I'm guessing the fourth-place network needs something a little less subliminal to get people to watch.