August 6th note: ChuckTV and others have blogged about this post and decided to misrepresent its purpose. So, for those incapable of reading... nowhere does it say that anyone I have talked to said the show IS CERTAINLY GOING TO BE CANCELED, but that it is very unlikely to be renewed. This is a hypothetical scenario being posed for debate. An ethical site would have been sure to represent that accurately.
To quote myself in an early response in the comments section: "No insider I have talked to knows anything for sure about the fate of the show."
I have had several conversations over this summer with various people from insiders, to industry people, to journalists and most said the same thing: the CHUCK show-runners should announce that season 4 is the final season no matter what happens with the ratings. End it now before NBC cancels the show. Construct a series finale and request that NBC pick up 3 or more new episodes for the season to finish out the story.
ARE YOU NUTS?
But is this the best thing to do for the show? If the show-runners have a five or seven season arc (depending on who you talk to), would ending the show early and on purpose damage the narrative? Would the writers be forced to rush certain scenarios and characters arcs as a way to wrap them up? Not if they are given 3 or more episodes to do it.
BSG AND LOST DID IT!
Both BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and LOST announced that their shows would end before the networks were ready to cancel them. Both shows realized their overall story arc had a finite life and that ending them was better for the series. Granted, both shows had controversial final episodes but both also milked the resolution to the story until the final hour or so of the series. CHUCK has less weight to the grander story and so it could likely spend the final three hours closing the series out on an epic note, without it feeling rushed or contrived.
Can CHUCK actually increase its ratings enough in season 4 to get an extended episode order, or a 5th season? History says no. Most shows lose ratings every season, they don't increase them. Sure, a few shows have actually seen ratings increases in later seasons but they were mostly procedural type shows that didn't have a grander arc. Also, they were easily definable shows. I still have a hard time describing CHUCK to new viewers in 450 words or less (granted, I use a lot of words). The only other way CHUCK could either get more episodes in season 4 or get picked up for a 5th season is if other NBC shows do so poorly that CHUCK looks comparatively good. And even then it is unlikely since it could be seen as part of the problem. The show could also return if WB lowballs the licensing fee, but from what I hear that fee is already so low that it cannot get much lower.
What do you think? Should the show-runners announce the end of the show now? Should they do so to leverage more episodes in the 4th and final season? Or should they just go on until NBC cancels it? Will it serve the story and the fans best to finalize the overall arc this year? Or is it more important to serve the specific season arc and worry about getting more later?
Finally, should WB send me the entire season on DVD as soon as it is available?