Best Buy employees see themselves in the new sitcom "Chuck." But they're a bit jealous.
A half-dozen members of the local Geek Squad, the iconic computer repair company founded in Minnesota, gathered around a large-screen TV recently at the back of the Best Buy store in Richfield.
They were there to critique a new show that parodies life inside a Best Buy-like retailer called "Buy More" that has a Geek Squad knock-off called the "Nerd Herd."
The show's main character, Chuck Bartowski, was involved in a passionate session with a new girlfriend inside the company's car, which looks very similar to the ones driven by Geek Squaders.
"Now that does not happen in my car," said Derek Hentges, the only married "agent" present.
The others laughed. Like the fictional Chuck, they all wore the company uniform of white, short-sleeved shirt with a black tie and black pants. With white socks.
"Chuck," an NBC sitcom that began this fall, is not the first Hollywood concoction to capitalize on Geek chic, nor is it the only one this season featuring nerdy heroes. But "Chuck" is a tech-savvy program that comes closest to capturing life in the big box, Xbox world.
Though a spokesperson for NBC Universal insisted that "Buy More" and "Nerd Herd" were "fictional names," the show clearly borrows from the two Minnesota companies that merged in 2000.
"The difference between the show and us is they actually do things on the weekends, while we read technical maintenance manuals," said Alex Smith, a large guy whose hair is combed into a large dorsal fin atop his head. "And he actually gets to go on dates. I'm still working on that one."
A customer glanced quickly at an image on a bank of televisions, then he did a double-take when he noticed the real-life counterparts sitting nearby.
"It feels like they have someone hanging out in our morning meetings or something," Smith said. "We need to find out who it is and ask for a royalties check."
The show's producers actually had some early talks with Best Buy about a sponsorship deal, but it seemed too risky for the company, according to Paula Baldwin, spokesperson for the Geek Squad.
From store layout to Web pages to employee tags to character studies, the real and fictional companies are virtual twins, however.
They're agents; he's a secret agent
The show's premise seems on its face preposterous. Chuck, played by Zachary Levi, somehow gets the entire U.S. intelligence database downloaded into his brain.
So, despite being an amiable wonk underemployed by a giant retailer, Chuck becomes a subject of national security, and a government agent. Episodes jump between shootouts with potential terrorists, romantic encounters with improbably beautiful women and the languorous, prank-filled days in aisle six.
Part comedy and part adventure, the show has done moderately well, drawing 7.6 million viewers. But it runs at 7 p.m. Mondays, opposite "Dancing with the Stars" and the lead-in to Monday Night Football.
But Geek Squad agents and "Blue Shirts" who staff Best Buy are not really "Dancing with the Stars" people. While viewing last week's episode, a session set up by the newspaper, they each repeatedly checked cell phones and Blackberrys, and traded stories about their gadgets.
"I have three TiVos hooked up to my wireless network and hooked up to my computer," said Sara Yanari, an agent for four years.