Mitchell Haaseth, Nbc
Zachary Levi stars in "Chuck."

BURBANK, Calif. — Walking onto the Buy More set for the NBC series "Chuck" is just like walking into your local Best Buy. Really.

Stepping through the automatic doors on the Warner Bros. backlot soundstage is so like walking into a real Best Buy that I burst out laughing.

"We went to a lot of Best Buys, a lot of CompUSAs. We went to all those stores and looked at the layout," said producer Paul Marks. "We just wanted to make it look as real as possible."

The biggest difference is that, at 17,000 square feet, the faux store is smaller than a real one But it's so average that it's astonishing.

"When we first set it up last year, we had one soundstage for shipping and receiving," Marks said. "Because, just like a regular store, everything had to be categorized and inventoried before we brought it into the store. It was, like, three weeks just to check in all the equipment."

"Chuck" (7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is an action/comedy about the world's nerdiest secret agent. Chuck Bartkowski (Zachary Levi) is a computer geek who works at Buy More Electronics — he's a member of the Nerd Herd, the fictional equivalent of Best Buy's Geek Squad.

When the series began, Chuck's old friend/rival, a government operative, destroyed the computer that was filled with all of America's intelligence secrets and downloaded the information into Chuck's brain. Which made Chuck a reluctant member of a team that includes the NSA's Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Stahovski).

But, as part of his cover. Chuck still works at the Buy More. And, apparently, he's building a fan base among Best Buy employees. Which Levi learned when he was in one of the real stores.

"We went behind the Geek Squad desk and those guys were, like, 'Holy crap, dude, you're Chuck!"' Levi said. "And everybody in the Best Buy was, like, 'Man, we just appreciate how well you guys really capture our world."'

Except they're not secret agents. As far as we know.

As you wander around the Buy More set, it's clear that those are real TVs and appliances and video games.

Heck, according to Marks one of the televisions is worth a cool $70,000. And it was all donated.

"We receive a lot of product placement, so we're fortunate," Marks said. "You look around the place, every computer is real. Every item is real in the store."

The companies doing the donating aren't doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, of course. It's free advertising to have their stuff in the background on a network television show.

And with all that stuff on the shelves, the Buy More has the same concern as real stores. On the show, you'll see real-looking security cameras hanging above the merchandise. Those are fake.

There are, however, real cameras on the walls of the soundstage that do indeed link right back to the production offices.

"Paul Marks told us when we first started last season, 'Just so you guys know, it's all being recorded,"' Levi said. "And it's not so much for us, but when we're not here and other people from Warner Bros. or anybody else is."

Or maybe TV critics wandering around the set.


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