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Chuck vs. Sanctuary smackdown: Which product tie in wins?

Two shows. Two iPhone tie ins. One TUAW fighting ring. Two will enter; one will leave. Whose cuisine will reign supreme? No wait, that's Iron Chef. Anyway, which show's tie in will take the crown and walk away with the "Worth Downloading" title? Let's have a quick look.

In the left corner, wearing the black and white NerdHerd-colored shorts is Chuck. The well-loved (yet criminally underwatched) NBC show Chuck is now entering its third season. Its ongoing story is about a friendly IT guy who has been sucked into the world of international intrigue.

Chuck a character-driven comedy/action show that should be on everyone's must-watch list. Its hero, Chuck Bartowski, works "undercover" (so to speak) at a BuyMore store, a large box chain modeled on Best Buy. Torn between his public and secret life, the show somehow manages to balance Chuck's emotional growth with the kind of spy-centered action you'd expect from a high concept series like this. If you're not watching this, start. Really. No, I mean it. Go set your TiVo now.

The "Chuck Me Out" iPhone app [iTunes link] is available for free on App Store. It provides a simple photo overlay game. You select an existing photo or snap a new one the built-in iPhone camera. You then select a show-themed overlay, and mail, tweet, or plant a facebook with the result. With "Chuck Me Out", you can create NerdHerd (think "Geek Squad") ID tags, backstage all-access passes for the fictional rock group Jeffster, or you can just substitute faces into cast-member poses. Overall fun factor? Kind of meh, except for the super fanatical Chuckaholic who might get more than a single chuckle. (See what I did there? Yes, that pun was totally intended.)

The interface gets a solid Randy-from-Idol "it's awright." For example, the icon choice for "insert a picture" is a camera, making you wonder how to use a picture from your current photo album. (Answer? A pop-up menu appears after tapping the camera. You then choose the source for your image.) Minor fail that could easily be improved in a future update. The sliding row of photo templates is, on the other hand, a nice touch.

The overall functionality is pretty limited and the product branding is, as you can see from the screen shot here, extreme. If you want to stick your face (or your loved ones' faces) into NBC advertisements, well, there's now an app for that. But realistically, I'm not sure why this app would remain on anyone's phone for more than a day or two. TUAW gives "Chuck Me Out" two NSA Agent John Casey grunts out of ten.

In the right corner, wearing the fur-covered monster-style shorts is Sanctuary. Sanctuary airs on SyFy. It just had its second season finale last weekend, where we got to see a guy strip naked in order to jump into a jacuzzi with an ancient giant undersea spider posing as the goddess Kali. Later, he performed a Bollywood dance number for said ancient giant undersea spider to prove his love and affection, while Dr. Beckett from Stargate turned into a fish. Seriously, folks, I cannot make this up.

More of a hit-or-miss proposition than Chuck, Sanctuary offers some great character actors (in the form of Bigfoot, Jack the Ripper, Nicola Tesla, and the local werewolf) and a production staff ripped from the greater Stargate franchise. It's about a group of people who instead of protecting the world from monsters, protect the monsters from the world.

Its best moments occur when the show steps away from its formulaic monster-of-the-week scenario (sometimes it's the humans that are the monsters, sometimes it's the monsters that are the monsters, and it's just a given that all persons, regardless of species, are monsters if they hold administrative positions) and focuses on the growth of the main characters. (Meh, who am I kidding? Sanctuary folk, would you please just give us more Tesla/Druitt/Henry/Bigfoot? Thankyouverymuch.) The show's uneven but it's made its way onto my DVR season pass. It's been renewed for a 20 episode season next year, along with the other SyFy Stargate franchise: Stargate Universe. (That's the one with Hamish McBegbie as the lead psychotic scientist.)

Sanctuary's App Store entrant is "Sanctuary and Beyond" [iTunes link]. Unlike the Chuck app, it will set you back $0.99. Rated 12+, S&B offers "exclusive video clips", which are basically exactly the same extras you'll find on the Sanctuary Season 1 DVD. I'm afraid I'm going to be a little harsh here, but this app is a serious contender for worst App Store app ever made. It's got a horrible interface, bad design values, and from the bottom up (looking at the app bundle on a jailbroken system), it's just been thrown together. Badly.

The name of the app that underlies "Sanctuary and Beyond"? It's "Metranome.app". Presumably it was put together by the Canadian-based Metranome company, who didn't bother naming the application to match the branding for its client. The application works like this. You press a download arrow. And then you wait. Without any status indicators at all. Until videos fully download.

You just sit there with the app sitting on your iPhone, and the iPhone sitting on a desk. You leave it open. And wait. And wait. And wait. Until the videos download.

While you do that, there are any number of utterly and completely useless buttons that make no sense and don't help you do anything. For example, there's a search button. That lets you search through, well, nothing. There's an options button that offers less than useful settings. There's a help button that...well, you get the idea.

If you do actually finish sitting around and waiting, eventually, a number of videos will download to your iPhone. And then you can watch them. On a teeny tiny screen. Without the ability to use Apple's video out capabilities. Because you cannot then save or move them to your built-in albums. Whatever.

So here's what I recommend. Go ahead and jailbreak your system and install ssh. (Dont' forget to change your password from "alpine"). SFTP into the mobile user folder and locate the application folder that holds the Metranome.app, and from there into Documents/media. Just ftp the mp4 videos to your PC or Mac and watch them there. It will be far more satisfying and may even justify the buck you spent to buy the app. Alternatively, just buy the DVDs (or get them from your local library) and watch them in high def on your big screen TV.

TUAW gives "Beyond Sanctuary" its first ever score of Negative Five Werewolf IT techs. We simply cannot recommend this app for purchase.

And, oh yeah, Chuck wins.

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App Review

Two shows. Two iPhone tie ins. One TUAW fighting ring. Two will enter; one will leave. Whose cuisine will reign supreme? No wait, that's...