In an attempt to fill the void of a much-needed spy series on network television, J.J. Abrams brings up his newest creation, Undercovers, to NBC. With a slight nod to past series, Abrams intent was to take the typical spy story (or spies, in this case) and make it more personal and character based.
In order to accomplish this, Abrams set the plot of Undercovers around the Bloom family, Steven (Boris Kodjoe) and Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). This happily married couple were, at one time, the best spies in the CIA. Following retirement, the Blooms decided to open up a catering business, which is where we currently find them. Of course, as television would have us believe, you never really retire from the CIA. With that, our gastronomic duo are pulled back into action.
Preview (courtesy of NBC)
When fellow spy and good friend Leo Nash (Carter MacIntyre, American Heiress, Nip/Tuck) goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss and agency liaison, Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney, Deadwood, Jericho), to locate and rescue Nash. With assistance from resourceful CIA field agent Bill Hoyt (Ben Schwartz, Parks and Recreation, Bronx World Travelers), whose professional admiration for Steven isn't hard to miss, the pair is thrust back into the world of espionage, disguises and hand-to-hand combat. Following leads that take them to cities spanning the globe, Steven and Samantha quickly realize that perhaps this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides exactly the kind of excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing.
When a television series touts the name J.J. Abrams, it has a lot to live up to. Abrams has proven himself to be visionary in both television and film – something that has made him one of the most sought-after players in the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, Undercovers doesn’t live up to the quality that one would expect from the geek idol.
Set in the absurd world where a married couple owns a catering business, while also being ex-spies, viewers have no choice but to be confused and turned-off by such a convoluted premise. Fortunately, Undercovers is aware of their poorly realized setting and quickly shifts its focus to getting the couples back into the spy game and on a mission.
Throughout the pilot, we’re witness to many awkward jokes and “humorous” interactions as tracking down their generic bad guy of the week overlaps with the catering of a wedding, for which they were hired. Much of the interaction between the husband and wife consists of bickering about who’s going to feed the dog or, to a greater extent, who slept with who on a previous mission. This aspect, while completely over-done, does at times serve its purpose of elevating what would have been typically a boring scene. While the suzy-homemaker aspect of the series verges on annoying, the spy portion is pretty entertaining.
Almost every element of this series is mediocre compared to any other television show, past or present. Nothing is particularly well-executed, but you will find yourself truly enjoying certain scenes – something that I attribute to the two lead actors. If there is one thing that’s going to make this series work and have viewers tuning in week-after-week, it’s Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw are the perfectly cast couple for this particular series. While much of their relationship in the pilot consists of frivolous arguments and constant bickering, they are able to elevate themselves, and their characters, above the poor plot and weak writing.
In the end, Undercovers is much less about the spy world than it is about watching these characters interact throughout the various tasks that they were given. While some aspects of that work, it’s unfortunate that not much is revealed about what we may see these characters tackle in the future. There is no lingering subplot or greater evil revealed in the pilot. With that, viewers are left wondering if week-after-week they’ll witness the same type of story where in the end, the characters will come out on top.
While some people may take the wait-and-see approach with Undercovers, there are far better new series out there that instantly deliver. Take Lone Star, for example.
While Undercovers is entertaining, it feels as if we’ve seen this type of series before – not only on television, but specifically from J.J. Abrams (read: Alias). For those that tune in, you won’t see any groundbreaking television or sub-plots hinting that there’s something “larger” going other than what’s being shown – what you see is what you get.
Undercovers airs Wednesday's @8pm, on NBC.
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