Review: Undercovers 1×1

Just watch Chuck re-runs instead

Undercovers

In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

I really wanted to like this. It’s a spy show (cool). It’s about a husband and wife team (cool, Mr and Mrs Smith notwithstanding). It’s from JJ Abrams (cool). It’s supposed to be fun and action-packed (cool). It’s got two black leads, one of them secretly British (cool, even if she has been in Bonekickers), one of them currently in a film with Ali Larter (so very cool).

Undercovers should be awesome with a side-helping of absolutely awesome.

Yet I was very far from captivated by this first episode, in which two married CIA agents turned caterers are brought back out of retirement to continue one of their old investigations. Or was it because the wife used to date the guy who’s missing? Or was it because of gruff Gerard McRaney’s special side project?

You see: that’s how uncaptivated I was.

Damn. I was really hoping for a halfway decent new show this season.

Plot
From acclaimed writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Fringe,” “Lost,” “Alias”) and executive producer/writer Josh Reims (“Brothers and Sisters,” “What About Brian”) comes a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world’s most dangerous partnership.

Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Vacation,” “Soul Food,” “Resident Evil: Afterlife”) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Dr. Who,” “Bonekickers”), are a typical married couple who own and operate a small catering company in Los Angeles – with help from Samantha’s easily frazzled handful of a sister, Lizzy (Mekia Cox, “90210,” “This Is It”). Secretly, the duo were two of the best spies the CIA had ever known, until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired.

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.

“Undercovers” is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Abrams directed the pilot and co-wrote it, along with Reims. They also serve as executive producers along with Bryan Burk (“Star Trek,” “Fringe,” “Lost, “Alias”).

Is it any good?
It wants to be good. It tries hard to be good. But trying just isn’t enough. It just feels like in every area it’s emulating another, better show.

The international spy work isn’t as convincing as Covert Affairs’. The supposedly wry, “ooh, that rings a bell” interplay between husband and wife is less The Thin Man, more ‘Til Death. The romance is supposed to be Hart to Hart but it comes across as Chris de Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’. The action is intended to be The Bourne Identity/Bourne Supremacy but it all just feels like Chuck with a very slightly better budget and a slightly better grasp on reality, but without enough Chuck‘s humour to cover its still-obvious flaws.

In fact, the show practically is Chuck, with the exception that the male lead is actually a good spy. They’re undercover in conventional jobs, they’re in a relationship together, they have a gruff boss, other spies are their exs: the big difference is they have a camp gay assistant rather than Adam Baldwin and the couple have five more years of back story.

So yet again, I have to say this week “give this new show a miss”. It lacks sparkle, decent action*, plausibility or anything else that might draw you to it beyond the appealing leads, who really deserve to go onto something better as soon as possible.

Just watch re-runs of Chuck instead. That’s got Linda Hamilton in it now.

* Although, to be fair, there was more excitement in the first five minutes than there was in the entire fourth season of Heroes