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“Undercovers” Premiere Review

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 26, 2010

You’ve seen the promos endlessly for the past few months. The new JJ Abrams project. Two married spies who left the business and get pulled back in. I’ve watched two Abrams shows, Lost and Fringe, and after one episode of Undercovers, I can safely say this is no where near as good as either of those shows.

Of course, that comparison isn’t very apt, since it’s such a different type of program. Abrams other well-known project, Alias, is the clear parallel. So is Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which was a television show with Scott Bakula before it was a movie with Brad Pitt. I haven’t seen any of those, so I can’t judge Undercovers in that light.

So instead, I’ll judge it against my favorite espionage thriller. 24. Any spy show, be it Nikita or Covert Affairs or Undercovers, will have to live up to the greatest show in that genre of all time. Maybe that’s not fair. 24‘s real-time, constant adrenaline, realistic filming was like no show before it, and probably any show to follow. But that’s what I consider compelling drama. And Undercovers was most of all, not compelling.

For a first episode, it seemed awfully procedural. Maybe that will change, but I feel like I know exactly how every episode will go. Complete with light-hearted scenes back at the couple’s catering business and menial spy tasks designed solely to generate banter between the two. Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are likeable as the stars, but their relationships seems forced. I definitely buy them as husband and wife; that’s not the issue. The problem for me is that all the cute quips and barbs they traded were predictable yet awkward. As if they had been inserted into the script simply to say to viewers “Get it? Being undercover partners isn’t that different from being relationships partners.”

And actually, the details of their investigation were so spotty and secondary that I think this show is actually more about marriage than covert operations. That could be just the necessary introduction to characters, though, in a pilot. The other characters are basically only two: the young agent who idolizes Kodjoe’s character (he was actually very funny…my favorite part of the premiere was his guy-crush) and the senior agent who brings the Blooms back into the fold (played by the usually enjoyable Gerald McRaney…but his harshness is unappealing in this, and definitely a waste of his talent).

With so much to watch in a week, Undercovers didn’t do anything to make me want to tune in regularly. Since there doesn’t seem to be a serial component, it’s just like any other procedural on television. But one without the enjoyable characters (The Defenders) or plot (The Good Wife) as others. The action was very good, though. Especially Kodjoe’s fight on the roof.

Grade: C-


2 Responses to ““Undercovers” Premiere Review”

  1. CJ Cregg said

    I agree with you, Mr. Feeny, especially about the relationship between the two main characters. And you put it into words that I was struggling to find. They ARE believable as husband and wife, but their quips and barbs were too heavy-handed and ultimately awkward. I really hated McRaney’s character, and unliek you, found the young agent to be annoying as well.

    I was also really annoyed with the spotty details of their actual case. There were significant plot holes that made the show seem very unrealistic. For example, when Samantha went chasing Slotsky, where did her car come from? And how did Steven and Samantha get into the hotel where the Cabrera wedding was being held? Stuff like this is left unanswered because the pilot had to move too quickly to introduce characters, lay the groundwork, and solve a mystery.

    I wanted to like this show more than I did. At the end of the episode, I felt like it was trying way too hard to be good, and falling short.

    Grade: C

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