Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'Undercovers'
[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Undercovers," NBC
The Pitch: "'Alias' in that brief period where Sydney and Vaughn were happy, only with more diversity." Or, more realistically, "'Chuck' only with more diversity." Or, "Hart to Hart" with more diversity." Ir maybe, "'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' with more diversity."
Quick Response: There's a pretty clear hook here: "Undercovers" is like many TV shows and movies you've seen before, but you've probably never seen them before with leads who look like Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. You wouldn't think that in 2010, we'd have to throw a parade for this, but we still probably do. Kudos. Total kudos. As is so often the case with Abrams shows, the leading lady, Mbatha-Raw, is the revelation. She's sexy, funny, kicks butt and does an American accent that seems flawless until, in character, she does a British accent and you realize how flawless that is as well. Mbatha-Raw is definitely a star. Kodjoe is stolid, charming and unimpeachably good-looking, but he has a certain placidness that may be at odds with the subject matter and may have been what stood in the way of his stardom previously. He's *too* cool. The pilot has Gerald McRaney in superb form as their disapproving Agency handler and Ben Schwartz, a little too broad and mugging, in the Marshall/Morgan role. The script by J.J. Abrams and Josh Reims has some action romantic-comedy cleverness, but not more than you'd expect from an episode of "Chuck" and the procedural plot in the pilot is generic and no different from countless episodes of "Alias" or, again, "Chuck." Spies flirt, get dressed up, go to fancy galas and chase Eastern European baddies. With Abrams directing, the "Undercovers" pilot looks amazing and has energy to burn.
Desire To Watch Again: I'll definitely stick with this for a while. And why wouldn't I? I don't think I've missed an episode of any J.J. Abrams-produced show other than "Six Degrees." NBC's thinking on this one is weird, since "Undercovers" is basically a more expensive "Chuck," a show the network has never been able to sell. NBC is assuming Abrams is the real star here and precedent suggests that's a problematic gamble.