First Look, Two Takes: Early Intel On J.J. Abrams’ ‘Undercovers’

by | July 16, 2010 at 12:39 PM | Fall TV Preview, Fall TV Preview 2010, First Look, TV News, Undercovers

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe, 'Undercovers' (NBC)

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe, 'Undercovers' (NBC)

As the fall TV season nears, it’s time to get a feel for the fresh fare coming our way. In Fancast’s First Look, Two Takes series, executive editor Matt Mitovich shares a snapshot overview of each new show, noting strengths and areas for improvement, and then invites senior editor Julie Zied to offer a second opinion.

Today we spy…

‘UNDERCOVERS,’ NBC
Time slot:
Wednesdays at 8/7c, premiering September 22
Competition: ‘The Middle’ and ‘Better With You’ (ABC), ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ (CBS), ‘Hell’s Kitchen’/'Lie To Me’ (Fox) and ‘Top Model’ (CW)
Cast: Includes Boris Kodjoe (‘Soul Food’), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (‘Doctor Who’) and Gerald McRaney (‘Simon and Simon’)
Executive Producers: J.J. Abrams (‘Alias’) and Josh Reims (‘Brothers & Sisters’)

The Bullet: Steven and Samantha Bloom are happily married caterers who back in the day instead cooked up heaping batches of whoop-ass as elite CIA agents. They are now embracing a quieter existence, until a blast from the past prompts them to embark on an encore. McRaney plays the handler who lures them back into the biz, while Ben Schwartz (‘Parks and Recreation’) is their eager beaver spare set of hands in the field. Watch a preview here:

What Works: More ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ than Abrams’ ‘Alias,’ ‘Undercovers’ is best described as the story of a husband and wife who happen to be spies, versus spies who happen to be husband and wife. Sure, the espionage stuff is all kinds of fun, but what stands to separate this show from its brethren is its infectiously fun, flirty heart. The Blooms are mad for each other – and thus so are we.

What Needs Work: I can see myself barking, “Credulity strained!” if every episode, like the pilot, features some variation of the Blooms juggling an innocuous, catering-related phone call with Sam’s sister (recently recast with Mekia Cox) as they literally fight off bad guys.

Check out the full fall schedules for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW

Take Two, from Fancast senior editor Julie Zied: NBC finally got the memo on mimicking USA’s successful strategy: create a sexy, breezy procedural backed by an attractive cast. This pilot is undeniably fun, and for that you can thank J.J. Abrams. The chemistry between Kodjoe  and Mbatha-Raw is at its best in the field – hacking ATM machine cameras and kicking ass together. Where the relationship needs work, both as characters and actors, is in the bedroom. There’s a stiffness between them that I can only hope melts over time. As long as the writers can avoid the Diablo Cody school of wordplay – at one point the term “sexpionage” is coined – I can see this becoming my new Wednesday night staple.

The Fancast Forecast: ‘Undercovers’ was spying a cakewalk… until CBS decided to move ‘Survivor’ back to Wednesdays. Still, Abrams’ imprimatur, combined with a pair of impossibly attractive leads, promises a big launch for this action-romance-dramedy.

Also Read Our First Looks at ‘Nikita,’ ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ ‘Mike & Molly‘ and ‘No Ordinary Family

Want scoop on your favorite show, from summer or fall? Send your question to MattMtvguy@gmail.com and read The Big Tease every Tuesday at Fancast!