Review: ‘Undercovers’

Wednesday, September 22 by

“Undercovers” is all you could ask for in a TV show. It’s fun and exciting and funny and sexy. You’ll want to tune in for the spy action anyway, but the characters are engaging and the basic premise can inspire endless seasons worth of episodes.

Steven (Boris Kodjoe) and Samantha Bloom (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are the ones you go to when you need to get the job done. They already run a restaurant, which is a big job if you watch Gordon Ramsay. If Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney being all Major without the Dad) has to pull them out of retirement, then you know the situation is serious.

Steven and Samantha have good banter. Whether they’re talking about the kitchen, their marriage or the enemy, they have a rhythm where there’s a double punchline. They have inside jokes they let the audience in on and they do love each other. That ideal will be threatened but it’s nice to see a good relationship on television. There’s a lot of fast talking so they pack a lot of wit into the dialogue.

Shaw gets into it too. A grizzled Shaw in his boxers fields calls from Steven, while Samantha solves a crisis with her kitchen staff. It’s just a little bit cleverer than the usual formulaic double talk. The comparison would be Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which it obviously is in broad strokes, but the positive view of a relationship, and the cooperation of the two leads makes it more sustainable long term.

Once they go on the mission, the Blooms execute the full range of spy capers. The break in, they set up decoys, they use technology. The action is crazy, the way I like it. There’s a bazooka involved. A rooftop fight has an intense choreography of moves. Steven and Samantha cooperate in some of the action so they use the timing and compatibility of relationships in that context too. The opening sequence on the side of a hotel would be epic in a movie, only movies aren’t that nuanced anymore so we turn to TV. It’s “Alias” with NBC money.

Since it’s a J.J. Abrams show, of course Samantha is the nex kick-ass heroine. Boy, does she look sexy in an evening gown or lingerie. Steven has some beefcake shots for the ladies too, but the point is, it’s one of those shows. It’s tantalizing, but when the Blooms connect with each other, it’s sweet. You believe them in this ridiculous spy story. The music helps too.

The scene transitions through postcards that begin the scene. It’s an excellent way to make the show feel international, even though they’re faking it. They fake the exotic locations really well. If you were an “Alias” fan, you know they could make the Disney lot look like Egypt, so rest assured downtown L.A. = Madrid.
 
“Undercovers” can go anywhere. They could tell epic stories but I understand the plan is to keep it “mission of the week” and that’s fine too. We’ll like the characters on any mission, so there’s no need to make it more complicated. I’ll still watch every week regardless.

"Undercovers" premieres tonight at 8/7c on NBC.

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