NBC’s latest show Undercovers delivers new spy action-adventure to the television world. This particular take on the spy thriller genre focuses on husband-and-wife pair Steven and Samantha Bloom, played by Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, respectively. Despite their attempts at a happy retired life as caterers, the arrival of a grumpy CIA agent, played by Gerald McRaney, manages to convince the couple to come back to the service for one last case. As the trope often goes, “one last case” is not the last case, developing into the premise of the rest of the show.
Undercovers is fast-paced and fun but feels a bit formulaic. The premise certainly isn’t new (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, for example) and the execution feels like most other generic spy stories. There is a missing agent, a mysterious crime lord hiding in the shadows, secret data hidden on a flash drive, etc. There is even the obligatory “you have failed me” moment when the villain kills one of his own minions.
It seems that the creators J. J. Abrams and Josh Reims intended the heart of the show to be in the characters, not the originality or the story. The most amusing aspect of the show so far is the interactions between husband and wife. Both are fast-talking and sarcastic which leads to several silly moments of bickering in the middle of a mission. Neither knows each other’s history as secret agents, so there is an additional dynamic in which husband and wife suddenly discover surprising aspects of each other’s past. Another interesting characteristic is the couple’s attempts to hang on to their ordinary lives, going so far as to interrupt an operation to answer a phone call to discuss dog food and the catering business.
The rest of the characters are hit or miss. Billy Hoyt, played by Ben Schwartz, for instance, provides tactical support to the husband-wife team, but his sycophantic, fanboyish obsession with Steven Bloom is more annoying than funny. Leo Nash, played by Carter MacIntrye, on the other hand plays a witty and rouge-like spy who is much more endearing. Unfortunately, Nash had a very minor appearance in the pilot, so it is unclear how his character will play out for the rest of the series. There are already hints of a love triangle developing, but hopefully those themes will not develop any further into painful, forced melodrama.
Undercovers might be a fun show to tune in to every week for a daily dose of gunshots and explosions, but so far, it doesn’t deliver anything that has not been seen before. The production values are good and everything looks shiny, but the heart of the show lacks polish. The attempts at clever writing are amusing enough, but they still seem to lack much flavor or style. The rest of show will have to raise the standard if it hopes to be consistently entertaining. There is potential for script and story to grow into something much grander and more complex than the show is at present, but based on the pilot alone, Undercovers is mostly unremarkable.