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TV Review: Undercovers – Season One

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Though we are almost to Wednesday, don’t expect to see J.J. Abrams’s Undercovers. Pulled from the schedule in mid-November, it did air three of the five Wednesdays in December, including the last two weeks. But even though there are two episodes left, no air dates have been set for them. The final two episodes, “Dark Cover” and “The Reason”, are said to be more heavy in mythology and wider arcs of the series, which may be why NBC is no hurry to air them, since no more episodes will be made to continue the stories they set up. What is most disappointing is, if those episodes don’t see the light of day, we won’t know why Steven (Boris Kodjoe) and Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) Bloom were brought back to the CIA in the first place. Though, given that the final episode is a cliffhanger, perhaps it’s better to be left in the dark.

Sadly, this show was not as good as some of J.J.’s previous efforts. It most closely resembled Alias, which got only five seasons, but Undercovers may only have been half as good as its forefather. However, half as good as Alias is still better than much of what is airing on TV currently. Looking at why exactly the show failed is difficult, given that I don’t have a clear idea why. But then again, why does any show fail?

The leads were wonderful. Mbatha-Raw and Kodjoe have great chemistry. They were very believable as a devoted couple whose life had grown boring after their departure from the CIA. Reactivated in the pilot, the two came alive again, and their romance rekindled. Though they promised to keep their past missions a secret from each other, a few details had leaked out, and surely, over time, more would have followed. Their characters were trying mightily to balance normal careers as caterers and their less-normal careers in espionage. As they spent more and more time away from catering, I knew their staff would grow suspicious, and the whole thing was bound to fall apart. I wish the series had lived to see that. If there was a failure with Undercovers, it was not from these two, in either writing or acting.

Similarly, strong props go to the mythology that was laid out. Samantha’s former mentor was obviously a part of something big. The Blooms’ boss, Shaw (Gerald McRaney), knew more than he let on, but his boss, finally revealed to be played by Alan Dale in last week’s episode, knew even more. With two such great men playing the keepers of secrets, I was anxious to hear them. They were set up beautifully, but never got a chance to make the serve.

The supporting cast was also solid. I loved Hoyt (Ben Schwartz) as the hero-worshiping geek, who managed to prove himself in the field on more than one occasion. Sam’s sister, Lizzy (Mekia Cox), barely got enough screen time, but her role seemed to grow with each subsequent episode, providing a balance to the show that had nothing to do with secret agents. Leo (Carter MacIntyre) was fun, but sitting out a number of episodes, he hadn’t fully gelled into the Blooms’ team. I figured that would come with time, and after some plot twist I hadn’t yet envisioned, possibly involving Lizzy. I was enjoying the Blooms’ staff as well, even if I only knew two of their names, as they provided some quality comic relief.

Each episode was fairly procedural, but there were some connecting threads, many involving the Blooms’ relationship, and how they adjusted to being spouses and partners. Other arcs involved the aforementioned mythology, which was mentioned in most episodes. For some reason, most TV viewers are against a good serial steeped in slowly unfolding story, which is what I prefer. Lost, which J.J. was involved in the creation of, managed to break that rule. Alias did, too, which was part of why it struggled to retain its audience, and frequently moved time slots. This show tried to find a balance by not committing to that format, instead giving viewers an action-laden plot they could tune in to without knowing the background. Yet, that wasn’t enough.

My best guess on why the show was canceled? It didn’t have J.J.’s good luck charm, Greg Grunberg, in it (yet). It did have his brother, Brad, but it just wasn’t the same.

Perhaps Undercovers was just missing that undefinable magic that lets shows build a big following. I admit, it didn’t capture me as fully as I expected it to. It certainly wasn’t bad, though, and I will miss it. Hopefully, NBC will decide to show us those final two hours soon, as if they hold them til summer, even those of us who enjoyed Undercovers probably won’t care anymore. And if a cable network would like to try something new, I have a great candidate for you. I’ll give you a hint. It stars Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Given another 13 episodes or so to grow, it could have been something special.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Laura

    I feel exactly like you. When I watched Pilot I was rather disappointed, as I am an avid Abrams and Co. fan! –However I chose to stick it out, and could tell each episode was getting better and better and started to resemble those things that I love about Bad Robot Productions. I think it was @ episode 6 when an interview came out stating that the format was going to change…that NBC and Reims essentually were holding Abrams and other writers back on the mythology, back stories, and mystery, but no longer. 2 days later NBC announced their cancellation.

    That final aired episode “The Key to It All” was so good and yet most fans have fallen away! I do really hope that maybe another network can pick it up, because I totally think it is at a place that could really take off and become a GREAT show.

  • Sauny

    I really liked this program. It was exciting, as well entertaining. The fact that they traveled to many different countries was also great to view. I’m all for a second season.