So Tell Me About Undercovers: A Movieline Premiere Week FAQ

When J.J. Abrams executive produces a television series, people notice. So the chances are good that you'll be watching the premiere of Undercovers tonight at 8 on NBC, if only because...Abrams. Does the sexy spy series live up to the expectations set by having the name of television's unofficial king front and center? That answer and more in the latest edition of Movieline's Premiere Week FAQ.

What is Undercovers?

A thoroughly competent escapist adventure. With food porn.

That's helpful. What is it about?

Sorry. It's about Steven and Samantha Bloom (Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a married couple who used to be the best spies in the world. Now, they're caterers.

I guess that's where the food porn comes in?

Yes.

OK, so they're retired. What brings them out of retirement to make this a series?

Gerald McRaney. He shows up in the first 10 minutes with a mission that only they can accomplish.

Of course. Let me guess: They're resistant to his offer, but then independently decide to sign on?

Good guess! The Blooms are perfectly in love, but after five years of marriage they're bored. Nothing like a globe-spanning trip in search of a missing agent to spice up married life. Oh, did I mention that the missing agent may have a past with Samantha?

You didn't. They used to date?

They did. But don't worry: He won't come between Steven and Samantha.

I wasn't worried. This sounds an awful lot like the set-up to Hart to Hart. Is that an apt comparison?

Sure. But don't forget to also add True Lies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Chuck to your list as well.

Right. So what makes Undercovers different?

Right off the bat, there's the fact that the Blooms are on the level with each other. They both know they're spies, they just don't know specifics about their spy pasts. That saves Undercovers from a lot of the unnecessarily contrivances that plague a show like Chuck.

Well that's good. Anything else?

Not really. Nothing in the pilot -- from the Blooms witty banter to the exotic locales to the industrial warehouse where the finale occurs -- is something you haven't seen before. It's all in the execution.

That isn't a ringing endorsement. How would you describe Undercovers?

As extremely competent. This is the first pilot that Abrams has directed since Lost and you can tell he's having a good time behind the camera. He co-wrote the pilot with executive producer Josh Reims, who you know from Brothers & Sisters and Dirty Sexy Money.

Well, that's pretty cool. This is the second time you've used the word "competent" to describe Undercovers. What gives?

I know. It's just...appropriate? I didn't love the pilot, but there is really nothing wrong with it. For this premise and this show, it's exceedingly well-done. It just isn't for everyone.

Tell me about the leads. I'm guessing Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are the breakout stars of the fall?

Well, they'll definitely get the magazine covers, but they aren't even the breakout stars on their own show.

Who is then? McRaney?

Very funny. No, Ben Schwartz.

How do I know him?

He plays Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation.

Oh! I love him. What's his role on Undercovers?

Schwartz is like Tom Arnold in True Lies, but funnier. He worships Steven Bloom and it makes for some truly awkward interactions.

Great. And Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw?

I think you just like saying "Gugu Mbatha-Raw."

I do. But are they any good?

Yes. They're ridiculously attractive, quite charming and have a very comfortable chemistry with each other. You could do a lot worse than watching these two for 43 minutes a week.

It all sounds pretty straightforward. How is this a J.J. Abrams show then? Where's the twist?

Pay attention to a phone call that McRaney makes in the first half-hour. There's your mythology.

You've been fairly wrong about ratings prospects thus far -- cough, Lone Star -- but how do you see Undercovers performing?

Tough to say. I don't think the 8 p.m. time slot is advantageous at all, but it doesn't have much competition there so it could be a wash. Undercovers reminds me of a USA show: It's light-as-air and diverting. People like those types of shows. It could work. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to crying about Lone Star.



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