Friday, September 24, 2010

Undercovers: Pilot (1.1)

Alias, J.J. Abrams' first attempt at an espionage action drama, lived and died by its convoluted and ultimately unsatisfying mythology. While the show ranks up there amongst my favorite ever series, it was a little disheartening that it ended so abruptly with a conclusion that made little cohesive sense. However, the fun was in the journey. The destination just happening to be disappointing doesn't necessarily dent the show as a whole, for me anyway. I bring this up because Abrams and company have made a marked effort to make their new spy series wholly different from Alias, giving it a mission-of-the-week vibe and brightening up the tone, allowing for a whole lot of sexy banter and sexy action from its sexy, sexy leads. Sex sex sex.

While I don't know if this will hamper the show in the long run (Fringe, for a semi-related example, has achieved some astounding heights via its epic mythology), the pilot for NBC's Undercovers was a slice of espionage fun that I liked a whole lot more than I expected. Our two protagonists, Boris Kodjoe and newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who, I may add, is ridiculously, impossibly hot), sparkle with an easy chemistry, putting across a couple who have been together for years, but have lost that necessary spark which only really occurred when they weren't kicking terrorist ass all those years ago. Called back into the field (with an amusing double-take where they both seek re-instatement separately at first), the two re-ignite their flame and return to what they do best: kicking said terrorist ass.

One of my favorite things about early Alias was the juxtaposition between Sydney's international espionage hijinks and the mundane averageness of her college/home life. Undercovers replicates that pretty well, rooting the series in a fun catering company and a harried younger sister for Sam. I liked her constant interruptions while Sam and Steven were in the field, which reminded me a lot of Francie constantly calling up Sydney for romantic advice. Aww, memories.

Some intrigue also arrives with the fact that Sam and Steven know so little about each other as spies. They'd always kept their work separate, so working together all of a sudden brings some surprises. Ben Schwartz was fun as the nerdy tech guy who's almost in love with Steven and the 'legendary' spy activities in his past, while I loved Sam revealing she used to date maybe-bad guy Leo Nash right before she leapt out of an airplane. The humor carries the pilot pretty well, and adds a welcome dose of lightness to the show as a whole.

As this is just the pilot, I'm not sure if said lightness will work in the long run (I like me some heavy, once in a while), but right now Undercovers is a pleasant surprise. And you can't resist the sexy of those two leads, can you? Rating B+

Guest stars Victor Alfieri (Claudio Vega)
Writers J.J. Abrams, Josh Reims Director J.J. Abrams

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