Thursday, January 10, 2013

Undercovers: Dark Cover (1.12)

I'm a perfectionist at heart, and the sight of a show left half finished on this blog of mine can't help but bring me out in hives. So, a year after they first washed up on some obscure Australian network and two years since I last watched the show, here are the last two episodes of the short-lived JJ Abrams series Undercovers. Remember it? No? That's not surprising. Undercovers was a half-baked attempt to merge trademark Abrams espionage action with romantic comedy, concerning a pair of married spies who are just as likely to be seen shooting a bad guy as they are bickering over onions or whatever, both of them being caterers in their downtime. The show was an instant bomb, staying on the air for a couple of weeks due to NBC's network miseries at the time.

Dark Cover is an easy hour to help slip back into the show's rhythm. The stakes are low, despite the act four threat of mass virus outbreak, the characterization wonky, and the writing strained. As became the show's trademark, writer Elwood Reid gets further mileage out of the shady history of the Agents Bloom, this week exploiting Steven's undercover past as part of Operation Clean Sweep -- Steven going back undercover as a terrorist mercenary to get hold of a smallpox virus about to fall into the hands of a nondescript Eurotrash villain, and so forth.

The case is fine, if thematically uninspiring, but it's the Bloom work that fractures any potential drama. As part of the undercover gig, Steven reignites a long-held flirtation with a hottie terrorist named Katya, leading Sam to react with whiny jealousy at the mere hint that there may be something there. It's all kinds of generic, the script making her bratty and awkward when she should have just been strong if momentarily concerned. There is some implication that Steven and Katya did actually sleep together at one point, which could have been an interesting angle to play around with, but Dark Cover fails to entirely exploit it. Instead it's written as just another bump in the road for their marriage -- safe and blah.

Unrelated to the A-plot is Gerald McRaney's continued investigation into the Bloom's potential evilness, spending the hour trying to dig up dirt on their possible ties to rival organizations. It further builds a semblance of story arc removed from the mission-of-the-week formula, but lacks a ton of tension because we already know that the Blooms aren't evil. Because of that, we're essentially watching somebody bang their head against a wall for forty minutes.

Dark Cover is casually entertaining, the mission being routine but passable and Ben Schwartz having a couple of fun one-liners, but there are too many areas that expose why Undercovers fizzled out so quickly. It's just a nothing show, one that squanders its potential and seems intent on resting at a derivative middleground instead of pushing forward. C-

Guest stars
Alan Dale (James Kelvin); Mariana Klaveno (Katya Hauptman); Adam Rayner (Tomas Hauptman)
Writer Elwood Reid Director Jeff Thomas

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