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Undercovers: Pilot

Home run! What a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Steven and Samantha Bloom are the center of the series, and we all know that happily married couples are boring. I can see where the writers thought very carefully about how to make the Blooms' relationship exciting and romantic. They were both spies five years ago, but they never worked together; when they fell in love and got married, they left the agency but kept a solemn promise never to discuss their careers -- ever. Meaning that, as far as the spy game goes, they are a complete mystery to each other.

In this pilot, Steven and Samantha were lured back into the life and carried out their very first mission as a team. They worked in tandem professionally and like they'd been partners forever, but they kept learning new things about each other in a most delightful way. Samantha Bloom (played by the interestingly named Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is clever, charming, kick-ass, and seriously world-class gorgeous. Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe) is a fairly good match for her, although I wasn't as crazy about him as I was about her (maybe I didn't like his weird facial hair). They click well as a couple. It's not easy to do snappy, spicy, romantic banter this good.

Can the Blooms' marriage survive the spy life while they run a catering business at the same time? Will it create obstacles in their marriage? Will they learn things about each other that they just can't handle? Is the Pope Catholic? You know what? I'm actually interested in finding out. (About the Blooms, not the Pope.)

The supporting characters really shone, too. The talented Gerald McRaney made Shaw, the stereotypical gruff and acerbic boss, seem like a whole new character. Leo Nash (Carter MacIntyre) was so instantly lovable that when he was captured, I truly didn't want him to get hurt. And Hoyt (Ben Schwartz), with his inappropriate and overwrought case of hero worship on Steven, made me laugh over and over again.

Yes, there was a lot of Alias and a good bit of Mission Impossible, but that's not a bad thing. I liked the place cards taking us to faraway places, even though they were almost certainly all Los Angeles. (Except I've actually been on that street in Paris, and it looked damned convincing.) Dan laughed out loud when the series credits were shown fifteen minutes into the episode, because that was something they often did on Alias.

And there was a rocket launcher. Because, to paraphrase Joss Whedon, you have to have a rocket launcher.

I confess that I watched the premiere of Undercovers only out of a sense of obligation to J.J. Abrams. But this one could very well be a winner -- Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but a whole lot better. If they can keep up the quality of this pilot and take our spy couple in new and interesting directions, this show is going to be a hit.

[Note from later: My final verdict on Undercovers is here.]
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. is this something you're going to be reviewing weekly? or was it just a one time special?


  2. Thanks for asking, Mark.

    Since Lost is over, Dexter runs only in the fall, and this is Smallville's last season, I'm looking for another show to review. I'm waiting for the right one, though, and I don't want to jump in before I'm sure it's what I want to do. If Undercovers continues to wow me and I fall in love with it, I'll take it on. For right now, though, I'm just doing the premiere.

  3. I should add that I'm also interested in what our readers really like. Did you like Undercovers as much as I did, or is it a "one and done"? :) Is there another show you love that we're not covering?

  4. I actually haven't seen Undercovers yet. I was waiting to see if you were going to pick it up or not. We have almost identical taste in TV shows. I've been waiting for a new show to fill my Alias-void. The fact this is a JJ Abrams property is a bonus!

    With Entourage and True Blood on hiatus, and 24 and Lost over, I am also looking for a couple of new shows to add to my repertoire. I do watch Dexter, but Smallville is one of the few shows we don't cross over on. (Although I hear from friends that everyone is excited over the last season. I just wouldn't appreciate it since I know nothing leading up to it.)

    I'm definitely adding Boardwalk Empire to my list, so I have room for something else too.

    My number one show for you to review is The Wire. It's one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen. But that's a complete retro-watch for you. I don't know that's something you're looking for right now as it's not summer anymore.

    As for current shows, my two biggest that you don't cover are House and The Office. But I don't think those seem like the type of show you do on the site.

    Everyone tells me to watch Mad Men, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe you could add that? It would be a retro-watch for you to get current, but then you'd be caught up. If you added that, it would speed up my watching it.

    Perhaps you could add Alcatraz next? I honestly don't know anything about it other than the name and the fact that it's a JJ Abrams property. Hopefully it will be good.

    Other than that, you better review the NBC black-ops dramedy with Ben and Locke. That is definitely appointment TV for me!

    Thank you for all your great reads. I look forward to your reviews the moment the credits hit on one of our favorite shows. (Kudos for how fast you got up the True Blood reviews this summer!)

    You articulate thoughts I have, but am unable to verbalize. You write poignant ideas that I never would have come up on my own. You add so much value to my TV watching.

    So for all that, thank you.

    Take care,


    ps you need a Facebook Page with your reviews. People "like"ing your reviews might help them spread like wildfire.

  5. Mark, that's a lovely post, and I'm going to let Billie reply to all the fabulous things you just said. (And to talk about facebook.)

    But in case anyone is wondering about this mysterious Alcatraz project Mark mentioned, here's some info according to the Hollywood Reporter:

    Fox just picked up a "pilot commitment" for the new Abrams-produced show about "mysteries, secrets and the most infamous prison of all time: Alcatraz."

    I think that means we won't hear more about it until pilot season in the spring, and it won't air until next fall. Although, I suppose they could rush, and we'd get it as a mid-season replacement.

    By the way, the same article mentioned that Abrams is developing a "crime thriller" with Jonathan Nolan.

    Source is here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3ic5827d475c9bb4369bf71ce84f2174e7

  6. Mark, will you marry me? :)

    Our tastes aren't that different -- I'm only so-so about Smallville. I got into it in the first place when James Marsters briefly joined the cast, and never expected the show to last so long. My favorite show right now is Supernatural and savoring every season and reviewing it until the end. If only it would last ten years, like Smallville. I know I won't be that lucky.

    Loved The Wire; Dan and I watched the entire series for the first time this past summer. I watch Mad Men and have thought often that it would be a great addition to the site, but I'm not sure I'm ready to review it. The other currently running show that I review is Torchwood, but we're not getting season four for awhile yet.

    We all talked about a Facebook page and we even had one up (quietly) for awhile. But all of the articles about invasion of privacy and data mining made us feel that it just wasn't worth it. We like our privacy.

    Thanks so much for your comments, Mark. You made my day.

  7. I would love some Mad Men reviews. I've weatched only season 1 so far, but it felt really strange to watch something and then not read any reviews. :)

    But i agree it's a tough show. All the 60s stuff makes it feel like a sci-fi series, but one where everything has to be checked for period accuracy.

    As for new shows i think it's always better to wait till the 1st season is over and then decide. Supernatural, Fringe, VD, Chuck are some of the shows that got this treatment from me and they're still going strong, while stuff i decided to watch from the beginning like FlashForward, V... you know how they turned out. I'm watching the event so i guess it'll be bad too. ;)

  8. Like Billie, I'll admit that I only watched the pilot because of a love for J.J.'s previous material, much in the same way I struggled through Dollhouse's first few episodes because, DAMMIT, I'm a Whedonite. But that show eventually paid off (until it got cancelled, because FOX kills everything I love), and this one's looking like it will, too. Very cute, very funny. Verbose and articulate, which my word-addicted nerd brain craves.
    And Alan Sepinwall mentioned this in his review, but I love that J.J. Abrams cast two black leads in characters that weren't race-specific. Usually you see actors of colors playing ancillary characters, sidekicks or sages and the like, but rarely front and center. Yay, diversity!

  9. Hey Billie, not sure if you recognised her, but, Gugu Mbatha-Raw played Tish Jones (Martha Jones' sister) in Doctor Who. I thought her English accent sounded vaguely convincing (not usually a strong suit in US TV shows).

    I really enjoyed this too. It's lightness is what makes it different

  10. Patryk, you made me laugh twice. The sixties on Mad Men really do seem like an alternate universe.

    Irish Cowgirl, good point. You have a great handle, by the way.

    Thanks, Paul. I had a feeling I'd seen her somewhere but couldn't think where. And I remember thinking Martha's sister was really too beautiful, too.

  11. Consider me unimpressed.

    I thought the pilot was fun and well-shot, and the two leads have chemistry, and, well... and?

    The show feels incredibly unambitious, which is the opposite of what I'd expect from a JJ pilot. Perhaps it's just too "light" for me, but there's no sense of danger or urgency. No stakes.

    I much prefer Nikita. Sure, the acting can be a bit wooden, but I'm tuning in every week knowing that I'm moving in a direction. There's a scene in the latest Nikita ("Kill Jill") where Maggie Q delivers the line "You have no idea how much pain I could take" that really grabbed me as a viewer. I was like, damn, I care about this girl. I want to see her succeed.

    Watching Undercovers, I just kept thinking, oh how adorable these two are. Or, oh, how attractive. Everything seemed too precious and little else.

  12. I loved this pilot, and would love reviews of further episodes too!


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