Sexy spies and domestic disputes on NBC

Courtesy of NBC
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Daily Arts Writer
Published September 26, 2010

When a pilot opens with a rooftop chase scene — loaded with gunshots, broken windows, balcony jumps and fast-paced, dizzying editing to keep up with all the commotion — it seems destined to fall into the ranks of forgotten action-adventure television shows.


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But just when it would be easiest to dismiss “Undercovers,” a subsequent scene shows its main characters taking part in peanut-butter binging and tooth brushing before bedtime. These tropes of the domestic drama signal that the show will likely combine two of television’s most stale genres.

This dichotomy between the enthralling uncertainty of the detective world and the comfortable monotony of the “normal” world is rightfully established early on in the first episode of “Undercovers” and is the show’s most apparent and oft-exploited strength.

Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, “Soul Food”) and his wife Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Doctor Who”) are torn between these two worlds and faced with a difficult decision when a messenger from the CIA requests the couple’s services. Neither Steven nor Samantha have been active agents for several years, opting instead to manage a booming catering business. Even though they ended their CIA careers to start a life of routine and stability, this one-and-done opportunity is too good to pass up.

The desire for some excitement in Steven's and Samantha’s lives is not only triggered by the dullness of the day to day, but also by a stagnant relationship. Putting themselves in risky situations while solving crimes together is the perfect dash of spice that the couple needs to restore their passion for each other.

As a couple, Steven and Samantha thrive in these high-pressure situations and have some memorable exchanges while fighting off bad guys. Take the scene in which Samantha is about to sky-dive out of an airplane. As she jumps, she casually informs Steven of a man she once dated. These instances help to develop a strong dynamic between the couple as they try to outdo one another with witty lines. Even though this is similar to the behavior of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the crime-fighting couple is a concept still fresh enough to hold an audience’s attention.

Despite the strength of the main characters, the supporting cast is severely lacking in depth. From the geeky CIA fanboy who can’t stop calling Steven a legend to Samantha’s sister who can’t seem to get anything right, the minor roles are filled with poorly written character sketches.

After successfully completing their first mission while growing closer to each other, the Blooms decide to accept an offer to continue working for the CIA. The biggest question at the end of the show, however, is just how long the couple will be able to continue solving cases that will stay interesting. The fast-paced nature of the show will alienate those looking for an easy domestic drama while the romantic subtext might make an action-adventure enthusiast a bit uncomfortable. Regardless of its future, the pilot of “Undercovers” adds some much-needed spice to two of television’s most common genres.