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Undercovers: JJ Abrams Does Spies…Again


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#1

Trini Girl

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Posted May 3, 2010 @ 5:46 PM

Picked up by NBC for 13 episodes.

Press release excerpt:

Abrams serves as co-writer, executive producer - and also directs - his first direction of a TV series pilot since "Lost." "Undercovers" is a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world's most dangerous partnership. Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, "Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion," "Soul Food," "Resident Evil: Afterlife") and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, "Doctor Who," "Bonekickers"), are a typical married couple who own a small catering company in Los Angeles and are helped by Samantha's easily frazzled younger sister, Lizzy (Jessica Parker Kennedy, "Smallville").

Secretly, the duo were two of the CIA's best spies until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired. When fellow spy and friend Nash (Carter MacIntyre, "American Heiress") goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney, "Deadwood") to locate and rescue Nash. The pair is thrust back into the world of espionage as they follow leads that span the globe -- and Steven and Samantha realize that this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides the excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing. Also starring is Ben Schwartz (NBC's "Parks and Recreation").


Undercovers on Twitter.

#2

The Mad Maple

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Posted May 3, 2010 @ 7:25 PM

I've been looking forward to this show since I first heard the pitch last year.

Alias meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Sign me up!

#3

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Posted May 3, 2010 @ 7:32 PM

The two leads need to have amazing chemistry or this is DOA.

#4

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Posted May 3, 2010 @ 8:07 PM

And this was ordered to series, to the surprise of exactly no one.

I keep reading that Gugu Mbatha-Raw (what a name) was on Doctor Who, but I can't remember her character for the life of me.

#5

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Posted May 3, 2010 @ 8:25 PM

I keep reading that Gugu Mbatha-Raw (what a name) was on Doctor Who, but I can't remember her character for the life of me.


She played Tish Jones, Martha's sister in season 3 of Doctor Who. Good Actress.

#6

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Posted May 4, 2010 @ 7:30 PM

JJ is renowned for picking out the actors like nobody's business.. he is flawless in picking leads for his shows. But I know precious nothing about these two actors AND I am a huuuuuge Alias fan from back in the day, so this better be fan-freaking-tastically good and different from Alias or I won't give it a second chance after the pilot. And I already know I will watch wishing I had Sydney and Vaughn (yuuumm Michael Vartan!) on screen instead of these two. (who may turn out to be incredibly good, who knows).

#7

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Posted May 4, 2010 @ 9:01 PM

Since, there's not even any promos or pilot excerpts out yet (though NBC should be releasing those as part of their upfront blitz), I'll withhold a proper judgment on this show, but...

The show gets a points deduction for naming a lead female character "Samantha." (It's the "Jack" of women's names in my book).

With that said, as long as the show stays within a reasonable envelope of scientific plausibility, follows the laws of physics, and doesn't go overboard in using ridiculous Hollywood spy tropes, then I'm probably in for the count. (I'm looking more forward to CBS' Chaos, if it's picked up.)

#8

Trini Girl

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Posted May 10, 2010 @ 3:54 PM

NBC Entertainment president Angela Bromstad on Undercovers:

The Hollywood Reporter: Can you give us a sense of what "Undercovers" will be like on a week-to-week basis?
Angela Bromstad: It's a stand-alone adventure every week. It's a great modernized "Hart-to-Hart" with great banter and lightness in tone.

THR: How much involvement will Abrams have after the pilot?
Bromstad: J.J. will stay involved in the show. It greatly depends on his feature schedule, but he's absolutely committed to being active in this show.

THR: Will he be directing or writing any more episodes?
Bromstad: He's got two movies, so the directing will have to be subject to his availability. I think he will have a strong hand overseeing the writing.



#9

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Posted May 11, 2010 @ 11:44 AM

I'm so excited for this! I have no idea who the guy is, but I do remember the actress's name (how could one forget a Gugu?) from those Doctor Who episodes with The Master (mmm, John Simm). I remembering thinking she was SO beautiful then. Her role wasn't big enough for me to determine her acting skills, but JJ is usually fantastic at casting people and double-checking the chemistry, so I'm sure she's fine and works well with the guy.

The only thing I worry about is whether or not the ongoing search for this Nash person will be compelling. It smacks a little too much of White Collar's "search for Kate". I usually prefer serialized shows to procedurals, but on White Collar, the arc was the only annoying part. I hope the Nash thing wraps up quickly and then they get a new arc maybe two or three times a season. Dragging out simple things to force them to continue to be relevant to the show usually results in convoluted silliness.

#10

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Posted May 12, 2010 @ 12:12 AM

I'm guessing this being picked up is actually kind of bad news for "Chuck", since they've been headed in the same direction and NBC hardly needs TWO of the same show (and they are far more likely to go with the one without baggage attached and with JJ Abrams name on it).

#11

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Posted May 12, 2010 @ 11:05 AM

I'm guessing this being picked up is actually kind of bad news for "Chuck", since they've been headed in the same direction and NBC hardly needs TWO of the same show (and they are far more likely to go with the one without baggage attached and with JJ Abrams name on it).

Things are actually looking OK for Chuck. I know it's just a rumor, but this sounds like fairly good news. Besides, having multiple versions of the exact same show has certainly worked out for CBS.

I'm so excited for this! I have no idea who the guy is, but I do remember the actress's name (how could one forget a Gugu?) from those Doctor Who episodes with The Master (mmm, John Simm). I remembering thinking she was SO beautiful then. Her role wasn't big enough for me to determine her acting skills, but JJ is usually fantastic at casting people and double-checking the chemistry, so I'm sure she's fine and works well with the guy.

I still can't remember her from Doctor Who. Although Martha's season wasn't my favorite, and I've blocked out the season-ending abominations with the Master, so maybe that's why.

I do agree with you about JJ Abrams and casting. He really seems to have an eye for it, and he pulled Kerri Russell, Jennifer Garner, Josh Holloway, and others out of relative obscurity, so I'm optimistic about the leads.

#12

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Posted May 12, 2010 @ 11:18 AM

...but JJ is usually fantastic at casting people and double-checking the chemistry...


I agree, with one glaring exception :::cough Melissa George coughcough::: I actually am not a Dr. Who fan (I know!), but I do remember the actress from Lost in Austen, which is kind of a fun little miniseries. Especially when you are as big of an Austen freak as I am.

Anyway, I was a HUGE Alias fan, so I will totally give this a chance. Which will officially make this the first thing I've watched on NBC (not named Today ) in a LONG time.

#13

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Posted May 12, 2010 @ 2:11 PM

I do remember the actress from Lost in Austen

Who was she in Austen? I can't remember her from Who either.

Count me in as a JJ fan. I'm definitely giving this a try.

#14

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Posted May 12, 2010 @ 3:35 PM

Who was she in Austen?


She was Pirhana, the lead character's modern day best friend.

Remember that scene where Amanda returns to modern London from Georgian England, and said something along the lines of, "Pirhana, you have got to see this!" and tries to drag her through the shower/door into the past? But Pirhana wisely said something like, "Hell no. I'm black and am not interested in being mistreated for it. Plus I love chocolate, toothbrushes and air conditioning." To which Amanda Price said, "Well they do actually have chocolate." I wish I could remember the exact quotes. It was a good scene.

#15

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Posted May 13, 2010 @ 1:06 AM

She was Pirhana, the lead character's modern day best friend.

Heh, about five minutes after I turned off my computer, it occurred to me that this was the only thing that made sense.

#16

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Posted May 13, 2010 @ 6:53 AM

With that said, as long as the show stays within a reasonable envelope of scientific plausibility, follows the laws of physics, and doesn't go overboard in using ridiculous Hollywood spy tropes, then I'm probably in for the count.


What? On a JJ Abrams show? Surely that's not going to happen :) I'm also a huge fan of his and I believe Alias is still his best creation (I love Fringe, can't wait for the finale) and the way JJ weaves sci fi into his shows borders on genius.

Gugu did a hideous tv series for BBC1 here in the UK called Bonekickers with the wonderful Adrian Lester. She's a beautiful, talented actresses but for those looking to check her out, please avoid Bonekickers. At all costs.

By the way, Gugu is a Southern African name (short for Gugulethu meaning "Our Precious", Gollum-style hee - or Our Pride as per wikipedia)

#17

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Posted May 16, 2010 @ 3:51 AM

Three sneak peeks for the pilot episode. Spoiler warning applies, although I guess the first clip doesn't actually spoil anything that's not already explained in the press release. It looks fun. :)

#18

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Posted May 16, 2010 @ 1:02 PM

This looks good. I cannot wait to watch the full pilot.

#19

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Posted May 16, 2010 @ 2:08 PM

It's going to be on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the fall.

I think this could work. Wednesday at 8 is possible the most wide-open hour on the schedule, so there's not going to be a lot of competition for it other than any new shows that other networks might schedule.

Not sure if the show is going to be too dark for the 8 p.m. hour, but it doesn't seem that way from the previews.

#20

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Posted May 17, 2010 @ 11:30 AM

5 min trailer, dare I say it looks awesome. (sexspionage? hee)

Edited by Boundary, May 17, 2010 @ 11:33 AM.


#21

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Posted May 17, 2010 @ 1:19 PM

When I heard the show got picked up, I was stunned. I saw/rated the pilot in Las Vegas last month. I had no idea it was a JJ Abrams show going in and was embarrassed for him when I found out (they asked a question about him and whether it made the show more appealing). Spoiler tagging most of this.

So what was good about the pilot? In my opinion, not much. The action scenes, locations and music were the only good things about the show. Gerald McRaney's character was good, too.

If they reshoot the pilot, recast one of hte leads, lose/downplay the home life and completely change the Ben Schwartz charater, there could be hope. But that's asking for a lot.


The two leads need to have amazing chemistry or this is DOA.


This was one of my biggest issues in the pilot I saw....the chemistry was practically non-existent. Their scenes together, especially in their home life, were painful to watch. Their bantering seemed so forced.

And for a spy who needs to change up his look, Steven (Boris Kodjoe) has a very distinct look and facial hair. <Seth Meyers>Really? </Seth Meyers> I just don't buy that he can blend in at all without being recognized.


The Hollywood Reporter: Can you give us a sense of what "Undercovers" will be like on a week-to-week basis?
Angela Bromstad: It's a stand-alone adventure every week. It's a great modernized "Hart-to-Hart" with great banter and lightness in tone.


The person I went to the pilot had a similar observation. To paraphase him, "My parents would like this. It's like Hart to Hart - a spy show for old people." Not a ringing endorsement for the audience they are trying to pull in. There was a question that asked what network you would expect to see the show on - he said CBS.

The only thing I worry about is whether or not the ongoing search for this Nash person will be compelling.


It's resolved in the pilot. It felt like he'll be a regular and will be working with the leads. The Nash character is supposed to be the flip, hard core agent. There's a scene where he's being interrogated/tortured, and he's telling jokes. <Seth Meyers>Really? </Seth Meyers> It was so over-the-top ridiculous. However, his character was the only one to make me laugh when he was supposed to (some one-liner towards the end of hte episode). So I could see hope with this character.

...typical married couple who own a small catering company in Los Angeles and are helped by Samantha's easily frazzled younger sister, Lizzy (Jessica Parker Kennedy, "Smallville").

Also starring is Ben Schwartz (NBC's "Parks and Recreation").


This part of the concept was not well-executed. You can see their "small" business in the trailer. Pretty nice office and lots of employees. They'll be away with spy case of the week, which is why the sister is there - to run the business. But the sister...OMG the sister...just.needs.to.go.away. This whole aspect of the show can just disappear.

But not as badly as the Ben Schwartz character. In the 5 minute trailer, he's the guy in Madrid sucking up to Steven and he's in the back of the airplane. He's the pseudo-Marshall (from Alias) of this show - comic-relief/tech guy/local handler. But not as fun or endearing. He's got a hard-core man-crush on Steven. He's a sycophant and not in a good way...it's supposed to be cute, but it was just gross. I had such a strong negative reaction to the character. Every time he was on screen, I was holding down the red 'hated it' button.

#22

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Posted May 17, 2010 @ 1:20 PM

I am really excited about this show! I think it'll be fun; the leads bring the pretty and have a lot of chemistry.

Gugu and Boris on Today Show

#23

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Posted May 17, 2010 @ 2:26 PM

It looks okay as long as they move away from the banter. Neither actor have the rhythm to pull it off and make it seem like people married for 5 years.

Edited by patriotickid, May 18, 2010 @ 7:38 AM.


#24

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Posted May 17, 2010 @ 10:50 PM

So this is like Alias after the season finale when you think about it.

I'm sure JJ will abandon this show after a season or two like he always does.

#25

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Posted May 18, 2010 @ 12:54 AM

Well, I'm not quite convinced about the leads from what I've seen. On the other hand, Jennifer Garner didn't convince me right away either. But then there was Jack Bristow's first scene and I was sold. So, I'll be looking forward to the pilot and give it a shot.

If nothing else, JJ has a good track record for pilots with me if nothing else.

#26

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Posted May 18, 2010 @ 10:14 AM

5 min trailer, dare I say it looks awesome. (sexspionage? hee)

I tried that link, but it wouldn't work in Canada. I found it on youtube, though, on NBC's official channel. It could just be the editing, but it looks awesome. I'm definitely psyched for the fall. :)

#27

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Posted Jun 3, 2010 @ 6:44 PM

...but JJ is usually fantastic at casting people...


After watching The Gospel a few years back, I came away with two things:
1. Boris Kodjoe is hands-down the most exquisite piece of man-candy I have ever laid eyes on.
2. The guy cannot act to save his life.

Let's see if he can change my mind about #2. I'm curious to find out what JJ Abrams saw in him.

#28

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Posted Jun 6, 2010 @ 5:03 PM

1. Boris Kodjoe is hands-down the most exquisite piece of man-candy I have ever laid eyes on.
2. The guy cannot act to save his life.

While I hate to judge a show just based on the previews, I definitely got this impression. I really liked GuGu Mbatha-Raw in the clips, but he wasn't doing anything for me. But, like I said, too early to judge.

#29

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Posted Jun 6, 2010 @ 5:54 PM

This looks pretty good, but damn, they used the word "sexspionage" about fifty times during that trailer.

#30

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Posted Jun 13, 2010 @ 11:57 AM

Brian Ford Sullivan of thefutoncritic.com has a review of the pilot. (Mild spoilers in the review.) He's not that impressed with the pilot, but is willing to give the show a chance because of JJ.