Monday, October 11, 2010

Undercovers: Missing Everything But Innuendo

Undercovers, a spy story about pretty spies, doing spy things while looking stylish. This is the latest show from JJ Abrams, the man behind the Star Trek revival, as well as the tv shows Fringe, Lost, and Alias. I haven't watched Lost or Alias, but I've heard good things about both, and Alias was another spy show.
Undercovers is not bad, but it's not good either. It's one of those things that's hard to identify exactly where it falls short. The action scenes are well done, with impressive fight choreography, and lots of explosions and gunfire, but it really just fails to make any of that interesting.
The basic premise is that... wow, I actually can't remember their names, anyway, the two spies are actually retired spies, who left the agency to lead normal lives, and get married. They started up a catering business, which is floundering, and they employ her sister, who is annoying incompetent, yet they consistently give her all of the responsibility. Then, they meet up with a spy manager guy, who tries to pull them back into the fold to finish up one of their jobs that an agent has been captured trying to complete. After successfully saving the day, the spy manager offers them a job as a sort of last resort team, for when they need something done that even spies aren't legally able to do. Or something, really it makes no sense, and it just seems to be an overly complicated pretense for them to lead a double life, as really uninteresting caterers.
Every character on this show is simply an overly developed caricature.
Previously mentioned sister screw-up: As I said, she's incompetent, but in the first three episodes, she takes every opportunity to point that she's a failure, and that it's so good of them to employ her, because she couldn't cut it anywhere else. She literally says this at least once per episode. Given the amount of time that's actually spent at the catering company, this means that every scene with her, features her screwing up, admitting she screwed up, and saying that she's an unemployable screw up.
Angry Spy Manager Guy: He is very angry, and he manages spies. He constantly says that he doesn't like working with our attractive duo, and that he doesn't approve of the powers that be deciding to use them in this capacity, and that it's stupid to rely on agents that have been out of the field for 5 years, and thus, rusty and outdated on the tech. Again, every time you see him, he says these things, every time he opens his mouth. We get it, we don't need to be beat over the head with it.
Support spy with a man crush on attractive spy dude: He really likes the Spy guy, he's read all of his reports, and studied all of his debriefing, he takes every opportunity to point out how well he did everything, and how stylish he looked doing it. "Way to check your watch for the time sir, I am truly in the presence of greatness"
Attractive Spy Guy: He's a husband! And a Spy! OMG! He likes gadgets and never reads the manuals! He's real people! Really, there's nothing much more to this character.
Attractive Spy Girl: She's attractive! And a Spy! She always reads the manuals! She's real people! Okay, not so much, she also uses "sexpionage". The fact that she said that, with a straight face, means that she is not real people. Sadly, she has even less character than her husband, it's like she's just the compliment to his stereotype. Maybe she typifies some of the other wifely stereotypes, but I'm just having trouble thinking of any... she doesn't talk about wanting children, or shopping. She's had past sexual exploits, and her hubby is jealous.
Really, the only gem in the cast of characters is the still active spy, Leo (see I remember his name!) Leo was the subject of the rescue mission in the first episode. He was the previous partner of Spy Chick, and a sometime fuckbuddy. Everyone else on the show is lifeless and droll, but Leo always manages to deliver his lines in a way that makes me laugh. In just three episodes, I already have a list of quotes from him that I'll probably be using for years. I don't know if he's really that much fun, or if he just stands out, like a patch of color in a black and white photo.
The bottom line is that even with all of these caricatures, this still could be a good show, except the situations are always boring. Every week is a new bad guy, and our guys go and break up the operation and capture/kill the bad guy. There's no play in the situations, nothing sly and comical about how they go about their jobs. It's like the person who wrote all of the characters wanted to make something silly and corny, and the person who wrote all of the scenarios wanted to do a gritty drama. If they'd just gone all out, one way or the other, it could have been something good. As it is, it's hard to put totally into words just how mediocre and soulless it is.

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