September 23, 2010

UNDERCOVERS, OR: HOW BAD CAN YOU MAKE A SPY TELEVISION SHOW?


Not that anybody is asking me, but this thing called UnderCovers by J.J. Abrams is among the worst things I have ever seen on television (well, in my case, a computer screen) and continues a complete strike-out for this fall's new pilots for me. Having already suffered through The Event and Chase, Abrams original thought of "do you remember when True Lies was an awesome movie?" crossed with "you know what, let's make them black, 'tis the age of Barry after all"...

... fails on every conceivable level. And it's a show that I wanted to like. I so desperately wanted to like it, because...

(a) witty banter between a husband and a wife while solving cases? Hell, I own The Thin Man series, so I know how it is supposed to be done, and this, boys and girls, is no Thin Man. Hell, it isn't even Hart to Hart.

(b) exotic (for Americans) locations in Europe? Madrid. Paris. Moscow. It's all done in post card style, and the lcoations never breathe, they never become real but continue to be stuck in semi-CGI mode that TV apparently does need to do all the time these days. Look! It's Madrid! At a café! Look! It's paris! See the Eiffel Tower (full disclosure: I had a similar problem when writing 10 Beautiful Assassins as I neded to show the location to be Paris, and make that clear to everybody not knowing what the hell Paris looks like, so I invented that scene with the French President at the Eiffel Tower, but hey, at least I made it a scene...) This is NBCU, right? This is the place they did the Bourne movies for, right? Yes, why, yes, it is. Didn't they learn anything there? As to how to show different countries? In those movies (and yes, I know, people will say, but there they had money. Well, if you don't have money, don't do foreign locations) they showed us how it is done.

Abrams, in a final insult to our intelligence, sets the finale of his pilot at... yet another fucking refinery/beer plant/whatever. You know, that guy has a hard-on for these things. Remember, in MI:3, that factory in berlin? Yeah, same here, pretty much even the same set-up as in those opening shots of the Tom Cruise disaster. Oh, and if youw atch very fucking closely, I am sure that somewhere in the background, you can see Simon Pegg trying to get that factory/engine room up to Warp Speed!

(c) a black couple! For that alone, one should have rooted for this show. A black couple in the leads. But neither of them click. There is no tension and no love between those two actors. They are too pretty (sure, that is why they were cast), but at no point do you root for them. There is nothing to root for. They have no marital problems, their catering service looks like it's been imagined by Hollywood (Look at how their catering service is looking to you!). And the big thing is that the guy who they are supposed to be rescueing/who might be a traitor fucked with our lead's wife before they met. Oh. Dear. God. I have never seen such wooden acting in such a high-profile show. And the wife? The wife looks like she is in that typical TV-land state of Bambi-ism, with her eyes wide open at all times, look cute, girl, look cute!

Now, to be fair... look at Chase, and you know that apparently there is nobody left at NBC who can make good casting choices, as the white woman in the lead of that show has exactly the same faults in her performance. I'm tiny! I'm tough! I don't sweat after chasing down a criminal through the sveltering heat of Texas! Nor am I out of breath!

And it appears to me that all three pilots, Chase, UnderCovers and The Event share the same director of photography. All those burnt crisp shots! All looking the same! All giving these shows a completely fake look.

What is it with NBC? I mean, not that the other networks are doing it better these days, but dear god, what happened to the network that put out The West Wing? That put out Friends, even (which Il loved, despite the fact it was one of the most racist shows on TV ever since in New York/Manhattan, there are apparently no black people)? What the hell happened to this network?

It used to be that you could go, hey, it's NBC, I must at least give it a try.

Now? Run! Run! It's on NBC!