TV

'Undercover' Underwhelming

One of the series I was most anticipating this fall was JJ Abrams' new spy series, "Undercovers," which debuts tonight (NBC, 8 p.m.)



The series marks a return to the spy genre for Abrams, who created "Alias." It's also drawn a lot of attention because it's one of the rare shows in which the two lead actors (Boris Kodjoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are black. (Not African-American, incidentally, because Kodjoe is Austrian and Mbatha-Raw is English).



The series tries for a lighter, "Hart to Hart" meets "The Avengers" type of feel, with a romantic playfulness between two attractive leads in worldwide locales.



But as for the pilot I saw (admittedly, the original version and not the updated version that will air tonight), it fell completely flat. Despite the presence of two good-looking leads, there's a general lack of energy among the characters. The spy aspect also was rather dull, and the overall show felt bland as the producers seemed to want to play it safe.



The show revolves around two retired CIA agents who are trying to make a go of it in the catering industry, only to be called back when a former colleague goes missing. Gerald McRaney plays the CIA head honcho who reluctantly brings them back.



As it is, "Undercovers" lacks the coolness of "Burn Notice" nor the fun aspect of "Chuck," two much better spy shows. Only Ben Schwartz, as Kodjoe's assistant, provides any real draw, stealing every scene he's in as a geeky spy with a hilarious man-crush on Kodjoe.



Still, I'll give "Undercovers" at least a few episodes to draw me in, given Abrams' pedigree and at least the potential for improvement as the show goes forward. But it could have gotten off to a stronger start.



WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: The new sitcom "Better With You," centered around three generations of couples in one family, kicks off tonight (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) It's going to come off as really bad when you consider it's surrounded by very strong returning comedies in "The Middle" at 8 p.m., followed by Emmy winner "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town." At 10 p.m., ABC kicks off the intriguing new legal drama "The Whole Truth" with Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow. It was one of my favorite pilots of the fall.



On the flip side, the only new pilot CBS didn't send me was "The Defenders," also a legal drama at 10 p.m. With Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell, I wasn't going to give it much of a look anyway, but a pilot would have been nice. It follows "Survivor" and "Criminal Minds."



NBC airs a two-hour "Law & Order: SVU" after "Undercovers."



Fox has the season premiere of "Hell's Kitchen" from 8-10 p.m.



On cable, arguably the best new show of the season, "Terriers" (FX, 10 p.m.) has a new episode. Also, there's a new episode of "The Choir" (BBC America, 10 p.m.)

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