There are plenty of things to get excited about with the newest J.J. Abrams show, Undercovers
, premiering tonight at 8pm on NBC. Other than an episode of The Office
it's the first time Abrams has directed a TV show since the pilot of
. It's also a fun, fast-paced action series that feels like a cross
without the serialized mystery.
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But perhaps the most astonishing thing about Undercovers
are the leads, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who play a married couple of former spies brought back into the game. Not only do they have the two coolest names on television, but they're both black.
This is important because Undercovers
is now the only show on a major network with black stars, unless you count LL Cool J on NCIS: Los Angeles
or FOX's animated series The Cleveland Show
(where, ironically, the lead character is voiced by a white guy).
The point is worth noting because, for all the talk about how progressive and post-racial this country is, TV is still a largely white landscape. Undercovers
is a huge leap forward in terms of diversifying network programming. The fact that it's an incredibly entertaining show is icing on the cake.
is not alone this season in terms of diversity. The fall season also features a Hispanic lead (Jimmy Smits in NBC's Outlaw
) and an Asian lead (Maggie Q in Nikita
). What I love most about this trend is that, in these new shows, race doesn't matter.
The fact that the stars of Undercovers
aren't white is irrelevant to the story. Like most procedurals, whether they're about lawyers, cops, doctors or spies, the color of their skin has nothing to do with the actual plot. However, despite this fact, there's still a lack of diversity among leading roles.
Typically, when a network wants to add diversity, they'll cast an African-American as the wise-cracking best friend (see Mike and Molly
) or cast an entire ensemble of Indian actors only to plant a white man as the lead (see Outsourced
So I give extra praise to J.J. Abrams and NBC for diversity. But none of that would matter if Undercovers
was a bad show.
Luckily, it's full of intense action, clever writing and very charismatic actors who help make Undercovers
feel like a mini TV movie. If there's one thing J.J. Abrams knows how to do better than anyone else in TV, it's making an entertaining pilot.
Check out the full length trailer below