Now that we have a sexy, happily married black couple in the White House, a sexy, happily married black couple has magically appeared in a non-sitcom on primetime TV.
Undercovers, the new show from J.J. Abrams — creator of Alias and Lost — premiered last night. The premise: sexy spies Steven and Samantha Bloom are former CIA agents who have settled down into a quieter (but still hectic) life as caterers. Except the agency needs them for this one thing — that obviously, turns into a job. For both of them.
The Blooms are sexy, smart, gorgeous, fluent in several languages and can crack codes or disarm bad guys in a flash. When Steven goes into a dangerous situation by himself, Samantha rightly asks, "why do you get to go?" And later, when a bad guy is getting away, she asserts: "It's my turn." They're both confident and steely in the face of danger.
In this pilot episode, Samantha (the ridiculously beautiful actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw) also used what she called "sexpionage"; using her body and allure to get information. (James Bond did it for years.) Since her husband was listening in, the pressure was on for him to get what he needed from the bad guy's cell phone before the bad guy got what he wanted from Steven's wife.
Steven and Samantha are so good at what they do that they can catch bad guys and keep their catering business going.
I love the idea of this show, and the fact that it even exists. Is there any other scripted show on a major network where two black people are the stars? Reality shows delight in showing crazy, hysterical, buffoonery — think Real Housewives Of Atlanta or I Love New York. And when it comes to talent shows or ensemble shows — ANTM, Project Runway, Grey's Anatomy, West Wing — the casts are often diverse. But scripts? With two black leads? Projects like Everybody Hates Chris, The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show and Good Times are extremely rare these days.
Additionally, in many stories, female characters can be strong or have a male partner. Not both. Ladies like Buffy and Alice in Resident Evil can fight armies of enemies, but they're never married. In Undercovers, not only is Samantha Bloom attached, her husband (played by Boris Kodjoe) is sexy, super hot, incredibly clever and totally kind. Her equal.
Of course, the fact that these two people are so beautiful, so talented, so brilliant and so in love is part of the problem: The show lacks tension. The dialogue is great because it's so quick and breezy; the action is awesome — Samantha blew up some guy's Range Roger while driving her weird little European car with one hand — but unlike, say, Mr. & Mrs. Smith or even Moonlighting, there's basically zero conflict between the two leads. Here's where the creators of the show get into sticky territory: On the one hand, if Steven and Samantha were a nasty, bickering couple, the show would be offensive — why can't a black man and a black woman be happy? On the other hand, when all of the conflict comes from a faceless stream of stereotypical villains, it's not very compelling.
That said, my fingers are crossed that the show will just get better (and won't get canceled. It is up against the high fashion season of ANTM, after all). I've only seen one episode, but watching Samantha blow up a villain's car and then kick him in the face was awesome enough for me to want to watch again.
…And did I mention that they're sexy?