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This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: NBC Cancels ‘Undercovers’

November 4, 2010

It’s official, NBC’s great black hope of a show – Undercovers – has been canceled due to poor ratings.

Scheduled on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., “Undercovers” never took off in the ratings and the numbers that arrived Thursday for the previous night revealed that it had hit a new low. Only about 5.8 million viewers tuned in.

As I watched the first episode of the gorgeous looking show I knew instantly that it was doomed. It was too cable-y for the tastes of folks who think a show like Leverage is too edgy. Undercovers’ inability to successfully blend the comedy/action/romance probably turned off more viewers than its deliciously chocolate covered stars. Interesting enough, though not surprisingly, the big loser in all of this will not be Abrams who is still churning out projects in his television/movie sausage factory, but actors of color who will shoulder most of the blame for the failure of a mediocre series (that could have gotten better if given a chance) pitched to the wrong network.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2010 4:24 pm

    Ugh, I hate it when the networks cancel a show after barely even giving it a chance. (And when people pitch shows to the wrong damn network; Abrams could have gotten picked up anywhere and ought to have given some thought when he was shopping around.)

  2. November 4, 2010 4:29 pm

    Abrams should’ve shopped this show to USA, rather than NBC mothership. It would’ve fit into the Burn Notice and White Collar rubric nicely, and not confounded viewers on the over-the-air side who, judging by the current NBC lineup, really aren’t built for anything more cerebrally challenging than The Biggest Loser and Outsourced.

    So no black people on network TV, no black people in the U.S. Senate, it’s a banner sort of week. /sarcasm

  3. evmaroon permalink
    November 4, 2010 4:38 pm

    Color me supremely unsurprised. I’m sure that would require glitter. Sorry, Snarky, I know you liked this series, and I echo others in the frustration that networks aren’t giving their shows a chance to grow an audience.

  4. November 4, 2010 4:46 pm

    @Amandi – I definitely agree that USA or even TNT would have been a great channel for the show, where numbers like the ones Undercovers earned on NBC would have made it a hit. Piggybacking on s.e.’s point, I also agree that given the power Abrams has he could have easily shopped this project to another network, particularly one whose current schedule would be conducive to the program and who wouldn’t immediately pull the plug until they’d done the best they could to improve the show.

    Even Seinfeld was garbage its first TWO seasons. It wasn’t till around season three where it hit its stride. Wings (another NBC show) was never a breakout hit nor was Just Shoot Me or NewsRadio. But each show was mediocre fare, which was given some TLC and time to build a dedicated fanbase.

    Another example of why people are fleeing the networks and consuming content elsewhere. Wielding an axe like a lumberjack is not going to encourage folks to check out your freshman offerings, NBC.

  5. November 4, 2010 5:50 pm

    I feel like everyone BUT the actors failed the show. The writers fell into cliche territory. The look was not gritty enough. And, as you said, it should have been on a different network. NBC pisses me off…along with all broadcast networks grrrr.

    Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are so beautiful and fun to watch. And Gerald McRaney has a bit of the Kendall from Alias feel. If the network was smart, they’d give it a full season to find its feet. Or bring in some season 2 Alias writers, which was by far the best season of that show. Frustrating.

  6. November 4, 2010 8:17 pm

    Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are so beautiful and fun to watch. And Gerald McRaney has a bit of the Kendall from Alias feel. If the network was smart, they’d give it a full season to find its feet. Or bring in some season 2 Alias writers, which was by far the best season of that show. Frustrating.

    Agreed. Also, the premise of the show failed because at no time did I get the sense the characters’ marriage was in that much trouble. Maybe the actors had too chemistry, but it was hard to believe this was a bored married couple. Stressed and distracted by their thriving business, perhaps, but not bored with their relationship, just extremely focused on their careers.

  7. November 5, 2010 5:01 am

    When I do a post-mortem about a show that has been canceled, the first place to look is the writing. Did the scripts make sense, were they engaging, did that have something to say to the audience, and was that something said in a way that did it in a well-crafted method, an entertaining method? From what I saw of “Undercovers,” the writing was a bit of an issue. And under the circumstances the writing needed to be the sharpest, but I still felt it could hold its own as “Alias” did.

    Next you need to examine the characters and the actors. I don’t know if Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw got hit was a jingoistic dose of “Un-American Actors!” but I know I saw some comments about that along the way. And yes, the premise of this couple needing to spice up their lives was more far-fetched than any of the plots they had to negotiate. They really needed to be much more like “Hart to Hart” (since they were already, anyhow)!

    But all of this could have been repaired on the fly, had NBC given them more time to fix and more effort in bringing in audience. Here in NYC, I can still see subway car ads for the ABC series “My Generation” and “No Ordinary Family.” Undercovers had a lot less exposure than that. A whole lot less.

  8. November 5, 2010 5:27 am

    @Penpusher – I agree the writing was not that it could be, which left the stars standing around looking awkward and pained as they struggled to make the show work. I also agree with the minority backlash as well. I’m still hoping the petition gets traction and another network seizes the opportunity that NBC clearly squandered.

  9. November 5, 2010 8:18 am

    Only about 5.8 million viewers tuned in.

    Or put in other terms, only more than twice the number of viewers the hit show Mad Men gets.

  10. November 6, 2010 9:23 pm

    I thought Undercovers was BUILT for USA. It had the same look and appeal as all of their original series. NBC was a terrible fit — NBC doesn’t actually know how to promote anything at all from what I can tell. But I’m not convinced the show would have fared much better on another broadcast network. It was missing a lot of the dark edginess of Alias and the couple had almost too much chemistry for the writing they were given — it all seemed to cutesy with the sister and the catering company… I don’t know, I wanted more Mr. and Mrs. Smith or more awareness of the cutsiness.

  11. Octavia permalink
    November 7, 2010 10:49 pm

    @Redlami – that’s a damning point. So how many viewers would a show with minority actors need before it too was considered a hit? (Partially rhetorical question as I’m sure this is one of those moving bar scenarios…)

    And apropos of your comment, I am so f*@#ing sick of Mad Men everything, like it’s the most trenchant innovative anything ever put on television. But maybe that’s because it reminded me too much of my father’s disfunctional family so my sympathy switch was automatically set to off. *rimshot*

  12. November 8, 2010 9:23 am

    @Redlami – Oh snap!

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