6 Fixes That Could Have Made 'UnderCovers' A Hit - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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UnderCovers, starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, should have been a hit. It still can be.

After airing just seven episodes, NBC announced last Thursday that it’s pulling the plug on UnderCovers, the series starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as husband-and-wife spy team/restaurant owners Stephen and Samantha Bloom, pulled out of retirement by the CIA for special missions. This is a big disappointment for African American television viewers who had high hopes for the first hour-long series to star black actors in lead roles. Indeed, had UnderCovers been a hit, it could have opened the doors for more lead television roles for black actors.

NBC certainly did its part to lay the groundwork for the show to succeed, soliciting the support of black community influencers via previews and actor appearances at events such as the 2010 convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Black Enterprise Golf & Tennis Challenge. It also marshaled an aggressive social media campaign for UnderCovers on Twitter and Facebook, with Kodjoe doing a yeoman’s job of tweeting to fans of the show. (Follow Boris Kodjoe on Twitter.) Plus, the show had two attractive and likable stars in the lead roles. (Kodjoe has a huge and loyal female fan base; Mbatha-Raw is a talented actress and arguably one of the most beautiful women on television.) So why did it fail?

The truth is (and it kills me to say this), UnderCovers just isn’t very good. In fact, I couldn’t bear to watch a full episode of the series since the second episode, where the sad running “joke” was that world-class spy Stephen Bloom couldn’t work the coffee machine. (Why would he even care to try?) It’s not that the show doesn’t have its fans, judging from the outcry I hear–from people I know personally as well as those I’m connected with via social media–that the show is not getting a fair chance to succeed. However, the ratings indicate that UnderCovers‘ loyalists are being outvoted. After starting with a high of nearly 8.6 million viewers with the pilot episode, viewership fell to a low of 5.45 million by the sixth episode. UnderCovers hasn’t pulled more than 6 million viewers since the third episode.

I was one of the attendees at the NABJ convention in San Diego in the audience for a special preview of the first episode of UnderCovers. The fatal flaws I saw in the show then were only confirmed as I tried to commit to watching it as

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Alfred Edmond, Jr.

Alfred Edmond Jr. is SVP/Editor-at-large of BLACK ENTERPRISE. He is a content leader, brand representative and expert resource for all media platforms under the BLACK ENTERPRISE brand, including the magazine, television shows, web site, social media and live networking events. From 2008 through 2010, Edmond was SVP/Editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com, helping to lead the transition of BLACK ENTERPRISE from single-magazine publisher to digital-first multimedia company. From 1995 through 2008, Edmond was chief editor of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine. He also hosts The Urban Business Roundtable on WVON-AM in Chicago and Money Matters, a syndicated radio feature of American Urban Radio Networks.


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