A new J.J. Abrams series is usually reason for celebration. With a track record that includes “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe,” he’s the closest to a sure thing among today’s TV producers. This time out, Abrams delves back into the spy realm with “Undercovers,” debuting at 8 Wednesday on NBC.

In the series, Steven Bloom (played by Boris Kodjoe) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), are a couple who run a small catering company in Los Angeles. Five years before, they had been the CIA’s best spies before they fell in love and retired. Then a former colleague goes missing, and agency liaison Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney) drags them back in, and they find out that they’ve missed the excitement.

“Undercovers” is a witty spy romp, much lighter in tone than “Alias.” Up against shows on their way out (“Survivor”) or that are still gaining traction (“Lie to Me”), “Undercovers” has a good chance to sleuth out its audience.


“The Defenders,” the best of the three new legal dramas (admittedly faint praise), premieres at 10 tonight on CBS. The series follows a pair of colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys. Nick Morelli (Jim Belushi) is a bulldog in the courtroom, who is trying to repair his damaged marriage and remain in his son’s life. Pete Kaczmarek (Jerry O’Connell) is a real ladies man. The new associate in their office is a former exotic dancer. Together, they fervently defend the lovable losers who are their clients. Belushi and O’Connell carry this show along on sheer personality, and Las Vegas always makes for a colorful backdrop. “The Defenders” is up against two other rookies, “Law & Order: Los Angeles” and “The Whole Truth,” and probably needs to beat only one of those for the ratings verdict to go in its favor. (“The Whole Truth,” which changed female leads from Joely Richardson to Maura Tierney, was unavailable for review at press time).


“Better with You,” debuting at 8:30 tonight, quickly becomes the weak link in ABC’s strong comedy lineup. This relationship sitcom is about two sisters (played by Jennifer Finnigan and JoAnna Garcia) saddled with loser boyfriends who are still seeking approval from their parents (played by Kurt Fuller and Debra Jo Rupp). It’s every bit as unoriginal as it sounds. Fortunately, ABC has some better comedies in the pipeline, because viewers are better off without this.