TV Review: Freddy Rodriguez Stars in Quirky Spy Series ‘Chaos’

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CHICAGO – The main problem with reviewing television is that we’re often sent only the premiere and asked to judge a show overall. And yet we’d all agree that programs regularly improve or slide in quality after week one. By its third month, a show can look and feel completely different than its premiere, and so it can be hard to recommend something, knowing that by the time you get to watch it, you might be watching something much worse. To that end, the premiere of “Chaos,” the new spy comedy debuting on CBS tonight, April 1st, 2011, isn’t bad but I have serious doubts about what the show will be like on a weekly basis. TV Rating: 3.5/5.0
TV Rating: 3.5/5.0

With echoes of “Get Smart” and FX’s brilliant “Archer,” “Chaos” sometimes feels like a workplace comedy crossed with a spy show — like “The Office” meets “The Unit.” The program centers on a group of rebellious CIA operatives, the guys who not only operate outside of the public eye to keep the country safe but often ignore the orders of their superiors if they feel it serves the cause of true justice. But these are not your average Jack Bauer-esque heroes. They are quick-thinking, quick-witted former frat boys; guys who like to haze the new guy as much as rescue the hostage.

Photo credit: CBS

Into this den of pranksters falls the relatively-naive Rick Martinez (Chicagoan Freddy Rodriguez of “Six Feet Under”), who arrives on his first day as a CIA agent only to discover that his department has been downsized. CIA Deputy Director H. J. Higgins (Kurtwood Smith of “That ’70s Show”) decides to give Rick one more chance — join the troublemakers in the Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services (CHAOS) department and report back on any violations.

Photo credit: CBS

Rick’s new colleagues include a super-paranoid leader named Michael (Eric Close), a former agent with the British Secret Service named Billy (James Murray), and a soft-spoken bookworm named Casey (Tim Blake Wilson) who boasts of being able to turn into a human weapon. Rick also makes friends with the gorgeous Fay (Carmen Ejogo) but he can’t be sure if she’s working for him or against him.

In the first episode, Rick is brought into the CHAOS group to play mole but his new colleagues instantly turn the tables on him and blackmail him into working with them to rescue a hostage on whom it appears the American government has given up. Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour,” “X-Men: The Last Stand”) brings an energy to the premiere and Rodriguez is an engaging lead. As for the supporting cast, Nelson is interesting and Ejogo is stunningly beautiful.

But TV always comes back to writing. While the premiere of “Chaos” has clever moments, it thinks it’s a lot smarter than it actually is. I laughed a few times, but just as many moments ring false. The question now is how will the ratios of duds-to-hits change in weeks to come. With a talented cast and unique concept, the potential is there but the writing staff needs to buckle down and fine tune their efforts. The script for the premiere is good enough but it had better be the foundation for improvement and not the best tricks they have to offer.

Where does a show like this go from here? I can’t figure out what “Chaos” is going to look like week to week when the initial charm of the unique concept has worn off and it has to get down to the business of consistent entertainment. Will there be a hostage crisis every week? “Archer” can get away with ridiculously overblown plots by virtue of being a satirical cartoon but live-action, Friday night entertainment has a different standard and the jury is still out on whether or not “Chaos” will meet it.

“Chaos” stars Freddy Rodriguez, Eric Close, James Murray, Tim Blake Nelson, Carmen Ejogo, and Kurtwood Smith. It premieres on CBS on Friday, April 1st, 2011 at 7pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

JDintheOC's picture

Chaos the TV show.

I give it six weeks max…then poof!

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