Stars: Freddy Rodriguez, Eric Close, James Murray, Tim Blake Nelson, Carmen Ejogo, Christina Cole, Kurtwood Smith
Tom Spezialy
Brett Ratner
CBS, Fridays @ 8 PM
April 1, 2011

An action comedy series centered around a CIA covert ops team may not sound like the most likely marriage of tone and premise, but creator Tom Spezialy manages it surprisingly well in the opening episode of CHAOS. By taking Dudley-Do-Right aspiring agent Rick Martinez (Freddy Rodriguez) through a trial-by-trickery first few days on the job, we get to like both him and his tormentors on the ODS team, leader Michael Dorset (Eric Close), Scot and former British Secret Service agent Billy Collins (James Murray) and laconic “human weapon” Casey Malick (Tim Blake Nelson). CIA high-up H.J. Higgins has given Rick the job of spying on the other three, but they are on to him the moment he steps through the office door. However, the quartet bond during a hostage rescue mission that is so covert that nobody has actually sanctioned it.

Brett Ratner, one of CHAOS’ executive producers, directed the pilot. It remains to be seen whether other episodes will have this level of action, but the good news is, even if they don’t, the banter and byplay are actually funny. The slam-bang team aspect is reminiscent of THE A-TEAM, but the idea of a military unit determined to help the helpless no matter what the higher-ups say, cracking jokes in the midst of crisis, is very much in the spirit of M*A*S*H, with just a hint of THE OFFICE in the mix for good measure There are little surprises along the way, like how far the ODS guys will go to make sure Rick behaves. We even get a logical explanation for the swift escalation of the relationship between Rick and fellow agent Fay Carson (Carmen Ejogo).

Rodriguez is just fine as the idealistic young man who’s a little craftier than he looks, albeit nowhere near the game-playing skills of his brethren. Murray has a lot of fun wielding his Scottish accent and Close is reliably in control as Michael. The most intriguing member of the quartet is Nelson, who makes Casey a figure of deadpan unpredictability. Smith, no stranger to authoritarian roles, makes Higgins the kind of autocrat we automatically want to see thwarted and Ejogo plays Fay with intelligence and charm.

There are moments where CHAOS hints at the potential deadliness of the CIA, but mostly takes aim at unambiguous bad guys and petty office politics. If you are in the mood to see wise-cracking friends doing the right thing while thumbing their noses at the Man, this is the show for you.

CLICK HERE for AX’s interview with CHAOS star James Murray

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