Utter CHAOS — CBS debuts new action comedy series tonight

By Jeff Pfeiffer

In the new comedic drama Chaos, a group of rogue CIA spies in the Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services (CHAOS) combats threats to national security amid bureaucratic gridlock, incompetence and political infighting. The genesis of the series came from an interesting combination of sources, as creator and co-executive producer Tom Spezialy explains.

“I’d always been a big fan of [the movie] The Four Musketeers and wanted to do an updating of it. And I was doing research for another CIA show, and it was [a book] about the story of an ex-operative who was telling of his time spent at the agency. And on the dust cover it said, of the CIA, they spent a lot of money, killed a lot of people, accomplished very little. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s probably more accurate than most representations of the CIA.’ So I started doing research and stumbled into the bureaucracy of it, 17,000 spies all in one facility, which also got me thinking, ‘Well, they probably spy on each other a lot.’”

The pilot episode exemplifies the combination of comedy and drama that Spezialy references when he mentions The Four Musketeers. We follow four main characters — Rick Martinez (Freddy Rodriguez), placed in the department as an unwitting mole; Michael Dorset (Eric Close), a psychologist turned CIA operative; Billy Collins (James Murray), a Scot decommissioned from the British Secret Service; and Casey Malick (Tim Blake Nelson), a 12-year vet of the agency who can transform into a “human weapon.”

Film director Brett Ratner serves as co-executive producer and directed the pilot, giving it the same fun and energy as his Rush Hour feature films. The show manages to be humorous without being an outright spoof, as Spezialy acknowledges.

“It’s not a parody. What I’m impressed by in the real CIA operatives, the field operatives, is that we’re used to seeing them sort of supported by a lot of technology and gizmos and James Bond special cars. In reality they have very little. These are the guys that are out traveling the world and sort of functioning on their wits and their ability to improvise. So the drama, I think, of the show comes in that our guys are constantly thrown into challenging positions. And we enjoy watching them figure out how to get out. So I think there’s true drama. Is it funny? I hope it’s funny. I hope it’s fun, like The Four Musketeers. You want to root for them and spend time with them. And I think the show can be all those things.”

Chaos premieres tonight at 8pm ET on CBS.

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© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Credit: Jason Bell