Utter CHAOS! Is CBS' New Spy Dramedy Indeed the Work of a 'Misguided Masochist'?

CBS, the home to so many nitty-gritty cop dramas, is trying something a bit different with CHAOS, its new piece of Fridays-at-8/7c programming. But as my 8-year-old son will tell you when I labor to have him sample a new food, “different” can be an acquired taste.

CHAOS presents Freddie Rodriguez (Six Feet Under) as a spanking-new CIA recruit assigned by prickly boss man Kurtwood Smith (Robocop) to the Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services division (see titular acronym, forgiving the “H”). There, his team mates include Eric Close (Without a Trace), James Murray (Primeval) and Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou), while Carmen Ejogo (Kidnapped) plays another peer (and possible paramour).

TVLine gave CHAOS boss Tom Spezialy — previously an exec producer on such shows as Desperate Housewives and Reaper — a chance to address his critics, champion his cast, and serve up 10 reasons to give his action-dramedy a try.

TVLINE | So, according to The Hollywood Reporter‘s TV critic, you are a “misguided masochist” for daring to merge whimsical comedy with a CIA procedural. Thoughts?
[Laughs] I’m going to ask you: Is he wrong?

TVLINE | Well, “masochist” can be a strong word.
It is a real challenge to blend the two, so that is a keen observation.

TVLINE | What did you set out to do with CHAOS?
The goal was to blend comedy, drama, action, buddy comedy and a bit of procedural. When I worked on Desperate Housewives, we blended several genres; Reaper blended buddy comedy and horror comedy; and Chuck [where Spezialy was briefly a consulting producer] is a bright, aggressive form of this genre of CIA dramedy. I love Chuck, but we’re not trying to be that show. That’s not our wheelhouse.

TVLINE | As I watched CHAOS, I at times felt it was a slightly straighter Spies Like Us.
Spies Like Us was basically an homage to the Hope-Crosby movies, so there’s a bit of that in there, you’re right. What you had there were larger-than-life stories driven by the charm of the characters, and that’s what I’m hoping we deliver. I’ve got four great actors, and I know I enjoy writing for them. These guys really like each other and have been in the business long enough to appreciate a good gig.

TVLINE | One quibble I myself had was the pilot’s use of a conveniently sanitized, non-lethal electricity-zapper “bomb” to knock out an army of bad guys.
They actually have that technology. Listen, there are plenty of TV shows right now that emphasize dead bodies and gruesome deaths…. Part of the inspiration for this show was Richard Lester’s [1974 film] The Four Musketeers, and that was basically heroics and adventure and camaraderie; it’s not about dealing death or showing a brutal reality.

TVLINE | What other missions do the guys have coming up?
They manage to get their way into North Korea without an exit strategy, and there’s a fun in that; they have dealings in a sliver of lawless land called Transnistria, which is a split-off from when the Soviet Union collapsed and currently is 15 square miles of weapons caches; they go into Russia, where you think the Cold War is over, but the risk of being caught is still very real….

TVLINE | Good thing they have Tim Blake Nelson on hand as the unassuming but self-described “human weapon.”
He has transformed himself. He’s been training, and he’s quite marvelous. I think his next career might be as an action hero!

For good measure, Spezialy’s team emailed us Top 10 reasons to tune into CHAOS. Do you think you might check it out?