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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Covert Affairs a different direction for USA

     USA's latest drama, which premiered last Tuesday, and continues tonight, is Covert Affairs.  It stars Piper Perabo (Cheaper By the Dozen, Coyote Ugly) as Annie Walker, a new CIA trainee that got to skip her last month at The Farm and get directly to work in the D.C. area.  Annie is wanted for more than her skills, although she doesn't seem to know it yet.  Two years ago she had a passionate three-week affair with Ben Mercer (Eion Bailey, Band of Brothers), whom her bosses want to track down, and who resurfaced to save her life near the end of the pilot.  What he is up to, or why the CIA is interested in him, seems to be a mystery that will string out for awhile.  It's a series that doesn't feel very-USA like, driven by plot as much as by characters, while their usual series mostly just rely on the latter.  That is not a complaint.  It's nice to see something fresh from the network.

     The pilot was pretty good, though there was a lot going on.  It's kind of like a not-quite-as-good remake of Alias, with a star that resembles that of Alias, but without the wonderful villains.  Believability isn't too bad, which is often a problem for shows like this.  Annie's family wasn't too involved or too annoying, another element that sets it apart from other USA dramas, that often bring family members front and center to the story.  Annie's sister, Danielle (Anne Dudek, House, Big Love, Mad Men) is a starring player, but her role in the pilot was limited to trying to send Annie up on a date.

     The cast is brimming with other television veterans, as well.  Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty) is Auggie, an intelligence officer blinded in Iraq, but already well adjusted to his loss of vision.  He will make a fantastic best friend, and I would hope that eventually he might rank as a love interest.  He is much less geeky than he was in Betty, despite his job, and already seemed a good fit for Annie.  Annie's obvious suitor, Conrad (Eric Lively, 24: Redemption, The L Word), has not been slated to continue in the series, and will soon be replaced by Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy, Heroes).  Lastly, Annie's bosses, husband and wife Joan (Kari Matchett, 24, ER, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher, Californication, The OC), seem to be as concerned with martial problems as they are bringing in Ben.  I couldn't tell from the pilot how they ranked in relation to each other, but Joan seems to be Annie's direct superior in her little group, while Arthur heads a department including Annie's workgroup.

     All in all, it's not a bad attempt, though not a great one, either.  It has plenty of potential, so we'll see how USA develops it before I decide if it's a show to invest in or not.  But as the network did dare to take a chance, they have me for now.  Covert Affairs airs Tuesdays at 10pm on USA.

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