Covert Affairs


Last night I watched the two-part Season Finale of Covert Affairs, a USA summer show I surprisingly enjoyed.  Seems like it only started a week ago (July 13, but who's counting?), and now it's done until next summer.  Booo!  Knowing USA, they should re-run the series, and that's a good thing for viewers who didn't catch it the first time. (It's also available "On Demand," if you're one of those rich people who have that service.)

Covert Affairs is about a novice CIA recruit (Piper Perabo) who is called up to duty for mysterious reasons, and often in over her head.  The cast was smart, featuring many TV favorites, including Sendhil Ramamurthy (the cool Indian dude from Heroes), Peter Gallagher (everybody's favorite dad from The O.C. and Best Bushy Eyebrows Ever), Anne Dudek (Wilson's girlfriend Amber on House, and also the neighbor on Mad Men) and Kari Matchett (who's been on tons of stuff, including a good run on 24, but I knew her as William Finchtner's wife on that creepy alien show Invasion that used to follow LOST).

New to the scene (for me) was shy-yet-oh-so-hunky Christopher Gorham.  Looking at his IMDB page (all the links go there), I see he's been around for awhile, including several shows I've watched, but I can't remember him until now.

Gorham plays Auggie, the "Tech" guy that's a mainstay in every spy show or movie.  What's different here is that instead of a bumbling nerd Auggie is an ex-soldier blinded in Afghanistan.  Not only is he a tech genius, but all his gear is crafted for blind people, which gave it an added measure of coolness when Auggie "sees" what is going on by using his finger to read things.

Even more high-tech, during episodes when Gorham would appear on screen there were occasional discrete pop-ups on the bottom giving the actor's Twitter handle, @Chris_Gorham.  While normally I hate those pop-ups, it was less obtrusive then advertising other shows, and I thought it was a savvy move on USA's part.  Look to see things like that more often.

(Not for nothing, but Auggie was one of the three coolest characters of the summer, along with Mozzie (Covert Affairs) and of course the immortal Dan Stark (The Good Guys).  I would well expect we'll see a lot more of Gorham in the future, in movies and perhaps carrying his own show.)

At the heart of things, though, is Piper Perabo, as Annie Walker, the young CIA agent who joins up because she was jilted in love.  Little does she know (but we do, right from the start) that the very bad memories she's running from are exactly why the CIA wants her.

It's hard to figure out exactly why Piper hasn't hit before. (My sister's theory is her unusual name: "If you know her last name is going to be Perabo, call her Jane or Cassandra - not Piper!") I've long found her to be charming and very appealing (and if you're into that sort of thing, not the ugliest blond in the barrel), and I assumed after Coyote Ugly her career would take off.  Instead, she was mired mostly in Indie World, save throw-away roles in the two Cheaper By The Dozen flicks - nothing where the public would get to see how good she can be.

(Someday if you're bored and looking for a "so bad it's good" howler to entertain you check out Lost and Delirious, a total mess of a film, but one featuring a very brave performance from Piper, an always fun Graham Greene, an underage Mischa Barton (before fame got to her), the luscious (and worth checking out for this reason alone) body of Jessica Pare, and a falcon!  Oh, did I mention it takes place in an all-girls' boarding school and there's tons of high school lesbian sex and nudity?  You're damn right I watched it twice!  Well, certain parts of it....)

In Covert Affairs Piper really gets a chance to shine.  USA has set themselves up as the network that creates shows around characters. Where the Law & Orders and CSIs of the world tend to be about the case, on many USA shows the cases often don't matter much.  Covert Affairs cheerfully takes that track, allowing the talented cast to come together in what I described before I saw a single episode as "Blond Alias."

Maybe that was a tad glib. (For one thing, the producers of Alias knew enough to write a scene with Jennifer Garner in her underwear at least once an episode, and yes I consider every scene essential. The Covert Affairs team has yet to quite figure out this winning formula.)  Alias was also a an (often) very tense show, with major inner turmoil and angst. We often had to pry our mother off the ceiling after a particularly tense episode.

Covert Affairs has some angst (Annie's bad romance, which propels the show's action in the beginning), but if you've ever seen a USA show you know that there is rarely much of a feeling of menace.  I don't have a problem with that.  People know when they go to watch a USA show what they are going to get - a more relaxing hour of television than they might with the grisly procedurals that glut the airwaves.  I can live with that.

Covert Affairs isn't the kind of show I would drop everything to watch.  It's not engrossing (to me) like the labyrinth Rubicon, or compelling the way the first two seasons of Alias were.  But it wasn't trying to be. It was fun, breezy, and well-written with good actors playing winning characters. Not a bad way to spend an hour.

Look for it on USA (it's not the kind of show that will kill you to just jump in wherever), or catch it On Demand or on-line.

I'm already excited for Season 2.

3:14 a.m.
September 15, 2010