Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Piper Perabo and Covert Affairs, you disappoint me :( And you too, Burn Notice.

After just two episodes of USA's Covert Affairs, I'm about ready to tap out. Sure, it's a spy show, and it's meant to be goofy and far-fetched. However, the show functions as a sort of Bizarro Burn Notice.

See, on Burn Notice, the main character of betrayed secret agent Michael Westin as portrayed by Jeffrey Donovan is boring as eff. Donovan is wooden and has the same reaction to just about any situation he's put in. The rest of the supporting cast - Bruce Campbell and Gabrielle Anwar - aren't too shabby though, even though they don't have a lot to work with. The first two seasons of the show, which deal with plausible spy issues delivered by Donovan in a dry monologue, are pretty solid. After that point, when the show has to rely on him to actually act, the quality rapidly degrades.

On Covert Affairs, Piper Perabo is stunningly awesome as CIA newbie Annie Walker. She is glib and charming, and she glows in every scene. She really is stunningly attractive, and someone smartly decided that because she is a CIA operative, she should be in hot dresses and business suits a lot. Whoever the wardrobe designer is on Covert Affairs should get a nice raise. (Even if it does look like she's using a Bump-It in some scenes [right].)

However, everything else on the show is pretty silly. In the pilot, we find out that Annie:

- Has an ex-boyfriend who dumped her in the middle of the night.
- Has a CIA handler that is blind.
- Her immediate boss and the head of the agency are married.
- She gets setup on a bad date by her well meaning sister.
- Of course, she bumps into that bad date on her first assignment.
- She has a long chase scene in which she somehow manages to keep pace with a trained assassin, even though she is wearing three-inch heels.
- Said ex-boyfriend is also a rogue spy who surfaces to save her at the end of the episode.

Jesus. I'm not sure what cliche they're missing, and it's only the first one-hour episode. I suppose they could have had her saving a kid (but they save that for episode two, seriously).

Speaking as a dude here, I will say that the cast is very easy on the eyes. Outside of Perabo, there is Anne Dudek (formerly of House) as her sister, and the icy blonde cool of Kari Matchett as her CIA boss. Wikipedia notes that Matchett "is probably best known for her role as Mariel Underlay on the cult TV series Invasion and as Kate Filmore in the science fiction movie Cube 2: Hypercube." This is a nice way of saying, "She hasn't really been in anything, sorry."

Among the male cast, there are two surprises. One, Peter Gallagher brings his eyebrows to the show as the husband of Matchett's character, and also the director of the CIA. He is very much like Peter Gallagher in this role. (Let's be honest, it's not like he's going to play an emo guitarist or a heroin addict.) Second, Sendhil Ramamurthy, a.k.a. Mohinder "The Hulk Ripoff" Suresh from Heroes, stars as a rising agent at the CIA. He is OK in this role.

Anyway, Perabo is awesome as Annie Walker, but anything not involving her feels jagged and awkward. For every scene that features her glibly bluffing her way through a difficult situation, there is another that is just campy and cringe-worthy.

And beyond that, there are also shockingly intense fight scenes, at least for a cable drama. You know, like Piper getting the shit choked out of her:

These fight scenes are really good - They could legit belong in a decent action movie. However, they seem out of place, since 30 seconds before Perabo was shucking and jiving with her blind CIA analyst friend.

Since Burn Notice just got picked up for a fifth AND sixth season, it wouldn't surprise me if Covert Affairs eeks out a couple of seasons. However, just realize it is on the second tier of cable shows, as opposed to the first tier with Psych, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Justified. (Hey speaking of that...)

(p.s. Also, since I can't seem to escape The Wire lately, I'll note that Lester Freamon guest stars in the pilot as Annie's college languages professor. She knows six, of course. He's good, but if I was him, I wouldn't bank on this earning him an Emmy or anything.)


  1. See I like Donovan on Burn Notice and can't stand Perabo on covert affairs.
    With Donovan if you check out his first USA series "Touching Evil"(remake of the brit series) which lasted about 1 season you'll see the guy has chops but is playing Westen that way on purpose.
    There's some BS story about a real spy giving all this info to Matt Nix and that Westin is based off this one possibly fictional dude, I'm sure he was encouraged to play up the distanced, cold persona, much like Anwar was forced to lose the ridiculous accent they had her doing in the pilot.

    With Perabo her character bumps me, it's like they tried to make her everything but I find it to play like a put on, seems really hokey and I was rooting for someone to choke her.
    Also her botox or restalyn work is really annoying to look at, reminds me of that broad from in plain sight.

  2. Gotta agree Psych is the best of the USA shows again this season. On Burn Notice, I can't stand Donovan, and for me, the new guy is really bland, and I just couldn't take Bunny Colvin in all the pink shirts they had him in the beginning of the season. Haven't seen Covert Affairs yet, but the Gallagher casting reminds me of Bruce Campbell - are they similar characters?

  3. I haven't seen this show.

    But I did get a free tube of Covert Affairs lip moisturizer! in Chicago last week! Score!

    Except when I used it during my dry lip where-the-hell-is-my-Burt's emergency, I found it to be cheap and waxy. It was most certainly not legitimate Chapstick but some generic lip moisturizer. Apparently, the lip stuff is just as disappointing as the show in it's delivery.

    P.S. I'll never be able to think of Piper Perabo as any else by Vi in Coyote Ugly and Genevieve in Slap Her...She's French.

  4. @ Giovanni - Perabo doesn't look too botoxy to me, but then again, I'm not a big noticer of things like that. She's only 33, which is like, only four years older than Teresa Strasser ;) And even if Donovan is basing his performance on a real-life spy, someone should tell him he's not actually a spy, and thus should mix it up a bit.

  5. @ Tom - Oh geez, "Bunny" Colvin was on Burn Notice? I can't picture that at all. I haven't watched much the past couple years, because whenever I tune in, it's some ridiculous plot and Westen is there with his wooden acting.

    Gallagher's casting is kind of Campbell's in that the show presents it a bit like, "Look who WE got!" However, they play completely different characters, and Campbell is much better. Gallagher is more like a goofy-smiling mofo.

  6. @ Alison - I've glad you've gotten more enjoyment out of Covert Affairs than I have, even if that chapstick was kind of cheap ;) Chicago seems like a kind of odd place for them to be doing that though, since the show is set in Virgina.

    p.s. I loved her in Coyote Ugly. I was kind of hoping that movie would be more like Cocktail with hot women, but it was still decent as far as a chick flick goes.

  7. I get the feeling you're probably supposed to oogle Piper Perabo and not much else on that show. It's like the plot and stuff are secondary to that. At least "Burn Notice" has some action going on. And is it just me or does "Burn Notice" seem like it came right out of 1985? It has "EIGHTIES" written all over it from the titles to the music to the Miami setting and bikini clad ladies to the plot. If it wasn't for the use of cellphones for almost everything and computers, it could BE 1985! It's part of its charm I think.

  8. Hollywood sure knows how to churn out the good and the crap. There are way to many shows to try to watch nowadays.

  9. I have not watched it, so you would say it is not worth it then? My new fave show is Pretty Little Liars and Hot in Cleveland... but they are girly shows.

  10. @ Veggie Assassin - Covert Affairs actually has some decent action scenes, they just seem so out of place with the rest of what's going on. Like, they're more intense than Burn Notice, which normally relies on stunts and explosions that clearly don't have the actors in the scene.

    I do agree with you though about Burn Notice being a throwback to 1980s action shows. However, like those shows, it seemingly doesn't have much staying power.

  11. @ PTM - Tell me about it. I watch like 20 shows regularly :/ I have a fever, and the only cure is not more cowbell, unfortunately.

    @ Queen of the Rant - Covert Affairs probably isn't worth it. I'd recommend Psych instead; much better show overall, and more in line with the other shows you're into.

  12. Awe! I like both Burn Notice and Covert Affairs. But then again, I like all things associated with Spies. I'm super excited for Undercovers.

  13. @ Stephanie - I think they're decent as far as breezy, summer spy shows go. However, given how much of a backlog I have in the fall season, and the other things competing for my interest (blogging, video games, even work!), they fall to the backburner pretty easily.

  14. Look let me spell it out for you if you don't like the show then DON'T WATCH IT. It's that simpale. Then again you did say you were a male and that explaines a lot.

  15. Is it the actress or the character? Either way Piper Perabo (Annie Walker) is so uni-dimensional she might as well be a cardboard cut-out. She stumbles thru the shaky, disjointed plot scenes with the same dumb, helpless chic look. Shut your slack mouth already, woman.


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