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.)