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Covert Affairs: Season One


Spy show wants to be sassy, doesn't always deliver

Rod Lott May 3rd, 2011

USA — and now your DVD player — is the perfect home for a series like “Covert Affairs”: It’s light, breezy and mildly entertaining.

covertaffairs

What it’s not, however, judging from its first season, is appointment television.

It might be if it started anyone other than Piper Perabo. As mid-20s CIA newbie Annie Walker, she’s fine in the role, but ever since Hollywood tried to shove her down our throats in 2000 with the execrable “Coyote Ugly,” she’s never clicked with me. Better the best friend than the leading lady, perhaps.

In its initial 11 episodes, “Covert” finds Annie the language expert attempting to get comfortable in undertaking many a mission, and you’d be surprised — and by that, I mean “not really” — at how many of them involve her playing a prostitute, donning a bikini or engaging in some simple act of toned-bod exploitation in one form or another.

And, because all portrayals of young, single women demand it, she’s somewhat of a naive, aloof goof.

But the better character is her erstwhile sidekick, Auggie (Christopher Gorham of TV’s “Harper’s Island”), who’s blind. Seriously: a CIA intelligence officer who’s blind? Now that sounds like a TV show. Others in the office don’t fare as well: Kari Matchett (TV’s “24”) sleepwalks through her role as Annie’s boss, while Sendhil Ramamurthy provides much of the smarm and smirks he did as Evil Mohinder in TV’s “Heroes,” just with less of an accent and in better clothes.

Annie’s home life is even less interesting, as she’s unable to reveal her true self to her sister (Anne Dudek, TV’s “Mad Men”). I found myself simply not caring about Annie — not when there are other, better actresses dropping in and out of the show, and all having more fun. Among them: Emmanuelle Vaugier (“Mirrors 2”), Sienna Guillory (“Resident Evil: Afterlife”), Liane Balaban (“Last Chance Harvey”) and Anna Camp (TV’s “True Blood”).

Like so many of its brothers and sisters on USA, “Covert” sports excellent production values, but the sassy, retro-spy opening credits promise a self-knowing dose of espionage that it doesn’t always deliver. —Rod Lott

 
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