Covert Affairs

USA Network's line-up of original programming already includes two detectives (one obsessive-compulsive, one fake-psychic), an FBI agent, a con-man turned consultant, a concierge doctor, and a ex-secret agent for hire. With that much investigative power in play, is there a good reason to add a CIA agent to the roster?

Turns out, there is and not just because the new series Covert Affairs features the network's first female lead. Sure, agent Annie Walker (played by Coyote Ugly's Piper Perabo) is a strong leading lady in a group of mostly men, but that's not why you should be on your couch when Covert Affairs debuts on July 13th. As the USA Network's tagline reminds us, these shows are all about the characters, and Covert Affairs is full of them.

The extra-long pilot begins with Walker in the middle of training to become a CIA agent. Inspired in part by a painful break-up, she has decided the best way to guard her heart is to take a job where emotion is considered a liability. She also happens to be one of the best recruits her instructors have ever seen, and so gets called up to CIA Headquarters early. They need her to run a sensitive operation, and they need her now. The urgency of the request leaves Annie little time to get to know her colleagues or her hard-nosed boss, Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett, 24). Thankfully, she is helped by a likable tech named Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham, Ugly Betty), who, despite being blind, sees things clearer than anyone else. Clearer, certainly, than CIA director Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher, American Beauty), who's main focus is trying to find the agent who is leaking intel to a Washington reporter.

While Annie is trying to navigate the murky waters of covert intelligence, she's also hiding her career from her older sister, Danielle (Anne Dudek, Bones), and her family's no easy task considering she lives with them. Once Annie gets into the field, however, she's too busy dodging bullets and running down foreign agents to worry about what to tell her sister.

Interesting character dynamics aside, Covert Affairs has some killer action sequences not surprising, considering the involvement of executive producer Doug Liman, who directed The Bourne Identity and executive produced the other two Bourne movies, and directed Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in 2005.

In recent years, basic cable has become the go-to place for quality original programming. While much of that programming falls under the category of gritty drama, the USA Network has cornered the market on a specific brand of light drama with a procedural twist that I really enjoy. Covert Affairs isn't as light as, say, Royal Pains or Psych, but that might just bring in a new audience of viewers who are looking for more action. Whether future episodes will live up to the pilot's cinematic feel has yet to be seen, but given the polish and pedigree of this first episode, Covert Affairs is a series to watch. And I mean that literally.


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