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USA's "Covert Affairs" Worth Watching; Other Summer Shows, Not So Much
July 13, 2010  | By David Bianculli

covert-affairs-10-Jy13-w-.jpgThe newest offering from the USA Network, a mostly lighthearted concoction called Covert Affairs (10 p.m. ET Tuesdays) and starring Piper Perabo as a fledgling CIA agent, couldn't be more well-timed, given the recent Russian spy swap and the inescapable images of young, sultry Anna Chapman. For that, and other reasons, it's TV worth watching -- but many other summer offerings are not...

One benefit of concocting a website called TV WORTH WATCHING, in theory, was that we wouldn't have to write about the bad stuff, unless we felt an urge to do so. Oh, we still have to WATCH as much TV as before, to separate the wheat from the chaff. But once we know it's chaff, we don't feel the urge to chime in just because it's another premiere episode of "Chaff: The Series."


That's why, for example, you saw nothing in BEST BETS, or anywhere else on this site, about A&E's new series The Glades, which premiered Sunday. I was very interested, beforehand, in how it would be filmed and handled -- since my eclectic resume, in my younger days, includes serving on the U.S. geological survey crew that mapped the Glades during a mid-'70s drought.

But once the hero wandered into a swamp barefoot, and was surprised when he reached in and got bitten by a gator, I rejected the entire series as a giant croc.

The same goes for TNT's Rizzoli & Isles, which premiered Monday. Didn't recommend it, didn't review it. Why bother? And earlier this summer, many other shows fell into the same black hole of justifiably ignored mediocrity: ABC's Downfall and Rookie Blue, CBS's The Bridge, this means you.


But things aren't all bad this summer, not at all. Fantasy genre fans have reason to delight not only in BBC America's Doctor Who on Saturdays, but in the new Friday double-header of Haven and the returning Eureka on Syfy, which also scores with Tuesday's enjoyable Warehouse 13. TNT just brought back The Closer on Mondays.

HBO has me giddy with its outrageous new episodes of True Blood each Sunday. I'm lapping up Rescue Me on FX, and developing a strong acquired taste for Louie, both on Tuesdays. On Fox, there's Lie to Me and The Good Guys on Mondays, Hell's Kitchen on Tuesdays.

ABC has Boston Med each Thursday, a rare and welcome burst of summer intelligence, while USA has the addictively enjoyable Burn Notice. And Showtime's Green Room with Paul Provenza -- what an unexpected treat THAT turned out to be! Others on this site, especially Diane Holloway, are thrilled by other fare as well, including TNT's Memphis Beat. All in all, a good summer.

So if you don't see something covered on TV WORTH WATCHING, it's not because we're negligent, or not paying attention -- well, most of the time, anyway. We're just pre-selecting, and hoping to protect you from exposure to the bottom of the barrel. Because, believe us, it's out there. And it's a big, wide, deep barrel.


And now, finally, to Covert Affairs. Yes, it has the overall shades of ABC's Alias, which had a better actress (Jennifer Garner) at its center, and was brazen about encouraging her to adopt one or more sexy covert identities in each episode. But Covert Affairs is brighter in tone, and is not without chops in both the action and the background divisions.

Its executive producer is Doug Liman, who directed Mr. & Mrs. Smith and produced the Bourne trilogy. Here, you might say, he's Bourne again, with some razzle-dazzle action sequences that turn into high-octane set pieces. But also, a consultant for this series is outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, so some little touches ring true.


One standout original feature of Covert Affairs is embodied by the handler of Piper Perabo's Annie Walker. He's Auggie Anderson, a good-looking, confident young man played by Christopher Gorham. And Auggie's twist is that he used to be a field agent, before an accident left him blind -- but now, despite that, he's guiding Annie in the field, and overseeing, without seeing, her transition from spy school to actual CIA agent.

So try it; my guess is, you'll like it. That's why Covert Affairs is written about here -- unlike other shows I could mention.

Could, but won't.




Chris Collins said:

I'm excited about Covert Affairs (glad that you are giving it postive notes). Part of me is glad that it's a USA series with shorter seasons (as Alias always seemed to end up in a confusing mess of Rambaldi stuff for the second part of each season. With USA's shorter season, maybe CA will avoid this sort of stuff)

Also, I loved the line about Glades being a Croc. Awesome David! Awesome!


[See ya later, alligator! -- David B.]

Comment posted on July 13, 2010 10:16 AM

Sarah said:

That is why I am glad I found this blog a couple of years ago and why I keep coming back. David, between you and a couple of other resources I always know what to watch. Of course sometimes all this TV info contradicts itself and it is then that I have to watch all I can then make up my own mind. I "force" myself to watch and everyone once in a while I discover a series no one has an opinion about or even if everything I have read about it is bad sometimes I still find something about the show that I like. In the end the best thing about watching a lot of TV (the good and the bad) is that I always dominate the TV categories on Jeopardy.

[Hey, Sarah -- When you find something you love, especially if it's something we haven't dealt with, let us know. The redesigned website will have a way for everyone to respond to BEST BETS and add their two cents, so the more, the merrier. So long as they have taste, and you clearly do... -- David B.]

Comment posted on July 13, 2010 12:06 PM
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