'Covert Affairs' overt fun for Piper Perabo, Christopher Gorham
Christopher Gorham and Piper Perabo star in "Covert Affairs," premiering Tuesday on USA Network.
Annie Walker ( Piper Perabo, "Coyote Ugly"), a language whiz, is plucked from her CIA training to work a dangerous case in "Covert Affairs," an hourlong USA Network series premiering Tuesday, July 13.
The smart, action-packed thriller fits well with USA's "White Collar," which returns for its second season the same night. International assassination plots, shootouts, beatings, chase scenes, romantic intrigue, internecine office politics, press leaks -- it's all there in the pilot.
"Covert Affairs" does what a TV drama should -- feel realistic, only better and a bit shinier. It's just that when you take on an agency as necessarily secretive as the CIA and present it as truth, you need to be correct.
Matt Corman, who created the show with Chris Ord, describes it as "a workplace show set at the CIA, but they often treat it as a mysterious, mythic institution." They visited the agency, and Corman maintains the facts referred to are indeed facts.
One stands out, and it's essential to why Annie is there. Her work buddy, Auggie ( Christopher Gorham, "Ugly Betty"), tells her there was a hiring freeze that was "unfrozen after 9/11, and 50 percent of the agency has five years experience or less."
Not quite accurate, says a CIA spokeswoman.
"It is more correct that about half of the agency's employees were hired after 9/11," she says. "That means 50 percent have nine or fewer years as opposed to five or fewer." She adds there wasn't actually a hiring freeze before the terrorist attacks.
This knowledge doesn't detract from the action scenes or the cast, but it does make the premise feel less authentic. Then again, how many CIA operatives work in Louboutin heels?
Despite an elegant wardrobe, Perabo radiates girl-next-door appeal, if your neighbor happens to be brilliant and sexy.
"We keep talking about her as the spy next door," Perabo says. "She gets pulled out of training before she is finished. She is in over her head, and she has a real sort of belief in the Constitution and an idealized view of America. I really believe Annie believes in what makes America great."
As likable as Annie is, the character played by Peter Gallagher ( "The O.C."), CIA Director of Clandestine Services Arthur Campbell, isn't.
"He was encouraged to contribute his energies to the CIA, which he did first on the ground and then in an administrative way," Gallagher says. "He provides a nice balance from the bureaucrats who have never done that and tell people to do it. And he tries to balance demands of modern-day politics and national security interests. Also, he is also trying to balance a marriage. (He is) married to somebody who works in the agency ( Kari Matchett) ... ."