COVERT AFFAIRS. USA Network. Premiered July 13, 2010. Created by Chris Ord and Matt Corman. Cast: Piper Perabo as Annie, Christopher Gorham as Auggie, Kari Matchett as Joan, Peter Gallagher as Arthur, Anne Dudek as Danielle, Sendhil Ramamurthy as Jai.

   In cable television’s version of hide and seek, cable networks take a series’ season and divide it up into two parts. Covert Affairs, the land of the pretty spies, returned November 1st for Part Two of its Second season.

   This is not Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but more like Man from UNCLE meets Charlie’s Angels. The plots are simple, the twists predictable, the characters have detailed backstories but little personal depth, and if it wasn’t for the eye candy of the cast and locations there would be no reason to pay any attention to what is on the TV screen. But so what?

   The series never tries to be more than fantasy and escapism. Logic and believability play minor roles versus emotional melodrama and TV style action (lots of chases and property damage). This is how we dream our life as a spy, beautiful, traveling the world, beating up bad guys by day, romance by night, saving the world and looking so good doing it.


   Annie joined the CIA to escape a bad ending to a vacation love affair (apparently the CIA has assumed the role previously filled by the French Foreign Legion). She quickly moved up in the ranks because the guy she was in love with was a rogue spy wanted by the CIA and who kept dropping by to save her life. This season she is on her own, still screwing up, but with Auggie’s help, always saving the world at the end.

   Auggie works at the monitoring station in CIA’s headquarters, blind from a mission gone wrong that still haunts him (giving him a vulnerable sensitive side), capable of doing anything James Bond could including bedding any woman (Auggie’s women have a better survival rate).

   Unfortunately, episodes usually focus more on the relationship melodrama than on the action and story. Annie gets emotionally involved quickly with someone during the mission. Auggie hovers over her like a big brother. Annie’s boss, Joan deals with marital stress caused by a lack of trust between her and Arthur, her husband and CIA boss. Jai has to live in the shadow of his successful father and shady retired CIA boss. Danielle is there to dump family guilt on Annie who is busy saving the world.


   Toss in the required chases, Auggie taking off his shirt, romance for Annie or Auggie, and there is not a lot of time left for the actual mission.

   Covert Affairs is a typical USA Network series, a wannabe MTM Production of the 80s (Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Remington Steele) wanting to feature the characters at work and their personal lives. But the MTM shows focused on the premise of the show. Even in romantic mystery Remington Steele Laura’s family and Remington’s past never interrupted the mystery.

   Covert Affairs is 70s style escapism but with mundane “real life” problems shoved into every episode. Who dreams about saving the world only to be interrupted by your sister reminding you about your niece’s school art show? Putting peanut butter in my chocolate tastes great, but putting family melodrama in my fantasy ruins all the fun.