Friday, August 20, 2010

The CIA is Still a Runway

“Covert Affairs” has never had pretensions of greatness. This rather frothy CIA drama from a girl's POV is usually good for a few laughs and some spy-lite fun. This week's episode, though, was a bit of a snooze. A side story line features CIA newbie Annie's suspicions of her brother-in-law's infidelity. This whole element of the show, with the sister and the nieces, doesn't really work for me, especially the nieces. It's like they're not even real kids.

Now that that's out of the way, I think there has to be a great drinking game somewhere in this show. Like, every time Annie is shocked when she learns a secret about her new mission? Shot! Or whenever she uses her exceptional language skills to befriend a foreign blue collar worker? Shot! Or how about every time Auggie uses his blindness to charm a woman? Shot! (Remember Jamie Foxx in “Ray”? Christopher Gorham does!)

Yes, the show is a bit rife with cliché, but it usually does a better job of hiding it than this episode did. This week Annie again went undercover as an employee of the Smithsonian, this time to gain access to a senator's office that's been leaking state secrets. To get in good with the senator's (young, female) chief of staff, Annie compliments her sweater and takes her out for margaritas and some girl talk. Turns out the way to a woman's trust is through her wardrobe. And margaritas.

It's becoming more and more clear to me that this is a chick show. Not just a show for a female audience, but a chick show. Comparisons to “Alias” are inevitable, I suppose, and the similarities are deeper than one might think. Yes, women loved “Alias” partly because it didn't talk down to them; it didn't water down the action with lots of extra heartwarming drama. Plus there were all those crazy clothes and fun wigs. The most exciting wardrobe choice Annie ever makes is her Leboutins. Fabulous, but predictable.

But both “Affairs” and “Alias” happen to feature complex women. There is a strange combination of strength and naivete, intelligence and vulnerability in the female characters, just like real women, I suppose. Is “Covert Affairs” a feminist manifesto? Gertrude Stein certainly wouldn't think so. But what woman doesn't love Leboutins?

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