Musing on TV


I really like the new USA show, Covert Affairs. The cast is appealing, the action quotient is high, but not so high that it actually overshadows character development and actual thought about what is going on. I love that they have a strong female lead who is both feminine and aggressively competent at her (dangerous, exciting, difficult) job. I love that they don’t spend a lot of time explaining things, even though the show just started. They show you what is going on with action in the story rather than a lot of exposition. I also love that they show the vast amount of background support that a good spy would need.

Good lord, though, I hope the writing improves as the show goes on.

In last night show, Annie realizes that the MI6 guy is actually a closet Catholic working with the IRA because he knows how long Lent is and he is quitting smoking. “His file says he is Anglican,” she says, doubtfully. I hate to break it to her, but as followers of a Christian religion, Anglicans know how long Lent is. And referring to his nicotine patch is both a bit obscure and an enormous leap to Catholicism. I was raised Catholic, so I know that Catholics give up something for Lent, but surely they are not the only Christian sect to do so. If they are though, the lack of explanation about Lenten sacrifices would leave the vast majority of viewers confused about what the patch has to do with being part of the IRA.

Also, cigarettes are not the kind of thing people I know gave up for Lent; something like chocolate or fast food or desserts was much more common. Sure, someone might give up smoking for Lent, but there are a LOT of other reasons why someone might be giving up cancer sticks. Being Catholic and it being Lent might explain why someone was quitting smoking at that particular time, but giving up smoking is far from evidence that you are Catholic, Lent or no.

Overall, the writing has many strengths. The problem with something like this is that it is just lazy. They want to get to the part where they know he is the bad guy, and I guess they want to throw in the Catholic thing, so they just sort of glide over this. And it was so unnecessary! The fact that the witness went to the British Intelligence and yet he claims to have never heard of her is enough reason to doubt him already! Although, now that I think about it, that is bad, too—why would an American citizen go to British Intelligence first (or, for that matter, at all) when reporting a coded radio transmission that was sent by an unknown someone on an American radio station?

On another note, I really hope that next episode does not feature a subplot wherein Annie’s sister thinks she is a selfish jerk, but then they make up and show their super-close relationship by eating dessert together. How close can their relationship be if her sister thinks she is an insensitive bitch all the time? You can tell that the sister is just there as a foil and is not a real character because I haven’t the slightest idea what her name is. Has Annie ever called her by name? I would think she must have, but I can’t recall it.

Hopefully, these things will be fixed as the show progresses and the writers are more comfortable in the environment. I am still watching, it is just that this type of thing threatens the willing suspension of disbelief that is so important for a show to work. It’s why I don’t watch Chuck, even though I love that cast and there are lots of good points to that show as well—it’s just such an incredibly ridiculous scenario I cannot believe in it. I am crossing my fingers that Covert Affairs writers will get better and avoid this problem.

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