Review: State of Affairs

State of Affairs title card (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

State of Affairs title card (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

C-

Katerine Heigl and Alfre Woodard (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Katerine Heigl and Alfre Woodard as Charlie Tucker and Constance Payton (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

State of Affairs looked quite promising. It had some killer promos and the series itself has an intriguing premise: Charleston (“Charlie” for short) Tucker (Katherine Heigl), a top CIA analyst, gathers the top threats facing the nation starting at 2 a.m. in a sort of tailor-made newspaper for President Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard); however, terrorism has impacted both of them personally as Charlie’s fiancée (who was also the president’s son) was killed in a terrorist attack.

The nerdy glasses on while being in front of a desk means she's smart and she's getting down to business (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

The nerdy glasses on while being in front of a desk means Charlie is smart and she’s getting down to business (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

So how do you mess that up? Well the main problem with State of Affairs is that it comes across as rather bland, boring and perhaps even sterile. The way everything plays out is also so confusing that I really couldn’t get into it. It’s a bit of a mystery to me how they’re going to carry out this series for a whole season considering its lacklustre pilot.

If you read some of the other reviews out there, it shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that I think State of Affairs is underwhelming—they were quite brutal. Matt Roush of TV Guide called the pilot “contrived” and felt it may be the saddest case of Homeland envy he ever encountered.

You couldn't be hiding something under your hat to spy on the CIA could you? (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

You couldn’t be hiding something under your hat to spy on the CIA, could you? (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Is it weird how they managed to throw so much into the pilot and still couldn't manage to get it to work (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Is it weird how they managed to throw so much into the pilot and still couldn’t manage to get it to work (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

What’s particularly puzzling and concerning to me is how the show has explosions, a spy trying to steal government secrets, beheadings and it still manages to be yawn worthy. Perhaps it’s because we’ve come to a point where all of that isn’t exclusively relegated to fiction anymore. You can turn on the news and come across virtually everything covered in State of Affairs every day. So what’s more troubling: TV viewers becoming unfazed by terrorism or that terrorism is becoming so over the top that Hollywood scriptwriters can’t even draft up anything more shocking than what’s already on the news?

The flashbacks were chaotic but a nice touch (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

The flashbacks were chaotic, but a nice touch (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Despite some of its flaws, State of Affairs has a few decent moments. The first few minutes are intriguing, especially the bit with Charlie’s flashbacks to the night her fiancée was killed. (Don’t worry, if you watch the show you can’t miss them because they kept playing clips of it throughout the pilot.) A similar Call of Duty-esque scene later on is just as riveting.

The problems Charlie faces with being sexually promiscuous weren't fully explored and seemed awkwardly shoehorned in to make her seem more interesting (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

The problems Charlie faces with her sexually promiscuity aren’t fully explored and seem awkwardly shoehorned in to make her seem more interesting (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

However, when you take that into consideration with the rest of the pilot, things quickly go downhill. For example, it introduces problems for Charlie and doesn’t show much effort to get back to them later on. When she speaks with a therapist about the flashbacks she has about her fiancée’s murder, Charlie’s sexual promiscuity is brought up. It isn’t really explored except for a few seconds near the end of the pilot, where it nearly mirrors what happened at the start of the hour. It seems sloppily shoehorned in to make her seem more interesting.

Something struck me as off with casting Alfre Woodard as the president (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Something struck me as off with casting Alfre Woodard as the president (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Likewise, casting the show’s president as a black woman felt like a move purely made to make the show look progressive, opposed to something that came organically. Yes, Woodard is talented (look at her crazy filmography), but casting her as the president is a lot like how virtually every sitcom these days feels they need to throw in a LGBT character seemingly for the sake of trying to prove how forward-thinking the program is. (Think Mom, 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, Marry Me, The McCarthys, Mulaney, The Middle and Modern Family, just to name a few.) On some series the diversity feels refreshing, but on others, like this one, it feels forced and not genuine.

Who are all you people? (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Who are all you people? (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Instead of focusing on stunt casting, State of Affairs should’ve focused on other more important facets to make the show worthwhile. For example, the pilot bombards you with a bunch of characters, but it often doesn’t make any effort to make it clear who they all are and what they can all do. When the series deals with the CIA, that makes for a nightmare. Different people have different ranks and it may become confusing how and why certain people are pushing their weight around, while others seem powerless.

While Bin Laden, ISIS and Al Jazeera all exist in State of Affairs, the show complicates matters by introducing fictional terrorists like Omar Abdul Fatah and fake news networks like IBC (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

While Bin Laden, ISIS and Al Jazeera all exist in State of Affairs, the show complicates matters by introducing fictional terrorists like Omar Abdul Fatah and fake news networks like IBC (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

To make things even more complicated, State of Affairs blurs the line between fiction and reality by mixing together real-life people and things with stuff entirely made up. You have mentions of terrorists like Bin Laden with fictional ones like Omar Abdul Fatah. You also have Al-Jazeera broadcasting terrorist’s footage, but there’s also a fictional news network called IBC. (IBC appears to be based off of BBC World News, but I’m not entirely sure.) So if Bin Laden exists in this fictional universe, what about ISIS? There’s a brief mention of them. You’d think they’d be a top priority as well, but it appears they aren’t. If Al-Jazeera exists, why does IBC and what purpose does it serve? That I don’t know.

I'm going to find every single person responsible for this atrocity and end every single one of their careers (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

I’m going to find every single person responsible for this atrocity and end every single one of their careers (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Outside of that, the show’s writing works, but it isn’t spectacular. When the writers take a swing to write something profound it comes across as, well, to borrow a term from Roush, contrived. I’m thinking gems like “You don’t make policy, the president of the United States does,” “We don’t waterboard people, we just drown them” and “I’m going to find every last person who had anything to do with the death of my fiancée and your son and I’m going to end every single one of their lives.”

No, I don't know how you got trapped in such of a turkey (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

No, I don’t know how you got trapped in such of a turkey (screenshot via Rogers Anyplace TV)

Overall, State of Affairs is quite mediocre and I can’t see it lasting very long. I doubt people would miss it if it were to die. There’s a lot of this stuff on TV, and people who are into these types of programs are likely already well served by other series like Homeland and I suppose Madam Secretary.

Episode Reviewed: Pilot
State of Affairs airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Global
(Featured Image via Rogers Anyplace TV)
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