The broadcast networks have more than two dozen shows debuting this fall, including a new Shondaland drama, and a trip to Gotham, a third NCIS and a Flash-y Arrow offshoot. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.
Next up on our list….
THE SHOW | NBC’s State of Affairs (Mondays at 10/9c, premiering Nov. 17)
THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Castle and CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles
THE CAST | Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy), Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives), Adam Kaufman (Without a Trace), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Person of Interest), Sheila Vand (Cult), Cliff Chamberlain (The Mob Doctor) and Tommy Savas (The Last Ship)
THE SET-UP | Meet CIA analyst Charleston Tucker (Heigl), the recipient of one of the most unflattering TV character introductions in a while. See, “Charlie” was engaged to the president’s son at the time he was killed during a terrorist attack. Now, she soothes her pain with drinking, random hook-ups, fruitless shrink sessions and the crooning of/shimmying to pop tunes while compiling the CIA’s daily briefing for POTUS (Woodard).
THE FIRST IMPRESSION | There’s a compelling-enough series here somewhere, as evidenced once Woodard shows up. But up until then, far too great of lengths are gone to prove to us what a wild card Charlie is, including the arrival of a new yet conspicuously “old” hire (Kaufman) who in the pilot is mainly on hand to register shock at her bold behavior. Once intros are out of the way and the plot takes hold — ultimately, Charlie is forced to make a difficult (and rather incredible) call — State of Affairs becomes a drama I could like, though that just might be my well-chronicled blind love for anything D.C.-related speaking. For arguably good measure, the pilot plants the seed for a serialized mystery element.
Heigl (also an executive producer) is served best when Charlie talks smart versus snide, but the consensus here at TVLine is that her wardrobe is frankly a bit too much, whether she’s arriving for work at 2 am in jeans and stilettos or hours later clambering onto the back of a truck in a high-end dress. In addition to the wonderful Woodard, there are some nice picks among the supporting cast/guest stars, including Odom Jr. as the White House Chief of Staff, TV vet Dennis Boutsikaris playing a slithery CIA Director and James Remar (Dexter) popping up as an industrious ally of Charlie’s.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Seeing as it is claiming The Blacklist‘s time slot (when the James Spader heads into hiatus before moving to Thursdays in February), State of Affairs will be subject to much scrutiny, from viewers and critics. The Heigl Comeback factor should draw some solid sampling/lookee-loos, but stronger subsequent episodes are needed to secure any longevity.