The NBC trilogy of new shows in which a whipsmart woman kicks butt and takes names at her high-stakes job protecting the public, while spending her hours off the clock being a wreck, is complete with Monday’s premiere of the middling “State of Affairs.” It takes up residence in “The Blacklist” time slot at 10 p.m. (That show will shift to Thursdays upon its return.)
Like Debra Messing’s clever cop on “The Mysteries of Laura” and Kate Walsh’s jokey jurist on “Bad Judge,” Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”) is a public servant, in this case savvy CIA analyst Charleston “Charlie” Tucker. It is her responsibility to deliver the daily threat assessment briefing to the president, played by Alfre Woodard.
Even though she can negotiate the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., and tussle with terrorists, she is struggling with what little personal life she has, haunted by the death of her fiance, which she had witnessed a year earlier in Afghanistan. Complicating matters soap-operatically, the fiance was also the president’s son. So, when she’s not trying to save imperiled Americans in far-flung locales and track down bad guys, she’s closing down bars and soothing her psyche with random hookups.
This combination of crisis-fixing and reckless behavior makes “State” — on which Heigl also serves as a producer — feel a little bit like the result of an affair between “Scandal” and “Homeland,” except without ever being as outlandishly entertaining as the former or as frequently gripping as the latter.
Instead, “State of Affairs” is simply an efficient, if warmed-over, drama that features a lot of scribbling, typing, hushed conversing, hand-wringing, ominous intoning, and watching of special ops footage by Heigl and other CIA analysts. Heigl hits her marks just fine. Whether she is playing the sultry-yet-damaged flirt, the no-nonsense tough talker, or everything in between, she gets the job done competently.
The best thing about “State of Affairs” is Woodard, who automatically makes everything she’s in better by a factor of 5. (With her icy cool, she even sold an insane “Desperate Housewives” story line where she chained up her murderous son in the basement .) Unfortunately, “State of Affairs” needs amping up by a much larger factor.
Another bright spot is James Remar (“Dexter”) as a fixer whom Charlie calls when she needs work done off the books. He is gleefully menacing in a way that should earn him more face time.
It turns out that there’s more to the death of Charlie’s fiance than was first apparent, and so, in addition to tackling the threat of the week, Charlie will also try to unravel that mystery. Hopefully, there will be more spark in that story line, because “State of Affairs” could use the heat.