NBC's 'State of Affairs': What the Critics Are Saying

Katherine Heigl, Alfre Woodard and Adam Kaufman star in the political drama
'State of Affairs'

State of Affairs, premiering Monday at 10 p.m. on NBC, follows feisty CIA officer Charleston "Charlie" Tucker (Katherine Heigl) as she navigates her life as the president's daily briefer by day and indulgent partygoer by night — all in the wake of her fiance's murder in an ambush in Kabul three years earlier.

Created by Joe Carnahan and featuring Adam Kaufman and Alfre Woodard, the series marks Heigl's first major TV role since her last Grey's Anatomy exit in 2010. In the interim, Heigl appeared in a handful of films, which found limited success.

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Read what top critics are saying about State of Affairs:

The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman writes, "No matter how many NBC promos there are of Heigl telling Woodard with conviction that she's going to kill the terrorists responsible for her fiance's death, it's really not enough. State of Affairs remains, just days before it premieres, a series almost no one is talking about." Additionally, the pilot is "simply unoriginal," "spends a lot of time being Katherine Heigl's Star Vehicle" and "leaves her, upon a full viewing, looking less Clintonesque and more Heiglesque."

With only one episode released to critics by NBC, "we see Heigl in so many roles that we're cut off from seeing her be just one person, who does one thing very well and who is riveting. She doesn't get to own and cultivate her personality a la [The Blacklist's James] Spader's Reddington because the show is too busy showing you what a star she is."

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley clarifies that of these types of shows, "plausibility isn't the measure, panache is" and calls it "a pastiche" of two other network series. "Pilots aren't always the best indicator of a show's trajectory, and State of Affairs could twist toward the campy histrionics of Scandal or follow the more grounded, good-government ethos of Madam Secretary. Either way, though, the affairs of state on State of Affairs will turn out to be messed up from within." Additionally, "not everything in the show is outlandish; some events are all too realistic," referring to a scene that sees Charlie watching a video in which Islamic terrorists slit the throat of a British captive, filmed before ISIS' beheading of American journalist James Foley last August.

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Washington Post's Hank Stuever pens that while parts of the episode can be described as "ludicrous," it holds true that "millions of espionage-inclined viewers accepted several years of just-as-nutty premises involving Jack Bauer. … State of Affairs feels like an honest NBC upgrade. After all, it was only six months ago that the network was airing that dumb drama about the bus full of kidnapped VIP Washington teenagers. Viewers asked for something better. Here it is."

Newsday's Verne Gay asserts that "the prodigal daughter has returned, and even if she doesn't always bring subtlety, nuance or range to Affairs, she does bring star power." Nevertheless, "after this overheated effort to make Charlie interesting, or at least different, she's basically just another Carrie Mathison without the pills." However, "that may not entirely be Heigl's fault. (She's one of a dozen producers on this, along with her mother, Nancy Heigl. Too many cooks?) "Tonight's premiere is stuffed with so many back stories, fore-stories and side stories — some ridiculous — that it's impossible to get a good read on Charlie."

San Francisco Chronicle's David Wiegand says Heigl "has hitched her career-comeback wagon to a frenetically overwritten and ultimately underwhelming new political drama." Yet "more troubling are the pilot's frequent moments of laughable implausibility. … All we can say is wow, the Secret Service really has fallen down on the job. No wonder that guy got over the fence and into the White House a few months ago."
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