Covert Affairs -- TV Review

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It's a dangerous world out there: dirty bombs, terrorists, spies living in the backyard. Swap out the reasons, and it has ever been thus. But that doesn't mean that saving the world from itself can't be sexy, too.

As "Covert Affairs," USA Network's newest drama, points out early on, following a hiring freeze, the CIA is operating with half of its personnel having less than five years' experience. "That's both inspiring and weirdly unsettling," notes Annie Walker (Piper Perabo), the agency's newest recruit who was yanked out of the field with one month of training left, ostensibly for her language skills. But as she later learns, it's because she also can convincingly dress as a call girl if she has to.

That's "Affairs" all over: a slick new spy drama with a "Bourne" identity -- producer Doug Liman appears on both sets of credits -- that follows the life of one Agent Walker as she kitten-steps her way through her first days as a spy. It's a show full of equal rights: the right to cheer for a twentysomething kick-ass heroine who speaks three languages -- but is so, so very sad at the loss of her boyfriend of three weeks -- and the right to ogle her gams and cleavage at the same time.

After all, this is not your mother's CIA. Here, Christian Louboutin shoes and plunging necklines are de rigueur for a new agent and her boss (Kari Matchett, calling to mind Joan Allen in those "Bourne" films so firmly that even her character is named Joan). But not to get one's (designer) panties in a twist over it: Walker head-butts with the best of 'em.

As a fantasy, "Affairs" is a lot of fun, full of fast cuts and sliding camera angles, and it keeps the action moving and plot threads happily entangled. Having a leading lady blessed with Julia Roberts' smile and Jennifer Garner's firm jaw certainly helps, and having a character who can make the concept of using a breath strip to defeat a thumbprint security system -- well, that's just silly spies-like-us stuff that's downright irresistible.

As is the show overall. Perabo is a winning, watchable actress surrounded by a delightful cast including Peter Gallagher and Clarke Peters (moonlighting from "Treme"). It's perfect summer television -- just turn off the excess brain cells and let Agent Walker do the seduction, and the shooting, for you.

Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Tuesday, July 13 (USA Network)
Production: Universal Cable Prods.
Cast: Piper Perabo, Christopher Gorham, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Kari Matchett, Peter Gallagher, Anne Dudek
Executive producers: David Bartis, Doug Liman, James Parriott
Creators: Matt Corman, Chris Ord
Co-executive producers: Matt Corman, Chris Ord, Jonathan Glassner
Supervising producer: Stephen Hootstein
Producers: Dana Calvo, Meredith Lavender, Marcie Ulin, Sean Ryerson, Gene Klein, Brett Conrad
Directors: Tim Matheson (pilot), Jonathan Glassner
Director of photography: Jamie Barber
Production designers: Oleg Savytski, Sandy Kybartas
Costume designer: Catherine Ashton
Casting: Susie Ferris Casting, RDC Casting