Take Me To The Pilots ’14: NBC’s ‘State of Affairs’

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show: “State of Affairs” (NBC)
The Pitch: “Megan Boone is everybody's favorite part of 'Blacklist,' right?” “Ummm…” “So let's do something with the political intrigue of 'Blacklist' but without Red, OK?” “Ummm…” “Katherine Heigl?” “Sold.”
Quick Response: I never bought into the Katherine Heigl backlash. I thought she was great on “Grey's Anatomy” and totally earned her Emmy. I thought she was a valuable part of the “Knocked Up” machine, plus I skipped every movie she's made since, which I'm sure helps. And Heigl is a solid contributor to the part of “State of Affairs” that I would watch on a weekly basis. It just happens she's the centerpiece of the part of “State of Affairs” I'd prefer not to watch again. It's probably not Heigl's fault that I don't care about the mystery of what happened to her deceased fiancé, who was the President's (Alfre Woodard) son. It's just a clunky version of an emotionalizing plot I feel like we've seen before. However, I'm actually really intrigued by the story of the group of the young, Type-A intelligence analysts who meet at 3 a.m. each morning in an empty office and, before even the earliest of early arrivers check in, have already performed triage on the list of the world's biggest threats and bring the President's Daily Briefing to POTUS. I believe that that small group would have a language of their own and that their job would offer the possibility of great pressure and early burnout, which would theoretically produce potential drama, right? In that world, Heigl's Charlie is first-among-equals, but there's at least a chance to view “State of Affairs” as an ensemble, which I'd like, because an ensemble featuring Woodard, Heigl and the excellent Leslie Odom Jr. (much more interesting since he escaped “Smash”) would be a good one. The stealth performer to watch out for is Sheila Vand, which makes an immediate impression here and starred in the well-regarded Sundance Iranian vampire film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.” Were “State of Affairs” to function as a true ensemble, Vand would probably move gradually toward the forefront and NBC would take advantage of a potential international film star. But it isn't and Vand won't be allowed to, because the writers clearly think of Heigl's character as a network-softened version of Carrie Mathison, mixed with the we-think-it's-mysterious-but-viewers-don't-care backstory of Elizabeth Kean from “Blacklist” only, again, “State of Affairs” has no Red Reddington. “Blacklist” helmer Joe Carnahan directs parts of the pilot — mostly the flashbacks to Afghanistan (or maybe Iraq?) — with a visceral flair, but he doesn't invest in quite the same way with the “Breakfast Club” side of the PDB gang. Heigl isn't bad on the self-destructive parts of her character and Woodard is almost never bad in anything, even if she's been given very little to do. I just want the “West Wing” version of this show and NBC wants the “Blacklist” version. [NBC has at least three new shows suggesting the genuinely don't realize that people watch “Blacklist” for James Spader chewing scenery more than for semi-generic international espionage. Sigh.]
Desire To Watch Again: I kinda like the Mechanics of the Briefing aspect of this show. That's not the side of the show with Katherine Heigl having anonymous sex or stressing out over her dead fiancé. I'll definitely watch a couple more episodes to see how the focus varies. Will they give Woodard things to do? Will they give Odom things to do? Will they give Vand things to do? I gave “Blacklist” a full first season, but I can't say I'm gonna stick with it forever. But as it stands, my DVR is only recording “Castle” in this hour, so “State of Affairs” will get a while.

Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Stalker'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Selfie'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'Jane the Virgin'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Gotham'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Constantine'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Scorpion'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Black-ish'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries