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critical consensus

USA’s Covert Affairs Is the Second Coming of Alias

Covert Affairs, a new spy show premiering tonight on USA — where it fits right in with Burn Notice and White Collar, the network’s other slick, banter-filled espionage shows — is getting good reviews. Sure, there’s a bit of the backhanded, “It’s fun for summer” vibe to the assessments, but, still, the consensus is: It’s fun for summer! The other consensus: It is a whole lot like Alias, the J.J. Abrams–created, Jennifer Garner–starring spy show that ran from 2001 to 2006 and was really enjoyable until it became clear the convoluted, nonsensical plot was not going to be explained, it was just going to convoluted and nonsensical. Covert Affairs, which stars Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) instead of Garner, is like that show before the convolutions. Alias fans, it is your lucky day.

How much like Alias is Covert Affairs? This much:

"Star Piper Perabo ('Coyote Ugly') so greatly resembles and sounds like 'Alias' star Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck needs to check if his wife has been sneaking out of their house in a blond wig.” —Boston Herald

"A few weeks back, there was a report that ABC was considering a remake of
'Alias,' with a new cast and a streamlined approach that was heavy on the spy missions and lighter on (if not absent of) the convoluted Rambaldi mythology. This idea seemed silly, not only because 'Alias' went off the air only four years ago, but because so much of what made the show memorable was Jennifer Garner … Tomorrow at 10, USA introduces 'Covert Affairs,' showing that it is, indeed, possible to do a more straightforward version of 'Alias' minus Garner, and making any of ABC's plans in that regard even more redundant." —HitFix

"'Covert Affairs' will appeal not only to the established (and ever-growing) USA audience but also those still jonesing for 'Alias" or even 'Buffy.'" —LAT

And how good is it? Good enough that these critics don't want you to write it off as "just another Alias," even though, admittedly, it is a lot like Alias:

“While easily dismissed as another Alias (like Jennifer Garner, Perabo can do wonderful things to a simple skirt and heels), the show also makes clever use of Walker's newbie status. By that measure, she's eager to exhibit initiative but not immune from fear or always fully capable of handling the threats she rushes to face.” —Variety

"First things first. Covert Affairs is not Alias. That said, there are obvious similarities: in both series, a young, attractive woman is recruited to work for a super-secret section of the CIA, and immediately thrown into dangerous situations wearing skimpy outfits. There is a hint of a wider conspiracy brewing below the surface. Like Sidney Bristow, Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) seems adept at spy action. After watching her jump out of a plane at the Farm, the CIA’s top secret training facility, we learn that she has excelled at all the agency’s tests and is the best defensive driver ever to grace the halls of Langley. She’s so good that she is summoned to Washington for a special assignment weeks before she graduates." —Pop Matters