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Katherine Heigl’s return to television fails to impress in this lack-luster drama.

 
It seems like every TV season a network heavily advertises their “must watch” TV show of the year. While some may flourish, others land in the pile of “forgotten cancelled dreams.” Last Sunday came the highly-touted premiere of State of Affairs starring Hollywood darling Katherine Heigl (sarcasm folks) and the Academy Award nominated Alfre Woodard.

 
State of Affairs is the underwhelming telling of Charleston “Charlie” Tucker (Heigl), a “relatable” and “fun” CIA analyst whose main purpose in life is to deliver the Daily Briefing to the president (Woodard). However, she’s haunted by the sudden and violent death of her humanitarian fiancé Aaron (Mark Tallman),who also happened to be the president’s son. In order to cope with his death, Charlie has taken up the hobbies of casual sex and alcoholism while trying to keep her sanity and being besties with the president. The main purpose of the show, other than resurrecting Heigl’s career, is to answer the question, “why was Charlie’s fiancé killed during a terrorist attack,” other than the glaring “shit happens” answer.

 
This year’s “must watch” show is a “must watched disappoint,” written by people who binge-watched The West Wing, Scandal and The Newsroom, and thought they should take a crack at writing. It is old, rehashed and rather forgettable. Is Charlie supposed to be Carrie from Homeland because of her messiness or Olivia Pope because of her ability to walk fast? The character itself is not bad, but it could never go toe-to-toe with Frank Underwood.

 
Heigl, who is trying her best to escape the fact everyone hates her, is completely one-note. While the character’s life has the potential of being interesting, she plays it like a seasoned failure. When Charlie is sad, she stares off in the distance. A happy memory requires her to stare off in the distance, drinking and random sex…yup there goes the distance staring again. I’m not sure if she’s supposed to be blind or just doesn’t know how to fully process emotions (I’ve seen her acting in previous films, therefore I’m going with the latter).

 
The show opens with a very intense and beautifully shot scene of the mysterious events that occurred in Kabul a year ago that have resulted in our main character’s struggle in therapy, which could be played with a plethora of emotions but left in Heigl’s hands, she’s unbearable and dense. As the story progresses, Heigl morphs into making the audience frustrated as she’s given a role that’s too big for her to tackle, even though it’s written rather poorly and weak. Proper emotional beats are missed and the show relied heavily on building sequences that didn’t include her as if those in charge knew they picked the wrong actress. Thankfully, there are scenes that require Heigl to not stretch her acting ability like doing shots and being hung-over, but this is heavily forced down our throats, making her misgivings even more prominent. Fortunately, Heigl is surrounded by a team of co-stars and veteran actress Woodard, who fills in where Heigl drops off to offer fast dialogue and skillful acting.

 

 

 

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The main problem with the show is the writing: no one in the writing room looked up the definition of “subtle.” The pilot’s plot revolves around the rescue of a kidnapped American doctor who happens to look EXACTLY like her dead fiancé (in case you miss it, don’t worry, every character repeats this fact). This sends Charlie into a desperate attempt to save him, even given her questionable powers to have direct access to stroll in and out of the president’s office and override orders from military officials. Nothing Charlie does really makes any sense, nor does it even seem plausible in real life. Her actions and job skills made me wonder if any of the writers had basic knowledge of how the government works.

 
Another problem occurred when Charlie’s therapist diagnosed her with post-traumatic syndrome. The writers responded with numerous scenes of her going to bars and having sex with strangers, as if this is the only sign of PTSD. Are the writers trying to say that women who have casual sex are somehow facing mental issues? Or alcoholics are tortured by demons? Or maybe they just watched too many Homeland episodes. Either way, this takes away from what could be a compelling storyline, making the character three-dimensional.

 
The episode did visually shine with Joe Carnahan behind the camera. In his skillful hands, it was slick, well edited and felt like a movie. Coming from the man who shot The Blacklist, it doesn’t come as a shock. However, it would have been nice if common sense was used and New York City landmarks weren’t displayed in a show that is supposed to take place in Washington, DC. Maybe Carnahan knew this show was a lost cause and gave up at concealing Riverside Church and Grants Tombs during an action sequence.

 
State of Affairs is the opposite of what it promoted…a non-trilling thriller. From the trailer, I thought I was going to watch an engaging narrative. However, it is just an exhausting show with flat dialogue, cheap tricks and lack of common sense. Even the show’s much powerful line is delivered without a care from Heigl, and misses the mark. It also doesn’t help that this line was airing repeatedly in its commercial thus taking away from its impact. After a while I just gave up on the show. Unless they decide to focus on ripped from the headline stories, something that would grab the audience’s attention, there is nothing that would make me want to continue to watch it, not even the genius Woodward who somehow manages to fade in the background like an afterthought. If this is the big return of Heigl, she can just go back to where she came from.

About The Author

Dana Abercrombie
Brand Manager

Former genius and a woman of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by her mystery, Dana Abercrombie has been watching since birth (yes birth...we did say "genius"). Despite her secret desire of wanting to give it all up to become a gorgeous billionaire, Dana is most passionate about films often times getting in many heated debates resulting in being thrown out of many gatherings. Despite having a degree in English AND Journalism (multi-tasking FTW!) from the University at Albany-SUNY, she is currently interested in perusing a degree at Yale Law School, because one should never give up on a dream of becoming a gorgeous billionaire...and knowing how to sue someone as a result of those heated debates.