My summer obsession for the past three years has been USA Network’s Covert Affairs.  Starring Piper Perabo as newbie spy Annie Walker, Covert Affairs is character driven like other USA shows, but showcases great acting as well as great writing from its cast and crew.   Its first seasons earned both favorable and not so favorable comparisons to that other female spy drama, Alias.  Now in its third year, however, the show has really hit its stride and its twists and turns and emotional storylines make it one of my top must-see shows of the years.  And here are five reasons why you need to tune in:

1.  Piper Perabo

I knew Piper Perabo first as a Broadway actress and from the confusing little romantic comedy Coyote Ugly.   She plays Annie as an extremely likable romantic comedy heroine, but brings her own brand of intelligence and warmth to the character.  Like a lighter but no less conflicted and layered Sydney Bristow, Perabo’s Annie is entirely believable as a super smart, sophisticated, multilingual, well traveled, yet still vulnerable girl finding her way in the world.

2.  Christopher Gorham

Who doesn’t love Christopher Gorham?  I have been a fan of him since Popular (his real life wife played Poppy), and since then he’s made memorable turns  in shows like Ugly Betty and Harper’s Island.   His character Auggie is a blind vet.  Although I found the disabled plot point was a bit contrived at the beginning,  I buy it more now.  Auggie is always a loyal and steadfast friend to Annie, although not without nuances of his own.  The two of them have adorable chemistry.

The rest of the cast are rounded out by TV staples such as Peter Gallagher (The OC, Center Stage), Kari Matchett, Sarah Clarke (24) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes).

3.  The Scenic Locations

Unlike other spy shows when it’s painfully obvious when a sound stage is standing in for a glamorous international location, Covert Affairs actually films in countries around the world.  Thus far, the series has gone to Berlin, Venice, Istanbul, the Dominican Republic (standing in for Cuba), Paris, Stockholm and more.  And impressively enough, it’s shot on location while on a cable show’s budget.  I can only assume that with a smaller crew, it’s cheaper for the show to shoot abroad than in Alias‘s heyday.  What it means is that you can actually travel the world along with Annie each week, giving it an air of authenticity.

4.  The Strong Female Characters

Annie is surrounded by examples of strong females.  Her direct boss at the CIA is fiercely firm and professional Joan (Kari Matchett) who spars with her CIA Director husband in a variety of colorful sheath dresses (this part is a little inexplicable, I’ll admit).  This season sees Annie transferred to a division headed by the renegade Lena Smith (Sarah Clarke), whose tension filled relationship with Joan is palpable.  Meanwhile, the only real source of stability in Annie’s life is not a relationship with a man, but with her sister Danielle, played by the multifaceted Anne Dudek (Mad Men, Big Love, House).  It’s rare to see a spy drama where complex and interesting female characters outnumber the male, but on Covert Affairs it’s the rule.

5.   The Fashion

Piper Perabo is gorgeous and the wardrobe department does not waste the opportunity to exploit this fact for all it’s worth.  Annie wears stunning yet professional looking sundresses and suits.  Her love for fashion does not go unacknowledged in the writing, with characters wondering aloud at how she’s able to afford her Louboutin shoes.  Again, I have give points to the writers for keeping it real.

6.  Annie’s Love Interests

Male spies like James Bond seem to have a million love interests, so it’s only fair that Annie has her share of men to choose from.   The show is not apologetic on this point, and I love it for that.  From a wisecracking Israeli spy, to a suspicious FBI agent, to her mysterious lover from her past Ben Mercer, to current Russian assert Simon, to even Auggie and Jai, Annie will never run out of men to have burning chemistry with.

There you have it.  I want to trade lives with Annie Walker, and I’m sure you will too if you tune in.

Covert Affairs airs Tuesdays at 10pm/ 9 Central on USA Network.


Image copyright USA Network.