Monday night was the premiere of State of Affairs, NBC's new DC drama and Katherine Heigl's solemn return to television. I'm glad NBC decided to fill this void because between Scandal, House of Cards, Veep, Homeland and Madam Secretary, I was seriously craving a television program that gave me an inside look into a fictional White House.
The best way to describe my reaction to State of Affairs is: huh. It's not just that the plot is a bit convoluted or that Heigl has the charm of a plastic bag—there are just so many aspects of this show that I simply don't know what to do with.
We have to start with the single most distracting thing about State of Affairs: Heigl's character's name. She plays a woman named Charleston Tucker. Charleston. CHARLESTON. Every once in a while, someone calls her "Charlie," but most of the time they go right on ahead and say the whole damn thing. Her name is so obviously ridiculous that it was hard for me to get past to anything else.
Charleston is a CIA analyst responsible for compiling and presenting the President's daily briefing. The show is set a year following the death of Charlston's fiancé, Aaron Payton, who also happens to have been the son of the nation's first black female president, Constance Payton (THESE GODDAMN NAMES), played by Queen Alfre Woodard. Aaron was a humanitarian aid worker who died in a foggy (both literally and figuratively) terrorist attack that Charleston may or may not have been involved in. HERE IS A PICTURE OF CHARLESTON RIGHT AFTER THE ATTACK:
The series will follow Charleston and Constance's attempts to avenge his death.
Struggling to cope with Aaron's death, Charleston spends the very early parts of her evenings getting drunk and having sex with random douchebags. I say "very early" because she has to be at work at 2 am—that is, two o'clock in the morning. In last night's episode, she goes to a bar, meets a guy, takes him home, has sex with him and then is dressed and ready to go by 1:30 am. Charleston has one of the most efficient hook-up systems I've ever seen, perhaps made possible by the fact that apparently CIA analysts don't need sleep.
I do love that State of Affairs is about two women, one of them black, with important, high-powered jobs. However, as a result, NBC clearly felt the need to load up every other role with white dudes, with the exception of one of Charleston's fellow analysts. Oh and of course all the terrorists are brown.
Besides her name, the most jarring thing about Charleston Tucker is Katherine Heigl herself. Heigl always looks stiff and vaguely confused and I kind of don't believe anything about her character, from her clothes to the way she copes with Aaron's death. All of this makes it difficult to care about her character—and I'm not talking likability. I just generally don't really give a shit about what happens to her.
A few other things I couldn't ignore: Charleston wears a lot of really complicated and distracting hairstyles. Are we supposed to believe that she gets up at 1 am and crafts the perfect chignon right after she kicks her newest flavor of the week out of her bed?
President Payton's wigs, however, were looking resplendent.
State of Affairs also throws in a lot of fun, topical references like ISIS and beheadings, so that's something.
I don't know, people. I'm going to give it a few more weeks, mostly because of Alfre Woodard, but things are looking aren't looking good. What did you think? Did you like it? Will you watch it? Don't you love it when Alfre Woodard talks? Is Charleston Tucker the dumbest name you've ever heard?
Images via NBC.