Generally, USA has come up with a winning formula for its various shows like "Monk," "Burn Notice," "In Plain Sight," et. al.
Creating an interesting setting for compelling and quirky characters and tell a story that can be wrapped up neatly in 42 minutes.
So I had pretty high hopes for "Covert Affairs" (USA, 10 p.m.), the network's latest series.
After watching the pilot, it's the first time I felt a little let down. (I'm not a fan of USA's "Psych" either, but my expectations for that were a lot lower).
Piper Perabo stars as a rookie CIA trainee thrust into the field because -- even though she's at the top of her class and can speak six languages -- she's apparently the only agent available who can pass as a high-priced call girl.
USA generally creates characters who are at the top of their game -- Michael Westen is a top-notch spy in "Burn Notice," Neil Cafferty is the king of the con artists on "White Collar," etc. -- and then shows us why these characters are so good.
Perabo's character, we keep being told, is a real up-and-comer, but most of the time she seems over her head and doesn't do much to win us over.
The CIA she inhabits isn't much better. It's painted as a typical office, with all sorts of politics and such, rather than the agency charged with protecting the nation. Only Christopher Gorham's blind analyst who befriends Perabo comes off as interesting.
Contrast "Covert" with "White Collar," which returns for a new season beginning at 9 p.m. When we last saw Neil (Matt Bomer), his wife was blown up in a plane he was about to board.
It's now several months later, and Neil is back in prison and Peter (Tim DeKay) isn't much better, on very thin ice with the FBI. Peter does manage to spring Neil, but the pair of them may have met their match with a cocky bank robber (Tim Matheson).
"White Collar" has created a great relationship between its two leads, balancing the stories so that each character complements the other. That's not an easy task for a writer, yet both Neil and Peter are shown to be intelligent, each with his own strengths.
It's something that "Covert" will have to learn. But there are a few good elements in it, so maybe the writers will figure it out. Given USA's track record, it's probably worth it to stick around for a few episodes.
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Most of the network stuff tonight are reruns because of the MLB All-Star Game (Fox, 8 p.m.) Hey -- remember when the National League actually won a couple of those? Anyway, Fox manages to keep its streak of cross-promotions alive, with "Glee's" Amber Riley set to perform the national anthem.
Still, there are a lot of options tonight. In addition to the USA lineup, "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) is brand-new, featuring guest star Peter Gallagher as one wacky priest, followed by a new "Louie" at 11 p.m.
Also new are "HawthoRNe" (TNT, 9 p.m.) and "Memphis Beat" at 10 p.m.
Finally, SyFy has a new "Warehouse 13" at 9 p.m.