I've figured out why I don't like USA's new series, "Covert Affairs" (USA, 10 p.m.)
Every week, both the episodes and the ads for the episodes tell me the same thing over and over: How great a spy Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) is, how inexperienced she is, and how hot she is.
For the latter, I can indeed confirm that Ms. Perabo is hot. I can see that for myself.
As for the other two things, I apparently have to rely on the other characters on the show to remind me of this. We've seen a bunch of moments where the character's inexperience is presented, even when it doesn't have to be, but we haven't seen many moments as to why she's supposed to be a great spy or why the CIA would keep sending her out on missions when she is so experienced.
Contrast "Covert" with other USA series.
When we first met Adrian Monk, the very first time we see him is him solving a case by observing the smallest details as the cops look on in awe. We also see his neuroses and how his assistant Sharona must hover over him. No one needs to tell us about Monk's skills and phobias -- they are all there in that first scene.
Ditto Michael Westen. In the "Burn Notice" pilot, we see Michael operate as a top spy. In his case, Michael narrates his own process in improvising a bomb or making a car bulletproof. No one needs to tell us how great a spy Michael is.
Ditto Neil Caffrey. In the pilot of "White Collar," Neil goes through a complex plan to break out of prison. There's hardly any dialogue. It's just the viewer watching Neil go through a complicated plan to get out to show us he's a master criminal.
Ditto Hank Lawson. The first scene in "Royal Pains" is Hank making a tough medical call but saving the life of a guy he's playing basketball with. It tells us all we need to know about the guy.
In all of the other USA shows, the characters continue to impress us and make us care about them by showing them doing what they do best. We don't need characters to keep saying, "Wow, Hank Lawson, you're a great doctor!" We know he is; we see him doing his thing every week.
Not so much with "Covert Affairs," though. It's as if the writers keep finding excuses to let Annie go on a mission, only to have her inexperience get her into trouble before she figures a way out, with her colleagues constantly talking us through that process every step of the way.
I'm sticking with "Covert" a while longer, but the writers do need to let the actions of the characters speak for themselves.
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: If you don't believe me, contrast "Covert" with "White Collar," (USA, 9 p.m.) and see if you can't spot the difference in storytelling.
Also on cable, TNT has new episodes of "HawthoRNe" and "Memphis Beat" from 9-11 p.m.
On "Rescue Me," (FX, 10 p.m.), Tommy (Denis Leary) comes up with a, shall we say, unique way to curb his daughter's drinking. Whether it works or not -- you'll have to wait a week to find out. Meanwhile, Garrity and Mike take a dying friend to the ballet, with predictably hilarious results, while Franco and Black Shawn have it out over their involvment with the Gavins. It's followed by a new "Louie" at 11 p.m.
On regular TV, a new season of "Shaq vs." (ABC, 9 p.m.) kicks off tonight as Shaq takes on Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a race. One question -- how did they find a car big enough for Shaq to drive? It follows "Wipeout" at 8 p.m.
Fox is new with "Hell's Kitchen" and "MasterChef," while NBC has a new "Breakthrough with Tony Robbins" and two hours of "America's Got Talent."
Finally, the CW kicks off a new sitcom called "18 To Life" with back-to-back episodes. It's about two kids who decide to get married instead of going to college, much to the chagrin of their respective parents.
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