Another political show featuring White House drama with the only change being two female leads.
Review (with Spoilers)
With all the shows out there about politics, ranging from Scandal to House of Cards, it is hard to find something which seems new or fresh. After all, even before the aforementioned shows, there was The West Wing and a slew of other programs which lasted for years covering White House politics. Leading to the question: Does State of Affairs find a way to stand out amongst the pack?
Characters & Story
Charlie (Katherine Heigl) is one of the go-to people for President Payton (Alfre Woodard) to know what the top threats to the US are. But, alongside being one of the top members of the CIA, Charlie is also someone dealing with PTSD. For, after a terrorist attack killed her former fiancée Aaron Payton (Mark Tallman), president Payton’s son, she has a selective memory on what happened that day in Kabul. Something which seemingly someone wants to be revealed.
As for what specifically goes on in the pilot? Well, the show throws a lot of names at you but mostly focuses on the kidnapping of Dr. Benjamin Butler (Gavin-Keith Umeh). Someone who, as he is kidnapped, becomes an almost secondary objective for Omar Fatah (Farshad Farahat), the terrorist who killed Aaron, has possibly been found. Thus leading Charlie to choose whether to present Dr. Butler’s life to President Payton as a top priority or a possible Fatah lead which could mean the vengeance Charlie and President Peyton have desired for over a year.
With the United States having a Black male president, I must admit it was nice to see a Black female one in this show. That thought aside, I find it hard to really praise anything.
The reason behind the lack of praise is due to the pilot throwing out a million and one names at you, and barely presenting the type of plot, or character personalities, which can stick with you. For example, Charlie is rather generic and seems to have the usual line item list of issues: has drinking problem, check; sleeps around to drown sorrows, check; good at her job, but personal life in shambles, check; and despite whatever situation she ends up in, usually comes out on top, check. Making it where her being in counseling is perhaps the sole unique trait since, to my TV knowledge, most protagonist, outside of Tony Soprano, pretty much avoided getting psychiatric help for their issues.
But what stinks the most about Charlie, and President Payton, is that while they have excellent roles in terms of representation for women, they don’t get past that hurdle of being more than a male character who was gender swapped. For while Payton speaks of Aaron from a mother’s point of view, like most of the cast, outside Charlie, we don’t get to know her and see her as a standout. For while I get Woodard isn’t necessarily the star, but simply one of the main cast, she is the only one in an interesting position. After all, there has only been one Black president before, and there has yet to be a female one. So while I’m sure most would prefer race and gender to not be involved, at the same time it would have been interesting to see Woodard get to tackle some of those issues in the pilot, much less utilize her military background to put someone in their place.
Which leads me to perhaps the real issue of the show: There is no hook. For with Charlie being generic, President Payton not having much personality, and then the stories the show presents, it doesn’t really present any reason for you to stick around. For how many times can an ambitious lead going against their boss be interesting? How many ways can you spin a big time national threat and attempt to make it seem things won’t be alright when all is said and done? Much less, how is the show going to make us care about Aaron? For the cheap tactics of making him seem kind and lovable certainly did not work. Never mind as interesting as Fatah could be, he doesn’t present himself as a compelling villain which could save the show from the tiresome tropes the show applies.
Overall: Don’t Watch
A part of me wants to say this show maybe worth sticking around for, but it would need an immediate turn around to do so. For right now there is a need for one good character who is either funny, frightening, charismatic, or seems to not be like they could have come from any other show. For that is the real issue with State of Affairs, it lacks a unique identity. Hence the “Don’t Watch” label for honestly the pilot doesn’t lead you to believe this show is in pursuit of trying anything new. For while it has a Black woman as president, you can already tell she will be 2nd fiddle to Charlie. So with the one unique thing the show has not being utilized, there isn’t anything here which makes this show worth seeing live, or even catching during the spare time in your week.