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Covert Affairs Pilot by TORY09

Covert Affairs TV

The third season premiere of FX's Sons of Anarchy last night drew 4.13 million million viewers, 2.81 million of them in the adults 18-49 demographic. That is a strong start though not a record for the biker drama and was down 4% in total viewers and 7% from last year's second season premiere. In fact, last night's Season 3 debut ranks as the third most-watched episode of Sons, behind the season 2 premiere and season 2 finale. But it also ranks as the highest-rated scripted basic cable telecast this year in 18-49.

Another third season opener, that of A&E’s unscripted series Hoarders, broke records for the network on Labor Day. The two back-to-back episodes (3.7 million viewers, 2.0 million adults 18-49; 3.8 million, 2.1 million 18-49) became the two most-watched episodes in A&E series history across all key demographics and ranked as the highest-rated season debut for any original series on A&E.

Airing against the season premiere of Sons, USA Network's freshman Covert Affairs (5.4 million, 2.1 million 18-49) was up from last week, 2% in total viewers and 6% in 18-49. Its lead-in, the Season 2 summer finale of White Collar (4.7 million, 1.8 million 18-49) drew its largest audience since the winter debut.

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva – tip her here.

We hope you enjoyed your three day weekend (if you got Monday off) despite the lack of new television. Last night we enjoyed the 100th episode of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” which reviewed the last 6 seasons of the show, providing plenty of highlights and insight into how the shows were made and how the creators recalled the process of creation. It was refreshing to hear Bourdain and his producers admit to mistakes as well as wonder at the mystery as to why some episodes were so much more popular than others. We look forward to the next 100 episodes of this great show – congratulations and thank-you to Anthony Bourdain, his crew and producers, and the Travel channel for putting this on TV.

Tonight's the big night for the premiere of the third season of FX's “Sons of Anarchy” at 10pm. We made a video of the gorgeous media guide that FX sent us and posted it below. Be sure to check out our post from last week which included photos of almost the entire cast as well as video interviews with Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Kim Coates, Theo Rossi, and more. Tune in promptly at 10pm so that you don't miss the summary of events to bring you up to date with the premiere. We've seen the first several episodes and they're excellent. An unnecessary oversimplification would be: Shakespearean drama applied to a biker gang, backed by outstanding performances.

People are still a-twitter, literally, about Sunday's “Mad Men” episode, with some people saying that the 2011 Emmys should just be given to them already. Our attitude was one more of acknowledging that we finally had a remarkable episode for this season. It was debatable as to whether the show deserved the Emmy this year much less next. One excellent episode does not make a winning season – the show, despite the critical acclaim, has seen a slide in viewership of 40%. Our itchy remote finger has repeatedly switched us over to the 10/10:30pm comedies on HBO this summer.

Fans of USA's “Covert Affairs” should check out our video interview with producers Dave Bartis and Doug Liman at the end of this post. “Covert Affairs” has had a very strong season this summer – it airs at 10pm on USA.

Speaking of Emmys we've taken the sad tally of our picks for the Emmys and compared them to the winners: we scored 6 out of 19 but the Academy surprised us and picked 3 of _our_ preferred picks so can we add these to our Win column? That would make our success rate a much-preferred 50%. The big upsets were Kyra Sedgwick and Edie Falco winning. Even hardcore fans of Sedgwick and “The Closer” would have to admit that she's done much better performances in better-written seasons of that series. Our amusing anecdote about that win was that her husband, Kevin Bacon, told us to keep an eye on her statuette while I was washing up in the men's room – he placed it next to my sink.

As winner of Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, Falco herself admitted that she wasn't a comedic actress and that “Nurse Jackie” really isn't a comedy. She was our pick mainly because her performance was so outstanding that it didn't matter whether the show was a comedy or a drama. With the proliferation of “dramedies” (we hate that word) this is going to become a much more common occurrence.

The TV Junkie Plan: “White Collar”, “Sons of Anarchy”, “Louie”, “Louie”, Kimmel.

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Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs TV

Piper Perabo by Wolfworks2008

Covert Affairs

The “Covert Affairs” summer finale gave us a cliffhanger, a revelation and even a vocabulary lesson.

Spoilers: Really, must we warn you by now? Watch the show first!

What we've learned from the two-hour finale:

Part I: “I Can't Quit You Baby”

1. Anna Chlumsky – So that's what happened to the “My Girl” star. You know, even as Vivian Long, she kind of looks the same.
2. Wonk – (noun, slang) a “student who spends much time studying and has little or no social life” (according to Dictionary.com)
3. Auggie is better than Ben Stiller.
4. Annie is still very, very green despite knowing enough Turkish “to get by.”
5. Toothaches hurt like the dickens, but if you wait till next episode, you won't have to worry about it anymore.

Part II: “When The Levee Breaks”

1. Excruciating office parties are universal.
2. It's a cowrie bracelet not necklace. Oops.
3. Liza Hearn's leak is former Director of the National Clandestine Service, Henry Wilcox, that dog.
4. Joan and Arthur's marriage just might have a fighting chance.
5. USA is determined to leave us cliffhung with possible fatal shootings. First “White Collar,” now this?

All in all, we'd have liked more conclusions, but hey, there's still the second half of the season for that … in Summer 2011. Sigh.

[UPDATE: A previous version of the article erroneously listed the return date as January, which is actually when “Covert Affair's” sister show “White Collar” returns.]

How did you like the “Covert Affairs” finale?

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Photo credit: USA Network

In the duplicitous world of “Covert Affairs,” one's ex is never merely an ex.

Auggie Anderson's (Christopher Gorham) former girlfriend Natasha Petrovna, played by Canadian actress Liane Balaban, isn't just a disgruntled old flame, but a notorious hacker whose cyber attack on Washington catches the attention of the CIA on Tuesday's (Aug. 24) episode “Communication Breakdown.”

The combination of beauty and tech savvy is a lethal combination for lady-magnet Auggie, who seems to have never quite gotten over Natasha, who would fit into his line of work if she weren't so anarchic.

“In the script Natasha's described as 'chaos in a bottle,'” Balaban tells Zap2it. “She's headstrong and impulsive, but also a woman with deeply held beliefs about what's right and wrong. She is courageous, someone who speaks truth to power.”

Auggie and Natasha reconnect and — as expected when emotions are involved — it's not all just business.

“I would say there is a lot of love there. I don't know how much I can reveal,” says Balaban, demurring when asked for comment on the more romantic scenes or Gorham's hard-earned physique. She offers, “Chris was fantastic. Just so welcoming and down to earth. We laughed a lot, which to me is the ultimate chemistry test.”

The episode not only delves into Auggie's backstory and personal life, but does so in a stylish way. The plot veers into caper mode and feels classically cinematic when Auggie and Natasha hop a train.

Balaban says, “One of the most memorable moments for me was gazing over a bridge in rural Ontario, at midnight, down into this valley where they had the train lit from all angles, with flashing cop cars, FBI agents with flashlights and barking dogs. It really didn't feel like a TV show. It felt like a big budget action film.

“I think the whole cast had a secret weapon in this episode, and that was our director, Kate Woods,” she continues. “She was one of the most inspiring people I've ever worked with. She was just so precise with the storytelling moments, constantly adding layers of meaning to what was on the page. Making us feel free to play and explore and go deeper.”

For Balaban, inspiration is key for her craft. She received a special jury award at the Toronto International Film Festival for her very first role as an ambitious teenager in 1999's “New Waterford Girl” and she's followed that with acclaimed performances in “Seven Times Lucky” and “Last Chance Harvey.” She can be seen next as a guest star on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and the film “The Future Is Now.”

One of the attractions of playing Natasha was getting to put on a Russian accent again after Balaban played a Russian aesthetician in “The Trotsky.” She mainly does European accents and turns to dialect coaches or occasionally her father, a Polish Romanian, for some ad libs. Thanks to her half Chinese niece and nephews, she can also do a “wicked” Chinese accent.

She also gives good advice for a surprisingly fun way to brush up on Russian accents.

“To refresh, I watched dozens of interviews on YouTube with the girl band T.A.T.U.,” she reveals.

But in the end, it's not just the accent that drew Balaban to take on the “Covert Affairs” role.

“I find it easier to act when your character has such clearly defined motivation,” she explains. “Natasha is really active. She's got stuff to do, places to go, people to see — or not see as the case may be. Agency is usually reserved for male characters, so it's wonderful to play a female who is the star of her own adventure … a woman who is so politically aware and confident.

“But that's what 'Covert Affairs' is all about, isn't it? A smart, fearless woman saving the world.”

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Photo credits: USA