Escapism is USA Network's specialty, especially in the busy summer season, and rarely achieved more effortlessly than in the appealing Tuesday night combo of White Collar and Covert Affairs. Tonight's unusually ambitious Affairs episode (10/9c) is a great escape for several reasons. It takes us far away, to exotic Istanbul — filmed on location (not exactly an everyday occurrence on a basic-cable budget), and having just returned from that region a week ago, I assure you it's as fabulous as it looks here — and as an added bonus, we're in very good company, because the story focuses on the show's not-so-secret weapon, scene-stealer Christopher Gorham's affable blind CIA agent Auggie Anderson.
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While vacationing at a jazz festival in the Turkish metropolis, Auggie overhears a voice that triggers his most traumatic memory: the incident that blinded him during a Special Forces mission in Iraq. This change-of-pace episode gives us his back story, and Gorham makes the most of it — in flashbacks and in the present, as he goes rogue (with the help of a fetching "come fly with me" flight attendant played by Lost's Rebecca Mader) to chase his demons.
For fans of the show, and especially for Auggie's sizable following, this is a don't-miss adventure.
At 11/10c, two new cable comedies vie for your attention. Is either worth staying up for?
In the case of Showtime's Web Therapy, adapted from an online cult indulgence concocted by Friends alum Lisa Kudrow and her pals, the answer is a qualified yes. Kudrow is deliciously delusional as Fiona Wallice, a brittle dilettante who fancies herself a psychoanalyst as she sets up a "new modality" for insta-therapy in her plush home via web chats. She limits her sessions to three minutes, which she tends to dominate with her own self-absorbed blathering, much to the annoyance of her distant husband (Victor Garber). The episodes play out in a series of uneven vignettes: droll, ironic and twisted. It's great to see Kudrow back on TV, but this visually static and comically stunted gimmick wears thin pretty quickly. (Although keep an eye out for the great Lily Tomlin as Fiona's mother in an upcoming episode.)
With less pedigree but possibly more promise, MTV's new comedy Awkward piggybacks on the latest season of pop-culture phenom Teen Mom in hopes of succeeding with comedy where the wretched Skins remake failed dramatically. Juno-esque in its snarky tone when it isn't straining to be shockingly graphic, this is the wry story of 15-year-old Jenna (the very fresh Ashley Rickards) who goes from "Invisible Girl" — the title of her blog — to an infamous "That Girl" after a slapstick mishap convinces her family, friends, faculty and plentiful high-school fren-emies that she's possibly suicidal damaged goods.
"Why can't she be like every other teenager and just starve herself?" laments Jenna's ridiculous mom. The humor isn't exactly subtle, but much of it rings true. Let's just hope Jenna never turns for solace to Web Therapy's Fiona. That would not end well.