Sunday, November 16, 2014

Katherine Heigl Returns to TV

Katherine Heigl has acting talent.  We saw her dramatic skills and TV charisma in the prime time hit show, Grey's Anatomy.   This hospital series made Heigl very popular.
During her run on that series, she made millions of us laugh in her big screen comedy, Knocked Up. She was the deer in the Los Angles forest of singles who falls for a lazy, lovable slacker bear played by Seth Rogen.  This was an entertaining, typically overlong Judd Apatow comedy that did quite well at the box office.
I don't read gossip columns and/or columnists, so I don't know what happened.  But the actress left Grey's Anatomy and then focused on films.  She was in a string of movies that were absolute chores to sit through for reviewing purposes -- dud romantic comedies like 27 Dresses and Life As We Know It.  There were probably fighters pilots in World War II who didn't drop as many bombs as she did after 2007's Knocked Up.

Katherine Heigl returns to television in a new dramatic political series on NBC.  I saw the premiere episode.  State of Affairs reminds us that she is a strong, intelligent actress.
I liked it.  In the first episode, we are brought into today's incendiary political times.  Terrorism.  Beheadings.  The Middle East.  Her character, a top person in the CIA, has lost a loved one to terrorism.  The loss took its toll on her emotional state.  She sought therapy to get herself back in line.  She's now a steely White House insider and reports directly to the President.  Madame President.
In these dark days of terrorism, will these two powerful women want blood and seek revenge?  They have a strong, common bond.  These are different female characters for prime time.  Different from the female prime time characters I grew up watching.

One of the things I greatly appreciated about this episode was that Agent Tucker (Heigl) had a team of whip-smart staffers of various ages.  This made sense and looked realistic.  On HBO's The Newsroom, Jeff Daniels' veteran anchor character had a staff that mostly looked like university seniors majoring in journalism.  No one looked experienced enough to have news contacts to call as sources or to know obscure facts that could not immediately be Googled.  No one looked old enough to have kids in high school or college.  That was wrong -- and I've worked on TV news programs in New York City.  I've been in TV newsrooms. There's more diversity in this first episode of State of Afffairs than there was in some popular NBC prime time shows of the 1990s.
The episode had energy, intelligence, surprise, good writing and good acting to match.  It was wonderful to see the always-impressive Alfre Woodard as the President of the U.S.

Back in 1985, NBC premiered a sitcom called Sara starring a new actress named Geena Davis.  Sara was highly promoted but, unfortunately, lasted only one season.  Geena Davis's co-star was Alfre Woodard.  Yes, that's Bill Maher above Geena in the black and white publicity photo.  Both actresses have Oscar nominations in their credits.  Davis won Best Supporting Actress for The Accidental Tourist  (1988).  Woodard had a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Cross Creek  (1983).

Geena Davis played America's first female President of the United States on ABC in the under-appreciated 2005 prime time dramatic series, Commander in Chief.

Now Alfred Woodard is President Payton on NBC's State of Affairs.
This new series and this new role seem to be a fine fit for Katherine Heigl.  It's a relief and a pleasure to have seen her in a new production and be able to say, "That was really good."  It's been a long time.  Welcome back to TV, Katherine Heigl.  State of Affairs premieres Monday night, November 17th.

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