Anthony Herrera, the actor who played the villainous (and nearly impervious) James Stenbeck on AS THE WORLD TURNS off and on since 1980, passed away on June 21 in Buenos Aires, according to Soap Opera Digest. He was 67 years old, and had been fighting lymphoma since being diagnosed in 1997.
Herrera wrote a book about his fight against his particular cancer, a rare form called Mantle Cell Lymphoma, but his tome, The Cancer War, was not mere celebrity self-aggrandizement. He worked hard to promote research to help all cancer patients, and even testified on Capitol Hill in support of stem-cell research in 2005. Two operations employing stem cells helped extend his life.
Another week of COVERT AFFAIRS, another babysitting episode with yet another crybaby asset who wants nothing to do with Annie or the CIA. It’s a wonder the agency considers these people assets. Well, in this case, Italian reporter Carlo held some value as trade bait, so it didn’t really matter if he had any specific knowledge that would have to be extracted from his unwilling head. But would it kill the writers to have somebody want to cooperate?
The twist on the formula this week was that Annie’s mission on foreign soil was kept off formal government channels, so she was not “officially” on a mission for the CIA – meaning she had no protection if she were involved in any altercation and captured. You can see where this story is going, can’t you? Of course you can…
Television needs another law show like the real world needs more lawyers – which is to say, not at all. Into this overcrowded landscape we get USA’s new summer series SUITS, the latest “wacky” attorney drama, and it is about as welcome as getting a papercut from a frivolous lawsuit.
SUITS has a marginally interesting premise: Mike (Patrick J. Adams) has a photographic memory that allows him to quote law books exactly – meaning he can pass the bar, but he’s not a lawyer. He’s an aimless pothead whose dealer buddy bullies him into working as a courier — and accidentally sets him up to be arrested. While ducking the police with a briefcase full of pot, Mike stumbles into a recruitment drive by the city’s top law firm. Harvey (Gabriel Macht), the firm’s self-obsessed ace, learns that Mike is not only not a lawyer but a stoner, yet he hires the kid anyway. Testy senior partner Jessica (Gina Torres) assigns Harvey a pro bono sexual-harassment case that he promptly pawns off on Mike, and together they find a brilliant way to win it. And then Mike decides he doesn’t need pot or his dealer pal anymore, and dumps him to make a go of it as an attorney.
The premise of BURN NOTICE when it began read like this: Burned spy Michael Weston wants to find out who got him tossed out of the CIA, and then get back in with the agency. Over the course of four seasons, the show has threatened to reinvent itself on a regular basis by dangling the identity of the burner or appearing to offer Michael a new job. However, every time it looks like the status quo has changed, it just turns out that Michael is even more burned than last time. So, when season five opened with the suggestion that Michael could finally be back with the CIA, I was hopeful – but wary of getting burned again.
The new season picks up six months after last season’s finale, which saw Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) seemingly welcomed back into the CIA by Raines (Dylan Baker), but we learn that Michael is still being treated as an intelligence asset – not an agent – while he hunts down every name on that secret list that was the central McGuffin of last season. Now there’s just one name left – the boss, John Kessler – between Michael and his twin goals: learning why he was burned, and getting his credentials back. Michael has been teamed with the CIA’s top field operative, Max (Grant Show), but in order to take down Kessler, Michael insists on using his regular team of Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar). And when everything goes pear-shaped for the G-men, Michael has to rely on his improvisational skills to track the baddie. But before Michael can get his hands on Kessler, the mastermind kills himself, leaving Michael with no answers.
One thing I really liked this week’s episode of COVERT AFFAIRS is that Annie’s mission was relatively low-key. While the issue of CIA losing top recruits because their identities were exposed is a big deal to the agency and the hopefuls who saw their dreams crushed, the fate of the entire world was not trusted to Annie, who, let’s face it, needs a little more seasoning to really deserve the high-profile missions she’s been getting, such as last week’s Paris trip.
And, in this case, Annie (Piper Perabo) really was uniquely suited for the mission: She actually needed to complete her firearms training after being plucked from the academy prematurely, so she was sent to Camp Peary, the CIA training facility known as the Farm, to discover who was burning new recruits by posting their identities online. Suspicion centered on grizzled instructor Roy Gaskin (Tim Guinee) because he was acting…well, very suspiciously. Meanwhile, Arthur (Peter Gallagher) was having trouble with nosy Senator Godfrey (Greg Ellwand), and Arthur’s ex-wife, Gina (Rena Sofer), tried to act as intermediary – when she wasn’t simultaneously needling his current wife, Joan (Kari Matchett). Annie was able to avoid being burned herself long enough to figure out that fellow trainee Corey (Sebastian Pigott) was exposing his rivals in a bid graduate at the top of his class. Annie also made another key discovery when she ran into handsome emergency room doc Scott Weiss (Ben Lawson): He likes cute, flighty aunts who bring nieces to the ER.
I have a relatively new passion: the Mars novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is most famous for creating Tarzan. Burroughs wrote 11 books in the Mars series dealing with American Civil War veteran Capt. John Carter, who finds himself mysteriously transported to the planet Mars, where he becomes embroiled in a number of armed conflicts and a sweeping romance that takes him (literally) from pole to pole of the red planet its denizens call “Barsoom.” I recently devoured the first three books in the series (A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars) and am now reading the fourth, Thuvia, Maid of Mars.
This week’s installment of COVERT AFFAIRS felt even fluffier and more ephemeral than usual. And not in a good way. The episode felt incomplete; like viewers weren’t filled in on everything. Who, exactly, was Annie trying to get information about, and why did he matter? If viewers were informed and I missed it, then that’s not very effective storytelling. On the other hand, if viewers were not told, then that’s even worse storytelling.
Apparently the story that the-powers-that-be wanted to tell involved getting Annie and Eyal Lavin together in Paris and letting the sparks fly. Sadly, the episode was so rushed that the undercovers were barely given time to glare at each other, let alone smolder or strike sparks.