The Central Intelligence Agency is a popular setting for television dramas nowadays, so it makes sense NBC would join in with the Katherine Heigl vehicle "State of Affairs." The best way to describe "State of Affairs" is that it falls somewhere between the ever-worsening "Homeland" and the new, critically acclaimed "The Honourable Woman."

The Central Intelligence Agency is a popular setting for television dramas nowadays, so it makes sense NBC would join in with the Katherine Heigl vehicle “State of Affairs.” The best way to describe “State of Affairs” is that it falls somewhere between the ever-worsening “Homeland” and the new, critically acclaimed “The Honourable Woman.”

All three of the espionage series feature strong, smart and powerful women at their center — Heigl in “State of Affairs,” Claire Danes in “Homeland” and Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Honourable Woman” — furthering their connection beyond the world of geopolitics. And like “Homeland” and “The Honourable Woman,” “State of Affairs” relies heavily on its lead.

Charleston “Charlie” Tucker (Heigl) is a former CIA field officer who’s now President Constance Payton’s (Alfre Woodard) daily briefer on the biggest threats to national security. Making matters sticky is that Charlie’s former fiancé — and the president’s son — was killed a year ago while all three were in Kabul.

Since that day, Charlie has fallen into self-destructive behavior in her personal life, while focusing all her best efforts on tracking down terrorists, especially the one responsible for her fiancé’s death. “State of Affairs” operates on a weekly “mission” basis with a smattering of double-crossing espionage and conspiracy for serialization.

While there’s a lot of rote spy material here and Heigl has never been one of my favorites, “State of Affairs” was better than expected. Heigl is actually pretty good, but many of her shortcomings (e.g., a combination of blandness and melodrama) are present too. The biggest flaw of “State of Affairs” is its treatment of Charlie as she falls directly into the occupational irony narrative — good at work, bad everywhere else.

While the conspiracy element and political gamesmanship that plays out in the conclusion is a simple version of things we’ve seen before on “24” and “Homeland,” it’s not that terrible. Like much of “State of Affairs,” this plot device is middling.

I could see “State of Affairs” finding some audience traction, with its well-known lead and the popularity of the political-spy thriller genre. It will need to improve to hold on to it though.

Photo courtesy of NBC Universal

“State of Affairs”

Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC

2 stars