CBS' new series about the CIA comes alarmingly close to recent events. 

Too Close for Comfort

Talk about bad timing. In fact, it couldn't have been any worse.

Back when we were all suffering from Gary Condititis — before 9/11 — a new network TV series about federal agents fighting international terrorism must have seemed like a cool idea.

But then life got just a scary step past art. First, a group of international terrorists succeeded in slamming two passenger planes into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon, and still another into the ground in Pennsylvania. Then somebody, or maybe a group of somebodies, started sending letters laced with killer bugs through the mail. And suddenly terrorism as entertainment lost a lot of its appeal.

That left the execs behind CBS-TV's new series about the CIA in the lurch.

"The Agency," the series in question, already had the film for an episode on bioterrorism in the can: The show's fictional G-men were to have been tracking a terrorist who planned to strike out at the nation's capital with bacillus anthracis.

"We can't air this episode now," said the execs. And wisely so. Nobody ever planned for "The Agency" to be a reality show. Instead, the series debuted last month with an episode about a plot to assasinate Fidel Castro.

The execs re-cut the anthrax episode and delayed it for a few weeks, only to be bumped by a presidential speech. When will it air - if ever? As of this writing, nobody has an answer.

But that's the risk CBS took when it put a show about the CIA on its schedule. If you're going to try to approach reality with an entertainment series, sometimes you're going to do more than just come close. Sometimes you're going to ram right into it.

The very plausibility of "The Agency" is its strength. The series seems believable — or at least it does to somebody who's never been a CIA agent, which covers most of us.

Ronny Cox plays CIA Director Alex Pierce III, a man who's worked his way up in the agency to the top spot. He's seen the CIA morph from its Cold War role to the high-tech era. Cox, who made his feature-film debut in "Deliverance," now has enough age on him to carry the weight of this series. He's an anchor of credibility in a sea of young hotshots.

Among the hotshots who surround him ably are Gil Bellows ("Ally McBeal") as an undercover operative, Will Patton ("Armageddon") as a desk jockey who wants to get out into the field, and Gloria Reuben ("E.R.") as a counterintelligence team leader. (Reuben says she feels no qualms about going head-to-head with "E.R." on Thursday nights, although "The Agency" has yet to beat her former series in the ratings.)

Sometimes the plausibility of "The Agency," however, can give you the heebie-jeebies. One recent episode was about a spy who had a nuclear bomb buried in his back yard. We're all hoping that the writer of that episode wasn't overly prescient.


Latest in Miscellany


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Don Dale

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation