Posts Tagged ‘Bonnie Hammer’

Stabbings, Fires, Fellow Jersey Girls, Espionage In Montclair: Fun Times At USA Network’s Screening Of Its New Spy Show ‘Covert Affairs’

July 9, 2010

We live in Montclair, N.J., and it was more than a little unsettling to find out that Russian spies had taken up residence in our leafy suburb. It turns out that Cynthia and Richard Murphy of 31 Marquette Road are actually Lydia and Vladimir Guryev.

But it is actually great timing for the debut of USA Network’s new original drama, “Covert Affairs,” which premieres next Tuesday at 10 p.m. The show is about Annie Walker, a young CIA trainee played by Piper Perabo who goes on undercover assignments.

We went to a screening of the pilot episode Thursday night, and we loved it. But if you had told us the show’s concept a few months ago, we’d have said it was rather outlandish: A CIA spy dealing with Russian agents, for example. The Cold War is over, right?

Well, the Montclair Boris-and-Natasha round-up showed us how wrong we were.

NBCU cable honcho Bonnie Hammer, Jersey girl Piper Perabo and espionage junkie Doug Liman, co-executive producer of Covert Affairs Photo by Heidi Gutman/USA Network

At a reception following the screening we asked Bonnie Hammer, president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productons, if the headlines about the Russians spies would help “Covert Affairs.”

Hammer, looking as slim and perfect as ever, said, “It never hurts when something in the zeitgeist at large kind of happens at a time when you’re launching something.”

She went on, “The fact that the Russians and U.S. may be trading, I think it’s totally hysterical, because a lot of our stories deal with working with operatives that are… from other places. Let’s put it this way: There’s no downside.”

But we’ll digress here, because getting to the screening was a bit challenging. It was held at the hip Soho House hotel in Manhattan, and we dreaded making the trip in, since the Big Apple has been more like Phoenix this week, with 105 degree temperatures. But after being like a sauna Thursday morning, it actually cooled off a bit as we boarded our bus.

As we sat on the bus, our sister called to say there was a big fire on Houston Street, and we weren’t sure if it was near the screening location. As it turns out, it was not.

CIA agent Annie Walker tries to subdue a Russian spy in Covert Affairs' debut episode

But it a typical calm summer eve in Manhattan. The fire was actually in the East Village, and was big enough to warrant coverage in the New York Post and The New York Times.

And as we walked across Ninth Avenue to get to the screening at 14th Street at the Soho House, we saw NYPD cars and a crowd. Turns out about an hour before we got there, a “deranged man” had walked into a sunglass store at Ninth Avenue and 15th Street, just a few blocks away, and stabbed four people. The Post and Times wrote about that violent spree, as well.

Happy that we made it to the screening alive, without being burned or stabbed, we settled into a comfy seat the tiny theater inside the Soho House, with a cocktail in one hand and two chocolate bars (courtesy of USA) in the other.

The pilot episode was introduced by Doug Liman and David Bartis, the show’s executive producers. Bartis is a espionage junkie, and produced the Bourne movie trilogy, as well as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

“This started two years ago with USA, and they warned us it was going to be a slow process,” Bartis said. “The upside was they would always tell us what they wanted, and if we were giving it to them. They were true to their word, and it was a fantastic process.”

Liman said he’s always “been pretty obsessed with spy stories.” He said he’s done a lot of research and spent a lot of time around the CIA and CIA officers (you’d think he’d want to avoid those types), and comes across so many stories that “there’s no way I could ever make enough movies to sort of have a home for these stories.” That home is now USA, he said.

We are not fans of the espionage genre, but we really enjoyed “Covert Affairs.” As a CIA agent who speaks six languages, Perabo gets to play different characters as she goes undercover, just like Jennifer Garner did in “Alias.” For example, in the first “Covert Affairs” Perabo pretends to be a prostitute in order to recover a device with important “intel” (what is this, “24”?on it.

“It’s so cool,” Perabo said after the screening. “She’s a hero. She’s smart. She’s great, and as an actor, you play all these different roles.”

Covert Affairs cast: (left to right) Anne Dudek as Danielle, Sendhil Ramamurthy as Jai Wilcox, Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson, Piper Perabo as Annie Walker, Peter Gallagher as Authur Campbell, Kari Matchett as Joan Campbel, Photo by Robert Ascroft/USA Network

We’ve liked Perabo since we saw her in “Coyote Ugly,” which has been on TV several times during the past few weeks. In that movie, she played a girl from New Jersey who tried to make it in New York City. In real life, Perabo is actually a Jersey girl. She told us she was from Toms River.

She looked gorgeous, slim as a reed and wearing a bright red dress that was slit almost to her navel.

We asked her about the timeliness of the suburban Russian spies and “Covert Affairs” debut.

“I was reading The Times this morning and they were talking about the trade, all the real aspects are very frightening… but it is sort of wonderful for us…It (spying) goes on in small towns, and neighbors do that, and it embraces that whole idea of the real life of a spy right into focus.”

In the show, Perabo’s character speaks half a dozen languages.

Like an idiot, we asked her, “Do you really speak six languages?” Duh. She’s an actress, like a real CIA agent.

Actor Christopher Gorham, who was Ugly Betty's boyfriend, plays a charming blind CIA agent on Covert Affairs

We then quickly rephrased the question, and asked how hard it was to ACT like you know six language, and speak them well.

Perabo said that she’s good at learning lines, so that helps, and that she has tutors for all the different languages she spaks on the show.

“Covert Affairs” has a great cast, including Peter Gallagher, Kari Matchett of “24” and “Invasion,” and Anne Dudek of “Mad Men.”

But the real surprise is Christopher Gorham, who played Ugly Betty’s goofy boyfriend, and on “Covert Affairs” plays a charming, cute blind military intelligence agent. We likey.

NBC Universal Chief Jeff Zucker, His PR Folks And His Talent Host Holiday Party For Media At 30 Rock

December 9, 2009

We just got back to Jersey after attending NBC Universal’s party for the press. The soiree Tuesday night, held on the 52nd floor of 30 Rock in Manhattan, was officially off-the-record. But we can certainly tell you who we saw there.

As we were checking our coat, Kathie Lee Gifford was putting on her’s and leaving. Her NBC morning-TV partner, Hoda Kotb, was still inside at the shindig.

The event, sponsored by NBCU chief Jeff Zucker and his communications team, came on the heels of news that the nation’s largest cable operator, Comcast, was buying the home of the Peacock Network along with its stable of cable channels, which includes USA Network, SyFy, Bravo, Oxygen, CNBC and MSNBC. The seller is General Electric.

A shirt-sleeved Zucker briefly addressed the gathered media, and made some funny jokes about the coming merger (we can’t say what, it was off the record, remember?)

There were both NBCU talent and suits at the holiday party. NBC News anchor Brian Williams, a Jersey guy, stopped by, as did Lester Holt, Ann Curry and Amy Robach from “The Today Show.” Jimmy Fallon popped by when the party was ending.

As for execs, in addition to Zucker there was NBC Cable Entertainment chief Bonnie Hammer, Bravo honcho Frances Berwick, NBCU’s women’s and lifestyle chieftain Lauren Zalaznick, CNBC president Mark Hoffman and “Saturday Night Live” creator and producer Lorne Michaels.

We have written about Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” for NewJerseyNewsroom.com, and NBC has big home shopping connections and affiliations.

First of all, GE/NBC currently owns about 32.5 percent of ShopNBC on a fully diluted basis of 37.6 million shares. NBC’s 6.4 million shares represent 16.8 percent ownership and GE’s 6 million common stock purchase warrants represent 15.7 percent.

Secondly, the stars of several of NBCU’s cable show have home shopping lines, including: Tori Spelling, who is in Oxygen’s “Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood,” on HSN; Rachel Zoe, from Bravo’s “The Rachel Zoe Report,” on QVC; Isaac Mizrahi, who hosts Bravo’s “The Fashion Show,” on QVC; Padma Lakshmi, from Bravo’s “Top Chef,” on HSN; and Ramona Singer from Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City." on HSN.

The party gift was a DVD of the third season of NBC’s “30 Rock,” appropriately.