Fall TV First Impression: NBC's State of Affairs + Katherine Heigl is a big draw for Advertisers

THE SHOW | NBC’s State of Affairs (Mondays at 10/9c, premiering Nov. 17)

THE CAST | Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy), Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives), Adam Kaufman (Without a Trace), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Person of Interest), Sheila Vand (Cult), Cliff Chamberlain (The Mob Doctor) and Tommy Savas (The Last Ship)

THE SET-UP | Meet CIA analyst Charleston Tucker (Heigl), the recipient of one of the most unflattering TV character introductions in a while. See, “Charlie” was engaged to the president’s son at the time he was killed during a terrorist attack. Now, she soothes her pain with drinking, random hook-ups, fruitless shrink sessions and the crooning of/shimmying to pop tunes while compiling the CIA’s daily briefing for POTUS (Woodard).

THE FIRST IMPRESSION | There’s a compelling-enough series here somewhere, as evidenced once Woodard shows up. But up until then, far too great of lengths are gone to prove to us what a wild card Charlie is, including the arrival of a new yet conspicuously “old” hire (Kaufman) who in the pilot is mainly on hand to register shock at her bold behavior. Once intros are out of the way and the plot takes hold — ultimately, Charlie is forced to make a difficult (and rather incredible) call — State of Affairs becomes a drama I could like, though that just might be my well-chronicled blind love for anything D.C.-related speaking. For arguably good measure, the pilot plants the seed for a serialized mystery element.

Heigl (also an executive producer) is served best when Charlie talks smart versus snide
, but the consensus here at TVLine is that her wardrobe is frankly a bit too much, whether she’s arriving for work at 2 am in jeans and stilettos or hours later clambering onto the back of a truck in a high-end dress. In addition to the wonderful Woodard, there are some nice picks among the supporting cast/guest stars, including Odom Jr. as the White House Chief of Staff, TV vet Dennis Boutsikaris playing a slithery CIA Director and James Remar (Dexter) popping up as an industrious ally of Charlie’s.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Seeing as it is claiming The Blacklist‘s time slot (when the James Spader heads into hiatus before moving to Thursdays in February), State of Affairs will be subject to much scrutiny, from viewers and critics. The Heigl Comeback factor should draw some solid sampling/lookee-loos, but stronger subsequent episodes are needed to secure any longevity.

Advertisers Wager NBC’s Katherine Heigl Drama Will Lead Freshman Scripted Series in New TV Season. Katherine Heigl may be a polarizing figure in some circles, but advertisers seem to like her just fine.

A Variety survey of commercial-ratings projections from four major ad buyers finds that NBC’s new drama “State of Affairs” featuring the actress is expected to generate the most commercial viewership among freshman scripted programs in the 2014-15 season in viewers between 18 and 49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers. Only CBS’ “NFL Thursday Night” broadcasts are expected to garner more “C3” ratings, or views of commercials that accompany programs up to three days after they air.

The measure has been the bedrock of how advertisers pay TV networks for commercial time since 2007, as opposed to the more commonly known program ratings.

Ad buyers are also banking on Shonda Rhimes. Her new Thursday-night ABC drama, “How to Get Away With Murder,” is seen as the freshman show with the third-largest “C3” audience, according to the Variety survey.

The comedy with the most potential is Fox’s Sunday-night entry “Mulaney,” featuring comic writer John Mulaney. The show is executive produced by Lorne Michaels.

Variety’s list of the projected top freshman programs for “C3” in the 2014-15 season follows below (Nielsen estimated a single ratings point in the 2013-14 season was equivalent to about 1,269.600, and is expected to revise its estimates upward for the next season):

1) “NFL Thursday Night,” Thursday CBS 4.62
2) “State of Affairs,” Monday, NBC 2.51
3) “How to Get Away With Murder,” Thursday ABC 2.36
4) “Mulaney,” Sunday, Fox 1.99
5) “Gotham,” Monday, Fox 1.93
6) “NCIS: New Orleans,” Tuesday, CBS 1.92
7) “One Big Happy,” Tuesday NBC 1.77
8) “Marry Me,” Tuesday, NBC 1.7
9) “Black-ish,” Wednesday, ABC 1.74
10) “Allegiance,” Thursday NBC 1.73