What to Know About "Allegiance," A New Spy Show Premiering Thursday

Yet another espionage thriller hits the airwaves.
What to Know About "Allegiance," A New Spy Show Premiering Thursday
Scott Cohen and Hope Davis star in NBC's Allegiance. Image courtesy of NBC.

Pop quiz: What’s the name of that twisty TV drama centered on a young, government-agency-employed upstart with unparalleled professional brilliance, wildly complicated relationships, and an endearing if glitchy personality?

(A) Homeland; (B) State of Affairs; (C) The Americans.

If you guessed all of the above, you’d be correct—and you’d still be missing one. Beginning February 5, NBC—already home to the CIA thriller State of Affairs and the FBI procedural The Blacklist—brings yet another spy thriller to the small screen with Allegiance (below). Adapted from an Israeli drama, the show stars Scott Cohen and Hope Davis as deactivated KGB operatives living in the US who are unexpectedly brought back into the action when their son, a—say it with me, “brilliant but flawed”—junior CIA analyst, lands on an assignment that could destroy his family’s cover, and all their lives, in the process.

The show has the most DNA in common with The Americans, in which Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play Kremlin-backed spies attempting to balance espionage and raising their kids in 1980s Washington. As TV critic Daniel Fienberg astutely observed, Allegiance could be seen as the story of what happens when those children are all grown up.

That in itself isn’t a terrible premise for a show, but the question remains: Do we really need another spy drama? For every show centered on a profession that by its nature demands secrecy, there are surely a dozen more visible Washington jobs crying out for a glossy Hollywood treatment. Where, for instance, is the sexy twentysomething drama about the cutthroat politics of living in a group house? Or the acerbic workplace comedy about a cynical yet steadily employed group of WMATA escalator-repair technicians? I’d even watch a gladiator-style competition over who can build the most glisteningly fresh Sweetgreen salad.

Yes, cat-and-mouse games and international intrigue will always have their appeal—but with so many maverick agents chasing one another around the airwaves, suddenly all these “outside the box” thinkers seem to be very much inside it.

Allegiance premieres on NBC Thursday, February 5, at 10 PM. Check out the trailer below, then let us know: Will you be watching?

A version of this article appears in the February 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

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