Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 February, 2011, 12:00am

Most of us have a secret or two we keep under lock and key; an addic- tion to online shopping, perhaps, or a crush on Ricky Gervais, or an account in the Cayman Islands. But a full-blown double life is the stuff of fantasy, or, in other words, television.

The characters within may operate under aliases but there's no mistaking the identity of Covert Affairs (Diva Universal; Thursdays at 9pm) - a romping spy drama that gives those secret agent stereotypes a great work-up. The series opening lays it on thick, with a steamy seduction on the beach, a polygraph-aided interrogation and, just so we're clear spies have the most fun, agents jumping out of a plane.

At the centre of the action is Annie Walker (Piper Perabo; Coyote Ugly), a CIA recruit who is suddenly plucked from 'the farm' (the agency sobriquet for training camp) and put into the field to bring in a Russian (talk about old-school stereotypes) defector. A polyglot, Walker assumes her language skills fast-tracked her into the new job, at the Domestic Protection Division at Langley; but an old tryst with a rogue agent includes her in an inter-agency cat-and-mouse game.

Covert Affairs touches on complex political tussles that get murkier with each clearance level, but not enough to take away from the fun stuff that happens on the ground. It's sort of a high-heeled, sun-screened version of Burn Notice. Perabo, who received a comeback nod at the Golden Globes, a best-actress nomination, gives the otherwise objectified role of the 'sexy female agent' a heart and fallibility that make Walker a believable character.

Poh's Kitchen (TLC; Mondays and Tuesdays at 7pm) also features a host with a double life. Malaysian-born Australian Poh Ling Yeow (above) is a successful artist who found a second career in TV chef-dom after making it to the finals of MasterChef Australia.

Poh's Kitchen pairs the painter-cum-cook's bubbly personality with the expertise of guest chefs. With a focus on Australian, French, Thai and Malaysian dishes and recipes, each episode sees Poh and a professional cooking side by side, usually with a little flirting thrown into the mix. Neil Perry, David Thompson and Emmanuel Mollois are among the chefs who fall under her spell.

Later in the series, Poh heads to Malaysia on a three-week trip to find out about her lineage and the traditional dishes of her country of birth. There, she banters with Straits-Chinese chefs Amy Koh and Florence Tan and fills in the holes in her knowledge of Nyonya cuisine.