It’s almost impossible to discern exactly what ABC’s “The Catch” will look like week to week, and there’s always a little reason to be suspicious when a network only makes one episode available for review. So, if the show is a garbage fire in a couple weeks, don’t blame me. Consider this only a review of the first episode, airing tomorrow night, March 24th, at 10/9c.
Despite a few directorial errors—a stunning over-reliance on pop music, for example (please stop with the Pitbull), and a too-eager-to-please hyperactive editing style—there’s something engaging about “The Catch.” It’s largely due to the overwhelming charisma of its two leads, but there’s also just something witty about the set-up and the promise of a cat-and-mouse game in which the two roles are constantly being reversed. At its best, “The Catch” is reminiscent of couple-driven modern shows like “Castle” and “Bones”—programs that zip by on witty banter and clever plotting. At its worst, it sometimes feels a little too eager to please and I’m really not clear on what it will be like to week to week. We’ll find out together.
Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos) is a top-notch private investigator, the kind of woman that art houses hire for private security and to foil the potential theft of their most valuable paintings. She’s a part of a team co-managed by Valerie Anderson (Rose Rollins); the two give a notably interesting female voice to “The Catch,” along with its pilot having been written and directed by women (Julie Anne Robinson and Kate Atkinson & Jennifer Schuur, respectively). (Of course, the show was also executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, which seems to be a law for drama on ABC nowadays.) Anderson/Vaughn Investigations employs the talents of the rule-breaking Danny Yoon (Jay Hayden) and hacker Sophie Novak (Elvy Yost) to keep most of the bad guys at bay, but one mysterious Mr. X, who has been taunting them before, committing crimes like Babe Ruth calling his shots, has eluded capture.
Alice also has a fiancé, the smooth-talking and suave Benjamin Jones (Peter Krause), who we learn in the first few scenes happens to also be Mr. X. Sadly, Alice learns too late, as Ben cons her out of her life savings and disappears. It turns out that her dream man was always playing her to get closer to the privileged information at her company, and he’s working with a team, including mastermind Margot Bishop (Sonya Walger) and smooth-talking Reggie Lennox (Alimi Ballard). Finally, FBI Agent Jules Dao (Jacky Ido) starts sniffing around, getting closer to the trail of Ben, someone he’s been hunting for years.
Of course, while Alice has always been a mark for his team, Ben started to have feelings for her. You can see it in his eyes. In the way he drops hints that something is going down. In the way he tries to escape with her before her heart breaks. But, eventually, he gets what he needs and flees, and she learns she’s been scammed in a series of heartbreaking scenes. Enos is very good at swinging from happiness to unimaginable betrayal to the emotion that will drive the show: revenge.
While the supporting cast seems more than competent, this is a show that comes down to the way Enos and Krause, two longtime TV veterans, play off each other. They have strong chemistry together but are also careful to carve out characters of their own. At first, Alice feels like such a different character from the one that Enos played on “The Killing” that I thought she was miscast. Not by the end. The premiere asks a lot of her emotionally, and she handles the arc with ease. Krause has been front and center on beloved shows like “Six Feet Under” and “Parenthood,” proven he’s more than capable of carrying a drama, and this one looks like it might give him a chance to be a bit more playful and charismatic, not unlike Nathan Fillion on “Castle.”
Again, “The Catch” sometimes feels a bit desperate—"Why use one split screen when we can use six?"—but the first episode undeniably zips by, leaving me curious where it goes from here. And as I’ve said before, and will likely say again, that’s really the only test that matters when it comes to a pilot—will you watch another one? Most people who get to the end of “The Catch” are likely to answer yes.