ABC's "The Catch" is a Shondaland series. That brand name is just about all Thursday's flat, thin, unambitious premiere has going for it.
ABC’s new drama “The Catch” premieres at 10PM ET Thursday. It stars Mireille Enos and Peter Krause.
Quick Take: Utterly devoid of substance, ambition or anything approximating an interesting voice, “The Catch” represents the laziest launch of the 2015-16 season. Thursday’s premiere makes no attempt to craft an engaging narrative or develop compelling characters; it bets the house on the idea that the Shondaland brand and a superficial resemblance to Shondaland series like “Scandal” will be enough to attract viewers.
The Premise: Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos) is a brilliant, attractive private investigator who helps high-profile clients thwart cons, thefts, and security breaches. She is the best in the world at what she does, but she ultimately encounters her kryptonite: the man she knows as Christopher Hall (Peter Krause).
Blinded by love, Alice fails to recognize the startling truth about Hall: he is actually Benjamin Jones, a con artist part of an organization led by his lover Margot Bishop (Sonya Walger) and featuring Reginald (Alimi Ballard). His plan was to court Alice as a means of gaining access to valuable information about one of her clients — and then use that information to execute a lucrative swindle.
As she did not remotely suspect Jones’ duplicity, she and her team are caught completely off-guard when he vanishes, taking her money and client information in the process.
Once they put the pieces together, the race is on to thwart Jones’ effort — and ultimately bring him in. In the meantime, Alice and her business partner will also have to deal with the threat of interference from FBI Agent Jules Dao (Jacky Ido), who has been attempting to identify, locate and arrest Benjamin for years.
What Works: Typical of a Shondaland series, the key action scenes are slickly executed. The pace is fast.
The effort is of the excessively phoned-in variety, but Peter Krause still projects natural charm and charisma. A series can do far worse for a leading man.
Obscured in “The Killing,” Mireille Enos’ beauty shines through on “The Catch” thanks to a combination of makeup, a more flattering wardrobe and brighter scenery.
What Does Not: “The Catch” is a game of a tell rather than show.
It tells us Alice is a brilliant investigator and actually opens with her taking down a would-be thief at an art gallery. It does not, however, provide any insight into her process. What does she do that other private investigators cannot do? How has she managed to court so many high-profile clients?
The pilot, similarly, neglects to illustrate why the notion of Alice falling in love is so uncharacteristic. Characters express their shock at Alice planning a wedding and looking happy, but nothing about her behavior suggests she’s too consumed with work to establish meaningful relationships. Everything about her wide, naive smile suggests she is precisely someone who would let love get in the way of her work.
The premise consequently falls flat. If we don’t understand what makes her so good, it is hard to be that surprised when she becomes the victim of a con. And if we don’t see what makes her so inherently closed off to love, it has hard to be surprised that she fell in love — and then let that love blind her to the true nature of her lover.
We’re left with a character that is nothing more than a device.
The light, expositional characterization provided for Alice is incredibly deep, however, in comparison to what is offered for the other characters. Christopher/Benjamin is presented as a charming con man who seems to have developed some real feelings for his mark. There is no additional development beyond the cliche; any resonance comes exclusively from Krause’s charisma.
Considering how integral and popular the supporting characters are on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and even “How To Get Away With Murder,” it is extremely shocking — and extremely disappointing — that so little attention is paid to the additional characters on “The Catch.” We barely learn any facts about the characters (the closest we get is learning that one character was a lawyer who worked with Anonymous; it explains why she is both the voice of legal reason and a skilled hacker), and we learn even less about their personalities and emotions.
Valerie (Rose Rollins) is supposed to be Alice’s *partner* in the firm; should she really be presented as random window-dressing?
Thursday’s premiere also fails to achieve the most important objective for a pilot episode: setting the stage for the future. Yes, we know the “sexiest game of cat-and-mouse” will play out as Team Alice continues to pursue Team Benjamin, but we have no sense of what that will entail on a weekly basis.
We also have no sense of the extent to which procedural elements — Alice investigating a “case of the week” for other clients — will factor into future broadcasts.
On the one hand, a procedural component would obviously help make the overarching storyline more sustainable. The less directly “The Catch” tackles Alice vs. Benjamin within each episode, the longer it can preserve interest.
On the other hand, the premiere positions the cases as pure throwaway — the search for Benjamin is all that matters. How can it then expect us to care about those other cases?
ABC’s “The Catch” premieres at 10PM ET on Thursday, March 24. It leads out of fellow Shondaland series “Scandal.”