Having already undergone behind-the-scenes and cast changes, ABC’s “The Catch” arrives with something of a “troubled” label affixed to it. Yet the network’s latest drama to fall under the aegis of producer Shonda Rhimes mostly just feels tired, like a TNT caper show that futilely seeks to derive energy from visual gimmicks, like split screens and slo-mo. Based strictly on the premiere, the show is hardly a disaster, but nor does it offer much incentive to see what maze-like corners this cat-and-mouse game will explore.
For fans of “The Killing,” it is rather jarring at first to see Mireille Enos looking so glammed up, far from the drab, pained persona she sported throughout that series. Here, she’s the driving force in a high-class private investigation/security firm — think Olivia Pope, with better judo skills — that thwarts thieves and charlatans, and is currently on the tail of an unidentified con artist who has bedeviled the gumshoes with his elusiveness.
An elaborate sequence that uses Downtown L.A. as a backdrop sees Enos’ Alice Vaughan and her requisite crack team of colleagues try to set up their man, Ben (played by Peter Krause), only to have him cleverly avoid them. And lo and behold, when Alice gets home, who does she find in her shower but her fiancé, who happens to be — wait for it — Ben again.
Jennifer Schuur, who created the show before leaving last summer, still gets credit on a script directed by Julie Anne Robinson, and the pilot snips along briskly enough, exposing Ben’s scam in the opening hour. That doesn’t give Alice much time to get over her pain about being fooled and misled before she must seek to retaliate, setting up a chess match between two formidable adversaries, the wrinkle being that we have already seen them engage in the Shondaland-style, perfume-commercial version of hot sex.
The main problem is that we’ve seen this movie many times before, down to the feds being on Ben’s tail and the suspicions harbored by his partners in crime Margot (Sonya Walker) and Reggie (Alimi Ballard), who can’t help but wonder if he became a bit too attached to Alice for his (and their) own good.
“Are you ready to play?” the promos ask, setting up what ABC clearly hopes will be a sexy, frothy addition to its Thursday lineup, one that can pick up where the fading “How to Get Away With Murder” left off.
Still, even with all those split screens, there’s seldom anything to see here that’s truly compelling, and ABC’s heavy reliance on replicating the Shondaland formula is making it feel, well, formulaic. As a consequence, despite the show’s modest charms, when faced with the more pressing question, “Are you eager to watch?,” the answer is one that “The Catch” pretty well fumbles.