Shonda Rhimes is no stranger to mixing business with pleasure on the small screen — at this point, one could call her an authority on the subject. The ABC-based superproducer’s trinity of sleek, soapy dramas – “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away With Murder” — all feature high-powered, fiercely intelligent women, for whom resolving clients’ sometimes ethically murky predicaments is child’s play compared to taking on their own, messy personal affairs.
Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos), the steely heart of her new ABC show “The Catch” (premiering Thursday night at 10), fits snugly into the same mold as Rhimes’s past heroines. A private investigator and security expert catering to the business elite, she’s a force to be reckoned with on the job, foiling all manner of thieves and con artists without so much as breaking a sweat, despite possessing fighting skills that are also, predictably, top-notch. And yet, like Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating before her, Alice also turns out to have a very unfortunate blind spot.
That would be the dashing, duplicitous Christopher (Peter Krause, a long way from “Parenthood”), Alice’s handsome fiancé who seems too good to be true because, well, he is. On the eve of their wedding, the groom-to-be absconds with Alice’s life savings, taking a whole lot of confidential client information with him. Shocked into turning her honed skill-set on her own love life for the first time, Alice quickly realizes she’s been both jilted and conned by the very criminal her firm has been struggling to catch: a slippery mastermind they’d previously known only as Mr. X.
The take-no-prisoners game of cat and mouse between Alice and Christopher (real name: Ben) that kicks into high-gear serves as the show’s main thrust — and its central attraction, given how perfectly cast Enos and Krause are in the lead roles. The former, so despondent throughout AMC’s rain-soaked police drama “The Killing,” is near miraculous in the way she makes Alice’s lightning-fast transition from wounded to wrathful feel not only natural but earned. The part is a much lighter role for her, and the actress, sporting slinky dresses and a seductive smile, plays it with conviction. And Krause, as a charismatic cad with lingering feelings for Alice, makes a good case for this chase’s continuation. Employing just the right blend of suavity and sentiment, Krause’s depiction of Christopher/Ben/Mr. X suggests a scalawag cut from Thomas Crown’s designer cloth.
The other actors are all serviceable if badly served by the pilot, which favors intensifying the charge between Alice and Christopher over establishing what roles their respective colleagues will occupy (one is a lawyer with oddly impeccable hacking skills, another is a cold-hearted con artist none too happy about Christopher’s inability to break away from Alice cleanly). And though the series may flesh them out in subsequent episodes, which will likely lean more into a case-of-the-week structure familiar to the Shondaland crowd, “The Catch” seems to have been both conceived and executed as a two-hander.
Given the show’s magnetic leads, and their unusual attract-and-repel dynamic, that’s a good thing. The pilot is a slick, constantly entertaining hour of programming, directed by Julie Anne Robinson with hell-for-premium-leather pacing and a surplus of stylized, split-screen transitions. From the outset, “The Catch” is a lighter and frothier concoction than Rhimes’s other shows, filled with fun, rat-a-tat banter and fast-moving heist sequences set to toe-tapping pop songs.
It remains to be seen how the show’s gloss and glamour, paired with a palpable tension between its leads that’s fueled as much by ardor as acrimony, will hold up as the show’s procedural element comes into play. The pilot, moving swiftly and focusing almost exclusively on Alice’s newly galvanized pursuit of Mr. X, leaves precious few clues about how “The Catch” will function as a week-to-week series. Still, with Rhimes on board as a producer, and Shondaland vet Allan Heinberg serving as showrunner, no one’s questioning that the series is in capable hands. And as far as introductions go, this one’s polished and playful enough to warrant a more extensive investigation.
Starring Mireille Enos, Peter Krause. On ABC, Thursday at 10 p.m.