Friday, March 18, 2016

ABC's The Catch is a Fun, Fairly Entertaining Take on the Classic Cat-and-Mouse Story

(Photo credit: ABC)

Original Airdate: March 24, 2016

If you've ever seen the movie Catch Me if You Can, you know exactly how fun and entertaining movies about cat and mouse chases can be. Even if you've never seen that particular film, perhaps you enjoy the spy or heist genres — the one where two intelligent people (or groups of people) continue to have near-misses with one another. The criminal creatively evades the law, while the law turns the corner at just the wrong time. It's fun to watch Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio play that game for two hours in a movie. But how would that same game and mystery translate to a scripted cable drama? Enter: The Catch, a show executive produced by reigning queen of ABC, Shonda Rhimes. And after seeing the pilot episode, I can tell you that this show feels like a combination between a fun spy thriller and a soapy drama. In short, it's pretty much all you would expect from a Shondaland series.

Whether or not The Catch is a success is entirely dependent on what happens in the episodes following the pilot. Without spoiling too much, let me discuss exactly what the first episode did well, and what it needs to avoid in order to become a success for ABC. The plot of the episode is fairly simple, yet definitely promises to become more convoluted as the series wears on. Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos) is a private investigator in Los Angeles. She's whip-smart, always ten steps ahead of everyone else, a little romantically jaded, and... well, pretty much the embodiment of every heroine on television these days. Alice is tough, but also a very good friend. The most important thing though is that she's really, really good at what she does. And everyone knows that. Which makes the fact that the pilot (and this isn't a spoiler because it was in the trailers, people) focuses on the betrayal of her fiance, Christopher Hall (Peter Krause) all the more baffling.

I'll pause here to note that this is one of the few things I didn't care for in the pilot. I understand that love blinds characters and that they cannot be entirely and completely unbiased when it comes to how they view the people they care about. But it seems especially odd that Alice gets played as brutally as she does by Christopher and that — minor spoiler alert here — a team that is supposed to be as good as Alice's is manages to also get played by him. I will talk about Alice's response to Christopher's betrayal a little bit later on, because I think the show definitely handled that well. I know that what makes for fun television — and a fun game of cat and mouse — is the fact that someone has to be played. But it kind of stinks that it usually seems to be the woman. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that Alice gets conned, the way the show handles her con is good.

The Catch's pilot is really fun, for the most part, including the way that it's shot. Split screens are utilized in order to give the entire episode the energy and pacing of a spy or heist movie. From the opening sequence, you know that this show will be dramatic, but in the way that makes it engaging and fun, rather than heavy. That's not to say that this show can't or won't contain serious elements or heavy subject matter down the line, but out of all of the Shondaland shows on television currently, this feels like it will be the fun younger sister to Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder and Grey's Anatomy. And that is definitely a good thing.

I think one of the assets of being the "fun show" is that the pacing is a lot easier to write, and I have to commend the show for the excellent pacing of the pilot. There were rarely any scenes that dragged, and it felt a lot like another ABC show in that regard — Quantico. Both shows integrate flashbacks and present-day narratives, but The Catch didn't feel like it was bogged down in the past. The focus was primarily on the characters in the present and how their pasts brought them to where they are.

(Photo credit: ABC)

Another asset of the pilot? Its cast. Mireille Enos does a great job of bringing to life Alice, a character who — on paper — is a fairly standard heroine. But the job of a great actor is to elevate the material they're given. And Enos definitely does that. She brings a certain charm and ease to the character that is not only refreshing, but also effortless. And she even gets the opportunity to flex her witty rapport and delivery (there's a scene that involves Alice trying to avoid wedding cake testing which is pretty cute). Not only is she believable, but Alice is also strong, in spite of the fact that life knocks her down.

Enos delivers a solid performance as a woman betrayed, progressing through stages of grief and disbelief, before finally settling on anger and determination as her driving emotions. I won't spoil how, when, or what Alice learns about Christopher's identity, but suffice it to say that once she processes, she's ready to start swinging and fighting. And in spite of the fact that it's odd for her to spend most of the episode being conned, it's really refreshing that the show doesn't allow her to stay a victim for very long. Because she's a woman, I think that the tendency with most showrunners would be to make her even more vulnerable — to deconstruct her character into this desperate, sad, pathetic victim. But that's not what The Catch does, and it probably has to do with how our pop culture is starting to see women as more than just damsels in distress, and it probably has to do with the fact that Shonda Rhimes has her hand in the show, too.

Either way, it's nice to see Enos embody a character who — from the very beginning — is a lot more than she appears to be.

(Photo credit: ABC)

Speaking of a lot more than they appear to be, Peter Krause is perfect in the role of Christopher, and I look forward to more of him throughout the series. He has this perfect blend of charm, charisma, and likability that doesn't make him appear creepy or domineering. Everything Krause does oozes sincerity... which is ironic, given the fact that he's playing a con man. And yet that's precisely why Krause is so great in this role — he's playing exactly what The Catch intends: an unsuspecting, good guy who turns out to be shiftier than we want to believe. The best thing about Krause is that he's an actor who doesn't have to say a lot to deliver a lot of emotional resonance. He has an extremely expressive face, and can transition from one emotion to another very rapidly and with little to no effort. There's not a lot malicious about him (or Christopher, at this point), and what the show allows is for Christopher to not be bogged down with dialogue or exposition, but give Krause the opportunity to convey pages worth of emotions in a simple smirk or stare out of a window.

Overall, The Catch isn't the kind of show that will shock and awe you too much with its pilot. It's fairly predictable and portions of it are too exposition-filled for my liking. But what made the episode good for me was the fact that in spite of its predictability, it was still fun. If you watch the pilot and take nothing else away from it, I guarantee that you'll walk away thinking about how you really want to rent Ocean's Eleven or Catch Me if You Can soon.

Memorable moments:
  • "She's in love." "Why is that sad?" "Because it never lasts."
  • The entrance for Christopher features a beautiful, expensive car and Pitbull's "Fireball."
  • "I believe in the fine institution of a well-tailored garment, no matter what the occasion."
  • In the pilot episode, you will know Christopher by three different names. 
  • An important art piece both bookends the episode.
  • "He never asks for anything. So you give him everything."
  • "I am singlehandedly setting back the race in this outfit."
  • Sometimes redheads have a difficult time pulling off the color red, but there is one scene in which Mireille Enos rocks a bright red dress and a dark, bold red lip. It's gorgeous.
  • Rose Rollins plays Valerie Anderson, Alice's partner at her private investigator firm and her best friend. I look forward to learning more about her character because she seems like she has an interesting history.
  • Reggie is already a great character.
  • ABC continues to have the best music in its shows.
The Catch premieres Thursday, March 24 at 10|9c on ABC as a part of the #TGIT line-up.


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