March 24, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Catch”


THE CATCH:  Thursday 10PM on ABC – If Nothing Else Is On…

Not much remains of the original pilot for ABC and ShondaLand’s THE CATCH, beyond its basic premise and some of the cast.  Original series creator Jennifer Schuur has been discarded in favor of showrunner Alan Heinberg, a ShondaLand veteran (Schuur retains a script credit on the retooled pilot, with the story credited to Executive Producer Kate Atkinson & Co-Producer Helen Gregory), and the tone has been significantly glammed up, alongside an overhaul of plot points and cast members.  All of this, of course, is fun inside baseball, but of little meaning to viewers, who are likely to see the original pilot only if it shows up as a Blu-Ray special feature at some point. What matters is whether this major surgery worked.

Not enough, is the answer.  The reboot did address one of the major problems with the first version, which is that its tone was at war with itself.  The concept of The Catch suggests a To Catch A Thief-era Hitchcock romp.  Brilliant investigator Alice Vaughn (Mireille Enos, now almost unrecognizable from her drab incarnation on The Killing)–originally an insurance adjuster and now co-head of an elite private detective agency–specializes in bringing down con artists and hackers, so imagine the shock when she discovers that she’s been the one conned and hacked, the victim of her supposed fiance, Benjamin Jones (a recast Peter Krause), who with his lover/partner Margot (Sonya Walger, also recast) has taken her for all her money and also penetrated the security defenses of her clients.  With barely a pause for depressoin, Alice decides she’s going to track Ben down and put him away.  If a story like that isn’t frothy and charming, it isn’t much, and the initial Catch, perhaps trying to fit into the world of Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, tried to have dark underpinnings, with hints about a troubled backstory for Alice.  In addition, the show clearly traded up when it landed Krause and Walger for the other leads.  (Additional regular characters, mostly fellow workers at Alice’s agency, make little impression in either version of the pilot.)

Even as a lighthearted caper, though, The Catch makes so little sense that it’s tough to enjoy.  Characters repeatedly do ridiculous things, like handing secrets over to Ben when he’s wearing a disguise so thin it makes the wigs on The Americans seem like CG motion capture.  Ben himself, we’re expected to believe, although fully aware of what his latest mark does for a living, decides to hang around in LA and even make clandestine visits to Alice’s house when she’s away.  (Despite these brazen maneuvers, supposedly he’s never been photographed by any security system.)  The script tries to explain this away by suggesting the presence of some menacing and as-yet unseen person who is owed by Ben and Margot, as well as hints of Ben having lingering feelings for Alice, but we need the characters in a story like this to at least appear to be smart, and here nobody is.  That includes Alice who, once we get past the curiosity factor of seeing Enos accent the lighter side of her talent, is sort of a dolt.

The other thing a story like The Catch needs is finesse, and that’s in short supply.  Shonda Rhimes, the show’s godmother, is a titanic TV presence whose strength is in deliberate, almost operatic overstatement, often expressed in lengthy, borderline-crazy monologues for her leads.  That’s the opposite of the tone required here, and instead the writing feels ham-handedly on the nose.  Pilot director Julie Anne Robiinson also doesn’t provide any visual panache beyond banal montage sequences.

Worst of all, while The Catch might have enough material to be fun over the length of a 2-hour movie, it’s almost impossible to imagine how it can sustain over even a shortened midseason episode order, let alone a multi-season run.  Ben can’t constantly almost but not quite be caught by Alice without Alice losing all credibility as an investigator and the whole enterprise becoming repetitive.  If the idea is to make the show a procedural with bits and pieces of the Ben plot scattered throughout, there’s little foundation for that here. The Catch, which is inheriting a much diminished lead-in from Scandal than How To Get Away With Murder had last year, feels in the end as though viewers are going to find it far too easy to let go.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."