February 25, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Whiskey Cavalier”



ABC capped Oscar Night with a bit of dessert, very much a trifle:  a “sneak preview” of WHISKEY CAVALIER, which will officially premiere on Wednesday night with the same episode.  The genre is Romantic Intrigue Lite, very much in the tradition of Charade, one of the classics of director Stanley Donen (whose weekend death was apparently too late to be included in the Oscars’ In Memoriam presentation, but that’s another story).

The premise isn’t so much complex as busy.  FBI agent Will Chase (Scott Foley)–the series title is his initialed code name–is assigned to recover genius hacker Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams) from custody in Russia, only to have CIA agent Frankie Trowbridge (Lauren Cohan) grab Edgar for her own Agency, because he has secret files with the names of CIA operatives.  Will is stalwart and openhearted, recovering from a recent breakup, and Frankie is sultry but has an emotional coldness that masks deep sorrow within.  The two of them cross Europe, constantly doublecrossing each other for possession of Edgar and his files  Will has two best Bureau friends, profiler Susan Sampson (Ana Ortiz), and Ray Price (Josh Hopkins), who it turns out had cuckolded Will; Frankie’s back-up is Jai Datta (Vir Das).  By the end of the hour, Edgar has been revealed as a good guy who had only taken the CIA files to prevent a mole from selling them, and everybody has worked together so well that they’ve been put on a special inter-agency task force.  Think the final season of Quantico, but as a rom-com.

A show like this is much more about charm than substance.  Series creator David Hemingson was a writer/producer of The Catch, which fumbled repeatedly trying to find the right mix of action and comic warmth, but Whiskey Cavalier is much more promising in its early going.  Uber-Executive Producer Bill Lawrence is an expert at ensemble comedy, and both Foley and Hopkins did stints on his sitcoms Scrubs and Cougar Town, while Cohan seems delighted by the chance to be tossing repartee rather than sharp objects at the skulls of zombies.  If everyone’s role seems a bit constrained, including Williams as the fast-talking hacker out of the Eddie Murphy playbook, that allows viewers to get comfortable with them quickly, and Lawrence’s other series have allowed their characters to grow over time.

The pilot has been briskly directed by Peter Atencio, with effective use of actual European locations, and if the dialogue is sometimes less witty than words inserted in the places where wit should be, the performers put the lines across with another aplomb to get the idea across.  Despite the fraught international politics of the moment, Whiskey Cavalier has no interest in making a statement about current events, or in exploring the moral ambiguity of the spy business.  It simply wants to provide an hour of light entertainment, and has the potential to do just that.



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."