The first scenes of The Catch, the latest drama with the imprimatur of Shonda Rhimes, are undoubtedly there to tell you what to expect: lots of split-screens, sharp editing, smart clothes, and sleek, sexy people (good and bad) doing sleek, sexy things (good and bad). In the opening ten minutes or so private investigator/security consultant/whatever the story needs Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos) stops the theft of an artwork; then she and her team fail to catch mysterious criminal mastermind Mr X (Peter Krause) as he picks up a hard drive with stolen information on it; then she goes home to be met by her venture financier husband-to-be Christopher emerging from the shower. He, of course, is also Mr X, although she doesn’t know it yet.
What she also doesn’t know is that Christopher – real name Ben, possibly – is about to disappear the hell out of her life, as directed by his partner-in-crime-and-love Margot (Sonya Walger), and their mysterious benefactor. And he does so – everything from his clothes to his business are gone without a trace, as are Alice’s life savings. Except… just before he left, he asked Alice to elope. So even though he was conning her, might he also have actually been in love with her, particularly given that Walger plays Margot as thoroughly unlikeable? You know, I think he just might. With which the cat-and-mouse is on: Ben pulling scams, Alice fighting back, both of them trying to stay one step ahead of the other, without ever quite taking romance off the table; the closing scene is a pretty clear indicator that we’re by no means done with the two of them as a couple.
The Catch is hardly rewriting the manual on TV drama, but it all works very well. Mireille Enos is clearly relishing the opportunity to leave the gloom of AMC’s adaptation of The Killing behind her, and Peter Krause invariably strikes me as an enigma-on-legs; he always has something in reserve, something you’re not going to reach, which suits the role well. Their shared chemistry is, from where I was sitting, affectionate rather than sizzlingly hot, but that might not be a bad thing: she’s a woman of a certain age who’s been bruised by love a few times; he’s a con man, deliberately holding himself back so that the mark will come to him. And the supporting cast – although not fully fleshed-out yet – has promise: my guess is that everyone is hiding something, including Alice’s business partner Valerie (Rose Rollins), to be revealed as the season goes on.
The most important thing, though – and I don’t think I can overstate this – is that The Catch is fun. And that’s something which has, latterly, been missing from Shondaland. Admittedly I don’t watch Grey’s – although from a distance I get the distinct impression that teh lulz have been thin on the ground recently – but Scandal is faltering under the weight of its own seriousness, the occasional sparky election episode aside. And How To Get Away With Murder is in no danger of needing a laugh track. The Catch, though, is a little bit Ocean’s, a little bit Thomas Crown, it’s… not quite the cross between White Collar and early Scandal I was hoping for, but nor is it as far away from that as I feared it was going to be. In short, I enjoyed it, and I’m going to keep watching it. We might even review it once things have calmed down a bit.