'The Catch': Are Alice and Christopher the New Olivia and Fitz?

Mireille Enos and Peter Krause 'the catch' - H 2016
Courtesy of ABC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series premiere of ABC's The Catch.]

ABC introduced the newest member of Shondaland's TGIT programming block when The Catch took over the 10 p.m. slot previously occupied by How to Get Away With Murder.

The freshman drama, exec produced by Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Murder), centers on Alice (Mireille Enos), a private investigator who is conned by her husband-to-be, Christopher (Peter Krause).

The pilot set up a multi-layered game of cat-and-mouse, with Alice and her team chasing Christopher, who actually seems to have real feelings for his mark; the FBI chasing Alice in a bid to catch Christopher; and Christopher and his actual romantic partner, Margot (Sonya Walger) and the company they work for chasing Alice after she gets the last laugh and drains their bank accounts.

"Everybody chases everybody," showrunner Allan Heinberg (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal) tells THR. "Who the cat is, who the mouse is — we have some dogs coming in! — changes. Everybody is working an angle. Working alliances shift, there are unlikely allies — it's like Scandal in that boundaries will shift."

The series positioned Alice and Christopher as Shondaland's newest central couple — with Heinberg taking great inspiration from Scandal's on-again, off-again couple Olivia (Kerry Washington) and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) as well as Grey's Anatomy's Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey).

To hear him tell it, The Catch will always focus on that central love story, as every character evolves through what he hopes will be a multiple-season run for the series. "It's in the Grey's and Scandal and Murder model — there's a central love story between the two: they are Meredith and Derek, Fitz and Liv," he says. "It's this Romeo and Juliet love story about people who love each other and want to be together — but when they are together, bad things happen. It's the classic doomed romantic story at the center but structurally, we're building it to be more like Scandal."

That means featuring case of the week stories with the larger chess match between Alice and Christopher arcing throughout the series. To that point, The Catch will explore the love triangle set up in the pilot as Christopher juggles his longtime love Margot with his very real feelings for Alice — who happens to be the first mark he's ever fallen for.

"He has a very strict moral code: he won't use guns and only steals from people who can afford to lose money and doesn't victimize the poor — he goes after fat cats and perpetrates victimless crimes. This is the first time he's fallen for a mark," Heinberg says. "He and Margot have been in love for 15 years but it wasn't what he had with Alice. Alice makes him want to be a better person, to imagine a different life. Now he has to figure that out. He's a very soulful and kindhearted crook."  

As it turns out, making Christopher and Alice a couple worth rooting for was part of what helped get The Catch on the air after the drama's considerable changes behind the scenes when the original pilot was picked up. Producers including series creator Jennifer Schuur — whom Heinberg replaced as showrunner — couldn't crack what episode two of The Catch was until the Grey's and Scandal alum suggested making Christopher a character worth rooting for.

"The biggest challenge with the original pilot is that I didn't get that sense, and I had no desire to watch that character live his life," he says. "How do you make someone who does reprehensible things someone you root for? How do you maintain your investment with him over the course of the series? The only way to approach it is to make his love for Alice real and true. She's his north star and compass and he can't veer from it. He adores this woman; she changed his life and I didn't want the audience to question if his feelings were real."

But, like Scandal's Olivia and Fitz, that doesn't mean that Alice and Christopher "won't mistrust or f— each other over," he says. "As all couples do, they withhold information and any relationship has its ups and downs. These two have to be in love and devoted in order for the audience to root for them."

One big obstacle for Alice and Christopher will come when the series introduces "The Benefactor" — the head of the organization that Margot and Christopher work for. "We start uncovering secrets of that side of the business and get really specific," Heinberg says. "We introduce the idea of their benefactor — who fronted the money for these cons and whom they're now in debt to — in episode six and it's one of my favorite actors and someone we've wanted in Shondaland for a long time."

As for the future of the series beyond its 10-episode freshman run, Heinberg ideally wants to maintain a short-run 15-episode series a la Murder and continue to take over the Viola Davis drama's slot when it finishes its run.

What did you think of The Catch? Are you rooting for Alice and Christopher? Sound off in the comments section, below. The Catch airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.