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When a series creator gets powerful enough to essentially run a network, like Shonda Rhimes does with ABC (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder), every person that creator touches then is somehow “connected,” or “anointed” to do shows in the same vein. A factory is born.
But with so many fans complaining about the lack of joy coming from Scandal and Grey’s, when does the magic wear off in Shondaland? Is it when she’s the executive producer of the epically boring, troubled pilot The Catch, which lands with a thud this Thursday on ABC’s schedule? Rhimes‘ fingerprints and/or halo are the last interesting bits associated with The Catch, really. It’s a laborious, cliched bit of retread television that has already switched out creator Jennifer Schuur (who produced some Hannibal and Hostages episodes before creating this, which must not have met the Shondaland standard) and put Allan Heinberg (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) in charge. Those behind-the-scenes machinations seem to have resulted in a glossy bit of muck that everybody hopes will be all right eventually because, hey, it’s Shondaland.
AIR DATE Mar 24, 2016
But is it?
Nobody’s doubting that Rhimes can whip up the kind of sexy, crazy froth that network audiences love, but are her minions capable of keeping up the legacy or are we really heading toward Shamblesland?
Because that’s what The Catch is. And it’s a pilot that seemed so unlikely to make it to market in the first place, were it not for the Rhimes reason. Before getting fired, ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee, who touted all of Rhimes‘ work as anyone in his position would, eagerly showed a clip of The Catch to critics at the winter Television Critics Association press tour and, despite his enthusiasm, the clip (the same overly stylized and predictable music video that appears in the pilot), sets up the main stakes in all of its imperfection: Mireille Enos, free from the bulky sweaters and dour rain of The Killing, is now a totally glammed-up private detective named Alice Vaughan, half of Anderson-Vaughan Investigations, along with fellow principal Valerie Anderson (Rose Rollins).
Glaringly pale Alice and luminous African-American Valerie would have made a great couple; they have the easy back-and-forth that failed lovers turned friends have. But that’s not really a thing that exists outside of my own hopes and wishes. If the rest of the episodes come back to this, even by accident, give a holler.
Anyway, Alice, having nailed an art thief within the first couple of minutes of the pilot, now is hot on the trail of Mr. X, a high-stakes player who is stealing from clients that Anderson-Vaughan is supposed to be protecting. When we see Mr. X in the build-up, played by Peter Krause (Parenthood), you don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to know what’s coming next. Drats, Mr. X eludes Alice by inches! And then, when Alice gets home to tell her perfect venture capitalist fiance Christopher about her day while he’s in the shower (duh, it’s Shondaland!) … well, you already know that Christopher is Mr. X.
It’s like a neon semi-trailer truck barreling down the freeway, with little neon arrows on top, pointing out the obvious. In fact, it’s so obvious, even Lee couldn’t enthusiastically applaud the “twist” when he showed it to critics.
What The Catch really needs is, well, some Shonda Rhimes. Actual Shonda Rhimes, not, “I’m executive producing this thing from a distance with my magical name” Shonda Rhimes.
Anyway, back to the inert plot: So Christopher is really named Ben and he’s wanted by the FBI and has been doing this con for ages, across the world, and Ben is really doing it all for Margot (Sonya Walger), who not only runs his shady organization but also is Ben’s mistress.
Maybe you’re supposed to be shocked by that, but hey — it’s Shondaland!, after all, and pretending to be someone’s fiance to fleece them and then coming home to another totally hot person is to be expected. First Ben and Alice have sex, like in a video, then Ben goes back to his other woman and says, “I got all of her money and all of the details we need.” And Ben kisses Margot, deviously.
Yeah, but Ben kinda really does loves Alice, which if you think about it (don’t) might actually be the hook to the series. You can tell she was more than just a con (maybe from the sustained close-ups on his face while he looks off into the distance?). To prove he still loves Alice, Ben steals a painting for her — a “twist” so painfully obvious it’s like the neon truck with arrows on it rammed into another neon truck on the freeway and that truck is now in the back of the other one and they are both glowing green and red and yellow on top of each other and racing down the freeway to Obviousville.
Look, this is a pilot in which, before the end, Ben is at a party about to fleece a tech genius who thinks that Ben is someone in the same field, only more famous, and shares his pre-IPO big idea with Ben by saying, and I kid you not, “Can I show you the specs?” and then hilariously holds out — wait for it — a thumb drive containing this big idea (a device that magically purifies salt water). Spoiler — Ben steals it.
Had Ben said, “Why would you be stupid enough to put this on a thumb drive!” with veins in his forehead popping out, I would DVR the second episode, thinking there is hope. Alas, that didn’t happen. But Ben does manage to disappear just when Alice shows up to bust him.
Perhaps the bigger question is: Where does this show disappear to next week? If Alice knows Mr. X is Christopher/Ben, are we supposed to watch Enos chase down Krause and try to “catch” him for 22 episodes over five seasons?
Is there a totally different and better show to come next week?
Maybe — probably — there’s not a show here. This pilot is a disaster. Maybe ABC patched it up, badly, because — it’s Shondaland! — they figured the problems in the writing would be obscured by the soap, and, well, if you’ve seen the other Rhimes shows on ABC, are the viewers really super worried about plotting?
Maybe that was the thinking that got The Catch on the air.
Or maybe there was no thinking at all.
Studio: ABC Studios
Cast: Mireille Enos, Peter Krause
Based on the book by: Kate Atkinson
Creator: Jennifer Schuur
Showrunner: Allan Heinberg
Airs: Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT (ABC).
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