Whatever else there is to say about “The Catch,” a new series from the Shonda Rhimes machine, it stars Mireille Enos. Everything dopey or weird or undercooked or overdone about the show that premieres Thursday on ABC – giving Rhimes’ “How to Get Away With Murder” a midseason break – is secondary to that happy fact.
Enos, who spent four brilliant seasons in AMC’s “The Killing” as the world’s saddest police detective, is an actress of great intelligence, indelible presence and zero vanity; she let herself look awful in that show, every new worry adding a line to her face. Here she plays Alice Vaughan, a high-powered private investigator with a big L.A. office and spiffy modern digs. On the one hand, it is nice to see her out of “The Killing’s” endless Seattle (actually Vancouver, Canada) rain, running free in the L.A. light and dressed up to go out – what she wears in most any scene would do for the red carpet. On the other hand, she is a thoroughbred yoked to a milk wagon – but she does make the wagon look good.
A spoiler, which isn’t really spoiler at all but part of the premise, is coming. Alice, who is about to marry Christopher (Peter Krause), is on the trail of a certain Mr. X, who has been stealing information from her firm’s clients and selling it back to them. Anyone who cannot guess that her fiance and her foe will turn out to be the same person (actually named Benjamin Jones), well, I am sorry, but you need to watch more television.
The series began with a treatment by British crime novelist Kate Atkinson, whose Jackson Brodie novels were turned into the Jason Isaacs series “Case Histories.” Atkinson shares story credit on the pilot with “Case Histories” producer Helen Gregory; Jennifer Schuur, who has the teleplay credit, was replaced early as show runner by Shondaland veteran Allan Heinberg. Like other Rhimes shows, including “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” it filters a lot of nuttiness through good actors who can make compelling what otherwise might seem absurd.
“The Catch,” whose pilot takes place entirely in the sorts of places where a television executive might live and work, pushes audio-visual sensation – split screens, wipes, freeze frames, music mixed high on the soundtrack – to seem cool and exciting, but it comes off feeling nonsensical. Yet once things start to fall apart for Alice, you do begin to feel for her, to worry, along with her more sensible business partner, Valerie Anderson (Rose Rollins), about her bad decisions. This is largely down to Enos, who has a way of thinking through her lines that undermines their obviousness and a way of letting you see Alice’s pain, even when Alice is not letting anyone see her pain.
Synopses of coming episodes suggest that the show will not surrender everything to the long arc relationship of the at least temporarily separated leads, though their best scenes are with one another; the detectives, including Rollins, will get fresh cases to work weekly, while Ben and his associates – Sonya Walger as the ringleader and Alimi Ballard as Ben’s also more sensible Jiminy Cricket of bad – run their cons elsewhere. That could be a good thing; we'll have to see.