Shonda Rhimes does not rest on her laurels. With three-hit series from her production company Shondaland, which is currently dominating Thursday nights on ABC, Rhimes likely keeps fairly busy juggling her various commitments to “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005 — present), “Scandal” (2012 — present) and “How To Get Away With Murder” (2014-present). But with “Murder” currently in between seasons, ABC has a Thursday night time slot to fill, and “The Catch,” Shondaland’s latest effort, is the show to fill it.
The cat-and-mouse caper drama, which premiered on March 24, is signature Rhimes. Our strong female lead is Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos), head investigator of a large (and very fancy) private investigation firm in Los Angeles. (Think “Scandal” but with less political intrigue.) Alice is, as is any good Shondaland heroine, a mess in the personal life department and immensely talented at her job. In the pilot’s opening sequence alone, she coolly takes down a would-be art thief with a combination of seductive flirting and a good, hard punch.
There is one case, however, that has Alice and her team stumped: they have yet to catch Mr. X (Peter Krause), an anonymous figure who has stolen a collective $5 million from their clients, sending Alice an email reading, “Are you ready to play?” before each theft. After receiving another of Mr. X’s signature emails, Alice and co. speed off to try to catch him. They are outsmarted, however, by Mr. X, who uses a series of distractions and costume changes to sneak away undetected. Frustrated and dejected, Alice heads home to her fiancé Christopher, who — surprise! — we recognize immediately as the very Mr. X who slipped through her fingers just hours before.
Christopher, as it turns out, is actually a con man named Ben. Christopher/Ben and his fellow con artists are planning to leave town, which is not good news for Alice’s P.I. firm nor for Christopher/Ben, who seems to have genuinely fallen in love with his target. By the time the pilot is only half over, Alice is in the midst of an all-consuming personal and professional mess: her fiancé has left her, leaving not a trace of himself behind. Plus, he has stolen information that will likely bring her entire company down.
“The Catch” has set itself up neatly to weave the find-and-take-down-Christopher/Ben plot with open-and-shut case of the week storylines. It is not a particularly revolutionary formula, but it is fun and will surely allow for more of the topsy-turvy plot twists “The Catch” has already come to rely on. Enos and Krause, meanwhile, are fine, if slightly boring leads. Their chemistry is not off the charts, but they are both good enough actors to make it work. And, it is delightful to watch them shake off their recent television roles for something a bit more glamorous — Enos played homicide detective Sarah Linden on AMC’s “The Killing” (2011 — 2014), while Krause starred as dependable dad Adam Braverman on “Parenthood” (2010 — 2015). If the writers can cut down on the excessive and wearying exposition, they might just have a hit on their hands.
“The Catch” is fun enough to watch as a bit of escapist TV, but do not tune in if you are looking for some gritty, honest storytelling. The drama, for example, ostensibly takes place in Los Angeles, but the city merely functions as a scenic backdrop for the show’s central action. There are plenty of beautiful skyline shots, but, when the show’s characters seem to only inhabit five-star hotels and upscale restaurants, none of the city’s character is actually tangible. It is an imagined Los Angeles — a glamorous and idealized version of the city that, despite its disconnect from reality, suits the show’s style and tone well.
“The Catch” is, after all, set in the kind of fantasy world that only exists in TV shows and romantic comedies. Made entirely of glass and boasting killer views of the city, Alice’s sleek, modern office is a far cry from the dark, drab space that fellow television P.I. Veronica Mars worked in. Alice’s spacious home, meanwhile, is impeccably decorated, and her bedroom, predictably, features a massive walk-in closet. She appears to be dressed each day by a personal stylist (which, of course, she has, thanks to the show’s hair and makeup department), and her glossy, perfectly bouncy hair is straight out of a shampoo commercial. Her car of choice? A Mercedes, naturally.
Like all Shondaland shows, “The Catch” is best enjoyed with a healthy dose of suspended disbelief. After all, the glistening production details of the show’s fantasy world dovetail perfectly with the equally outlandish storylines — and nothing ruins a nice bit of escapist television like picking apart all the little details.