Successful women with complicated love lives are a Shonda Rhimes specialty.
On “Scandal,” there’s a powerful political fixer with a steamy on-again-off-again romance with the POTUS, while a brilliant widowed surgeon and mother struggles to find love again a la “Grey’s Anatomy.” And don’t forget about the domineering defense attorney whose courtship with a cop on “How To Get Away With Murder” is riddled with dead bodies — including those of their spouses.
So it only makes sense that Rhimes’ sexy and fun new drama “The Catch” would follow Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos, “The Killing”), a savvy private investigator unwittingly engaged to a very criminally cunning conman (Peter Krause, “Parenthood”) that she and her team have been doggedly pursuing. Alice falls in love with Christopher, a debonair venture capitalist, but by the time she realizes his name, company and their relationship are a ruse, he’s long gone and so is her $1.4 million life’s savings and client confidentiality. It’s around that same time that it also occurs to Alice and her team that Christopher, whose real name is Ben, is their mystery marauder.
But Ben’s disappearing act isn’t emotionally easy and as viewers will find out when “The Catch” premieres Thursday night, this handsome grifter has deeper feelings for Alice than he should. Making matters more complicated, Ben isn’t working solo and when his crew — boss and girlfriend Margot (Sonya Walger, “Lost”) and henchman Reggie (Alimi Ballard, “Numb3rs”) — starts to figure out how much Ben cares for Alice, their working relationship grows increasingly tense.
As for Alice, she’s got her bestie and business partner Valerie (Rose Rollins, “Mission: Impossible III”) and employees Danny (Jay Hayden) and Sophie (Elvy Yost) to keep her focused. Shortly after Ben vanishes, FBI agent Jules Dao (Jacky Ido, “Taxi Brooklyn”) begins asking questions, but Alice is too proud and self-invested to accept Dao’s outstretched hand of the law.
This is personal for Alice, after all, and she will not rest until she can figure out a way to get back her money and secure her firm’s future, making Alice a strong and sympathetic heroine viewers can get behind. Enos truly shines as Alice and creates a character who is just as vulnerable as she is ambitious. She looks like a dolled-up Meredith Grey but acts like Olivia Pope.
Alice’s friendship with Valerie has the makings of something special and is reminiscent of the tight-knit bond between Meredith and Cristina on “Grey’s Anatomy” and Olivia and Abby on “Scandal.” The contentious back-and-forth between Ben and Reggie also is full of dramatic potential.
That said, the real head turner is the connection between Alice and Ben. What starts off as a lusty and dewy-eyed dance between lovers quickly turns into a taut game of cat and mouse more titillating than the pair’s pending nuptials. Enos and Krause have palpable chemistry and if the writers are smart — Rhimes is an executive producer on “The Catch” and not one of its scribes — they will tap into that sexual tension and come up with ways to bring these two together every time they can. Think more “Out of Sight” than “War of the Roses.”
This, of course, won’t be easy, especially given the case-of-the-week format the show intends to pursue. Fleshing out the ancillary characters so that they are more than the sum of their skills will also be a challenge.
But with Enos and Krause as the leads and “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Sex and the City” alum Allan Heinberg serving as showrunner, Rhimes’ latest venture has just the DNA it needs to be a hit. If the playful pilot is any indication, the lineup’s already established Thursday-night audience is in for a treat.
Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer and TV critic.
Premieres 10 p.m. Thursday
ABC (Channel 7)