Roush Review: ‘The Catch’ Plays a Sexy Shondaland Game

The Catch - Peter Krause and Mireille Enos
Richard Cartwright/ABC

Having watched the wheels come off the How to Get Away With Murder crazy train this season, can’t say I was all that eager to strap myself back in for another Shondaland joy ride of super-stylized, heavy-breathing intrigue.

But there’s no denying that The Catch has Shonda Rhimes’s brand of high-gloss caper fantasy down to a perhaps too exact science. The swank Anderson/Vaughan Investigations office is basically Scandal‘s OPA after a fabulous L.A. makeover. Its boss lady, glam private-eye goddess Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos, who’s shaken off that gloomy The Killing funk with a vengeance), could match Olivia Pope gown for gown, glower for glower. Naturally, her taste in gorgeous men is just as troublesome.

And there’s the hook. First seen taking down an impossibly handsome art thief with impressive karate moves in her evening wear—”This is the fun part,” she coos—Alice is any guy’s ideal of a tough gal, whose prickly exterior masks a girly girl’s need to be loved. She could be Meredith Grey’s crime-solving dream alter ego.

By the time we meet Alice, she has already found her sleek and dreamy Mr. Right (Parenthood‘s Peter Krause, playing against type), but we quickly realize this passionate prince is a perp, an elite “Mr. X” master criminal playing a long con, deflating Alice’s pornographically perfect wonderland of breathtaking architecture and high fashion with a classically preposterous ditch-and-swindle gambit.

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Let the games begin in a breezily escapist hour whose early catchphrase is, “Are you ready to play?” With snazzy split-screen editing and the usual relentless soundtrack, The Catch is breathless from the get-go, which might divert you from noticing its brainlessness. It can be fun to watch, or at least to look at, and Enos is clearly having the time of her life, tossing her lustrous hair and shimmying her designer-clad body as Alice rallies her team of initially paper-thin associates to plot against Krause’s equally underdeveloped band of baddies in an elaborate game of cat-and-bigger cat. (No mousy types allowed.) The twist being that Alice would obviously take her prey back to bed as soon as put him behind bars—and the feeling’s mutual, as Krause registers with every pining stare into space.

Here’s the catch, though. This pilot episode (all that ABC made available in advance) went through many a revision on its way to the air, replacing the male lead and lightening the tone. And as Murder has so infamously illustrated, a killer set-up is not the same as a sustainable series. So this show’s challenge is to prove that this latest version of To Catch a Thief adds up to anything more than getting away with petty larceny, stealing our precious time.

The Catch premieres Thursday, March 24, 10/9c, on ABC

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TV critic (and occasional TV therapist) Matt Roush answers viewer questions and concerns in his Ask Matt column each week. Wondering about plots, characters and twists on your fave shows? Submit your query to Matt via the form below: