When the first promo for ABC’s The Catch was first released almost a year ago, the latest addition to Shondaland’s TGIT lineup looked a little different. The lead was still Mireille Enos as Alice, an investigator who gets conned by her fiancé Benjamin, but the fiancé wasn’t Peter Krause; he was played by Damon Dayoub. Benjamin was secretly married to Margo, played by Bethany Joy Lenz (of One Tree Hill fame). Both those roles have been replaced—Lenz’s role has been taken over by Sonya Walger—and yet The Catch is still catchless, its premise spoiled by its promos, its first episode leaving the viewer with no truly captivating reason to continue watching.
The issue facing The Catch is ubiquitous in film and television—I remember reading a study, years ago, that said the more a movie trailer reveals about a film, the more likely the audience will actually go see it—but some handle the lack of reveal better than others. The real “catch” of this show seems to be the big shock that a woman who spends her time successfully sussing out bad guys could find herself screwed over by one. Exploring how easily even the “strongest” of women can be manipulated is a theme that runs across Rhimes’s oeuvre. Enos isn’t young and naive (she’s 40 in real life) and she’s not playing that part either; Alice is a independent working woman who demands she pay for half of the new, expensive home she thinks she’s buying with Benjamin, saying to him, “I’m not coming into this marriage as a dependent. We’re partners in this marriage or we’re not doing it.”
Marriage doesn’t even seem like something Alice was much interested in before meeting Benjamin, hence, why her fall is supposed to seem so tragic. Yet whether there will be anything more than this, character-wise or thematically, or explore, seems unlikely. “I’m excited to be married. I just kind of hate weddings,” Alice says to her coworker and friend, who fits perfectly into a prototypical Shonda Rhimes cast: hot, diverse actors who aren’t quite popular in their own right yet (all of the actors in the supporting roles look vaguely familiar, like they could just as easily have been cast in Scandal or How to Get Away With Murder or Grey’s Anatomy) and are just waiting for this show to shoot them into the stratosphere of fame.
Whether it will is unclear; ratings for The Catch’s premiere (like ratings for the rest of Shonda’s shows this season, truth be told) were not high. It has all the hallmarks of an ABC drama: shiny clothes, that same lighting, the sexy sex that’s not really sex, the tap-tap-tap dialogue that’s supposed to be smarter than it sometimes ends up being, the slightly hip soundtrack. But the entire premiere episode covered enough back and forth—Benjamin steals from Alice, she steals back from him, he lets her know he’s not going away quietly—that it’s hard to see how you could make a whole season out of this, let alone more than that. In 42 minutes, we’re caught up so quickly on their relationship that it’s hard to care at all when Alice gets screwed over, as we know she will. Perhaps their tension—as other promos suggest—will build, Thomas Crown Affair-style, over the rest of the season. But the pilot suffers from enough pacing issues, and such limited character development, that it seems futile to stick around and see.
Shonda’s team will find a way—stretching things out and reinventing them is her trademark. But whether they should is another story; there was very little in the first episode that suggested this story will be strong going forward (in many ways, it reminded me of Quantico, which is also populated with the hallmarks of an ABC drama, and constantly seems like it should be better than it is). The only slightly remarkable thing in The Catch thus far is that it seems Benjamin has accidentally fallen for Alice while conning her, though he’s still involved with and indebted to Margot. But only one moment made me perk up, and it was a throwaway line, when Benjamin says to Alice, “I’m sick of eating in restaurants, and you know I hate other people.”
Same. But that’s hardly enough to rest a show on.
Images via ABC.