It seems odd to describe ABC's The Catch as "fun," since the plot revolves around a woman finding out that her fiancé is nothing but a con man who's made off with her life savings. But that's the best way to sum up the latest entry into the Shondaland universe.
The woman in question is Alice Vaughan (The Killing's Mireille Enos), a private investigator who learns on the day of her elopement that her fiancé Christopher (Parenthood's Peter Krause) is actually Ben Jones, aka "Mr. X," the con man who's been toying with her team for months. That's not a spoiler - though the reveal (if you can call it that) about Christopher/Ben doesn't come until about a quarter of the way through the pilot, ABC has been spelling out the central premise of the show in promos since January.
It's a questionable decision to give away such a big twist, but one that makes sense on a couple of levels. For starters, there's really no way to tease anything about the show without spilling the big secret, and ABC understandably doesn't want to saddle The Catch with a confusing marketing campaign, since the show has already taken a circuitous route to make it to air. The network bought the concept for the series in 2014, based on a treatment by novelist Kate Atkinson in which Alice was a forensic accountant. The pilot got a series pickup last May, but was held for midseason. Days after the pickup, Damon Dayoub (NCIS), who was originally cast as Alice's duplicitous fiancé, and Bethany Joy Lenz (One Tree Hill) were dropped from the show, eventually replaced by Krause and Sonya Walger (Lost), who plays Margot Bishop, Ben's boss and lover. Then in August, original scriptwriter/showrunner Jennifer Schuur (Hannibal) left the show due to creative differences and was replaced by Allan Heinberg (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal), who is currently steering the ship.
"The style of the show shifted pretty dramatically," Enos tells TVGuide.com. "The original pilot ... was more 1940s, Hitchcockian. It was a thriller. Now, it's more of a 1960s James Bond caper. Stylistically, it just brightened and picked up its pace."
Executive-produced by Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, the snappy drama is a worthy replacement to take over the time slot previously occupied by How to Get Away with Murder, with plenty of twists and turns that manage to be less melodramatic and campy than Murder's, mostly thanks to Enos' strong performance.
The character of Alice has also evolved. According to Enos, in the original script, Alice was a con artist in her own right, with a complicated backstory that has now been completely eliminated. "Alice has fewer secrets in the current version than she did before," Enos says. "She had reinvented herself and was running away from a life that she left behind, and that life came looking for her. ... She wasn't as easy to root for."
Parenthood fans will lament the fact that Krause is such a shyster on this show, but what makes his character intriguing is that there are still tiny glimpses of sweet Adam Braverman underneath his deceitful exterior. Maybe that's just wishful thinking/nostalgia, but for what it's worth, Enos agrees. "He has a quality that just makes you want to root for him," she says of her co-star. "He's so likable. And I think it's very important, because this con artist, it would be so easy to villainize him. When it's Pete you're like, 'Of course she fell in love with him! Of course she believed everything out of his mouth.' He's just a really honest guy. He's the loveliest version of the everyman."
In flashbacks, viewers get glimpses into the trajectory of Alice and Christopher/Ben's relationship, but can also see that all the warning signs were there. (Apparently even private investigators can be blinded by rose-colored glasses.) Their story will continue to be told in flashbacks, while the present-day timelines will follow the PIs and the con artists separately. Supporting players include Rose Rollins (The L Word) as Alice's best friend and partner in their investigative agency.
"You see Alice and Christopher together every single episode," Enos says. "Every week, more and more is revealed. When you're watching it, the love is so palpable, and ... the audience is able to see her own confusion, because what you're watching seems so true. ... I think the biggest dilemma for her is this idea that she could have somehow been wrong about the love that she and Christopher felt for one another. That's the question she's trying to answer, is, OK, he's a con artist and he did what he did. But was it all a lie, or was there some truth there?"
The pilot plants the seeds for what will become a cat-and-mouse chase, with Alice trying to beat Christopher at his own game. You can't help but root for her to get her man - and not in the traditional Shondaland sense.
"She is not interested in being a victim," Enos says. "The show's called The Catch and it's going to continue to be about the thrill of the catch, for both Alice and for Ben Jones. Both of them love to get their guy, and now for Alice of course, getting her guy is also getting revenge."
Let the games begin.
The Catch premieres Thursday at 10/9c on ABC.