The Catch: Con Cons Cop (Series Review)

the catch logoShondaland brings us yet another new series – or in this case a mid-season replacement, meaning the network was maybe a little skittish, which turns out they had a right to be.

Alice Vaughn is a gorgeous private investigator working for corporations and rich folks. She’s engaged to Mr. Perfect, Christopher Hall, a high finance type, whom she meets not-so-cute when he comes to her firm to do some bidness, but then tells her he’s going elsewhere because he claims he’s already too interested in her. They’re engaged within five seconds, which doesn’t set off her spidey-sense, but in real life wouldn’t she have done some serious background checking? Especially given that he appears to have no friends, and all his relatives are conveniently dead? And he has that strange habit of ducking his head whenever anyone tries to snap his photo? And given that’s she’s a pro and all? Wouldn’t she, you know, google him, maybe? Just to see what turns up? When she finds out he’s not only a high class con artist, but the mysterious Mr. X who’s been stealing from her clients, she mentions to her associate that since he wasn’t doing business with her firm she didn’t bother to vet him, to which I say, “Oh! C’mon!”

It’s not a spoiler to reveal that Christopher is really Ben/Mr. X since we find that out in within the first few minutes of the pilot. This could be another flaw in the series – showing its cards too soon, but then again it seems like con cons private eye and it’s personal is the only card the show has.

Of course the jilted Alice is now determined to “get” the international man of mystery. The kicker is that he loves her for realzies but has to keep that on the down-low because if his long-term partner in crime and sometimes other things, Margo, catches on she’ll kill Alice, or so thinks his other crew member and bestie, Reggie.

The series, which is set in Los Angeles, is overloaded with more mansions, swimming pools, movie stars, visiting royalty  and such like than was The Beverly Hillbillies. Alice’s firm is the kind of place you couldn’t afford to work at unless your salary included a few hundred thousand extra for clothes. Alice with her layers of false eyelashes, long straight hair, and shift mini-dresses with boots appears to  have stolen her fashion aesthetic from Faye Dunaway circa  The Thomas Crown affair — a movie The Catch owes more than a nod to as well.

It’s easy to see why the concept got green-lighted, but there’s a bland generic quality to it all. The cast is game but as of episode two every one of them could be easily replaced by a similar type and no one would even notice. As for the action, too much feels like we’ve been down this road before.

At least so far, Alice is out for nothing but revenge. She recognizes that the man she fell in love with doesn’t exist. She wants to catch Mr. X, and this time it’s personal. If you can get past her being taken in by him in the first place, her desire to bring him to justice is at least believable. He’s screwed her over royally and cruelly. It wasn’t just the 1.4 million deposit – her savings – that she willingly gave him for her share of their dream house. He targeted her to get to her client list and rip off all her clients, so if they find out, she is sunk. On top of that, an intrepid Interpol agent has come to town – just a little too late – and does not seem completely convinced that Alice was an innocent dupe. Who can blame him?

Ben’s having real feelings for his mark is beyond credulity, but maybe not beyond somebody’s masochistic/romantic fantasy, Ben isn’t just in love with Alice, he’s in love like a teenager in love for the first time in love. He’s so in love that after the sting has stung he somehow sneaks a $12 million painting into her apartment replacing the real one in the gallery with a forgery. Apparently, Alice is a VERY heavy sleeper. When Alice confides in a lawyer colleague and the colleague suggests that maybe he meant it as a sign that he really cares about her, Alice is dismissive. She thinks he’s just messing with her. Or maybe they’re both acting like ten year old children. He’s pulling her ponytail  to get her attention, but she just thinks boys are SOOOO immature.

He’s so crazy about her he can’t bring himself to leave Los Angeles even though his partners want him to because Alice is after him. Then he can’t leave because he spots the Interpol agent and knows they’ll be watching the airports. Wait a second, they’re afraid Interpol is watching so they have to stay in Los Angles, but instead of laying low and/or maybe driving out of town they immediately take on to another high risk high stakes con?

A major problem is that no matter what kind of backstory they give him, how does the audience ever see him as anything other than evil for what he did to Alice? It’s not like she was hired to find him and he fell in love with her. He (and his crew) went after her. Having her fall for him was part of the scheme. It would take some major plot gymnastics to redeem him. Could he turn out to be a super long-term (fifteen years) undercover Interpol agent forced to go along with his partners’ plans in order to get to the mysterious benefactor Margo sometimes refers to? Short of that how do you come back from what he’s done? And if Alice’s feelings toward him soften, how can we forgive her for being such a wimp?

Alice’s pursuit of Ben is not enough plot to keep a series going, and as of episode two the added short-term story lines were way too familiar. Alice’s firm takes on a client who was recently acquitted of murdering his much older wife. His new fiance wants Alice to find “the real killer.” Alice is convinced from the start that he is the real killer, but her partner thinks she’s just projecting. Who’s right? It’s pretty obvious, and when “evidence” turns up that indicates otherwise anyone who’s ever seen a detective show ever will know it was planted, yet our ace detective doesn’t. The con artists meantime are in new roles with a new set of people. Are we supposed to care about their beautiful mark of the week or just be dazzled by the James Bond like sports car Ben is driving around in to impress her? Not very low key for a man who knows he’s being tailed by Interpol.

Will Alice continue to be involved in weekly cases that parallel her experience with Ben? Will Ben and his partners ever run out of rich suckers to grift  in LA?

If you’re looking for a series where people wear expensive clothes and live in beautiful homes, if you enjoy shows where the grifting is all on a very high-class level, mostly ripping off people who wouldn’t miss a few million, if you aren’t a fan of logic and coherence, if you really want to indulge in the belief that a man who leaves a woman high and dry really cares, then The Catch might not be the worst way to kill an hour. As for me, I’d rather just stream either version of The Thomas Crown affair.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

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