Rebecca Barry Hill: A catchy new show

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Mireille Enos as Alice in The Catch. Photo / ABC
Mireille Enos as Alice in The Catch. Photo / ABC

A familiar voice sang on the opening scene's soundtrack of The Catch, (Wednesdays, 7pm, TVNZ OnDemand). Gin Wigmore's Man Like That wasn't the only thing that rang a bell about Shonda Rhimes' latest show.

The producer has never shied away from putting women in powerful positions on TV, and this one was about a private detective being conned while chasing stolen paintings and turning up on split screens, a la the original and remake of The Thomas Crown Affair (so does that make Gigmore the Nina Simone, whose song Sinnerman featured prominently in the 1999 film).

But if this was going to be another hit in the vein of Rhimes' past successes including Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, it would need to enlist the right powerful female.

Who? Among them, Kate Atkinson, the English novelist who wrote Life After Life, and who co-created the show. Perhaps Atkinson's English sensibilities are part of the reason that, although this is a glossy American production, it feels a little less melodramatic than Rhimes' previous heightened shows.

Still, though this is a ShondaLand production, where people can't just be smart, they have to be sexy and outlandish. So we get Alice Vaughan going about her work using all of her wiles. In the pilot, she foils an art heist by feigning interest in the conman, before straddling him outside the gallery and restraining him with handcuffs.

The surprising lead in this frothy caper is Mireille Enos, who played the plain, solemn detective from the US remake of Danish crime procedural The Killing and Brad Pitt's wife in zombie flick World War Z.

Here she's transformed from dour to doll-like, but she rises to the pop-thriller challenge, playing on her femininity without stooping to too-soapy a level. Likewise, her adversary Mr X, played by Six Feet Under's Peter Krause, gets around the fact his character is the cliched brilliant gentleman by playing him with suave charm. The team and side characters play their roles with a sense of optimism too, rather than treating their jobs like they're solving cancer.

While investigating Mr X, Alice and her team come close to closing in on the mystery man but lose him in the crowd. When Alice returns to her multimillion-dollar pad she shares with her fiance, who should he turn out to be but Mr X. One day she comes home to discover he's completely emptied out his belongings, and taken her life savings with him.

It's a plot so far out there, it's forced to acknowledge itself.

"Why would a con artist target a private investigator, the one person most likely to bring him down?" asks one of the sidekicks, before Alice works out it's her wealthy clients he's after. And so begins her mission of revenge. The first ep was a breezy watch without being mind-blowing, suffering mostly from the dizzying use of those split-screens and montage. It did end on a clever note though - the expensive gallery painting they'd admired together is there on her bedroom wall when she gets home one night, suggesting that Mr X's lingering glances and love-making sessions with Alice weren't all for show, and that there might be more than a little conflicting emotion in this game of cat and mouse. The show's biggest challenge will be to keep up the chase over the course of an entire season. But for the woman who created one of my least favourite TV shows of all time in Grey's I'm pleasantly surprised.

What I'm watching

The Enfield Haunting,
Thursdays, 8.30pm, The Zone

Speaking of The Killing, that show's director Kristoffer Nyholm directs this creepy mini-series about a famous poltergeist incident in 1977. Timothy Spall and Matthew McFadyen star in the series about Janet Hodgson, the 11-year-old terrorised by paranormal activity, and the researcher who tries to protect her.

Prime Rocks: Soundbreaking,
Tuesday, 9.30pm, Prime

This compelling look at the history of recorded music this week features Jeff Beck, Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney, Roger Daltrey and Questlove, the drummer whose so-laid-back-it's-almost-outta-time rhythm will no doubt have plenty to say on the art of "perfecting" music in the studio.

The Bachelorette,
Tuesday, 7pm, TVNZ On Demand

It's the never-ending love story crying out for a polygamist ending. American sweetheart (yep, they're already calling her that) Jo-Jo Fletcher is in the rose-giving hot-seat, after being dumped by Ben H last season. Jo-Jo is 25 so, y'know, clock's ticking to find the one. Or three ...

- TimeOut

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