NEW YORK (CNS) –The appealing chemistry between leads Rachel Bilson and Eddie Cibrian bolsters the otherwise middling crime dramedy “Take Two,” which debuts on ABC Thursday, June 21, 10-11 p.m. EDT. The 13-episode series will air in this timeslot throughout its summer run.
Created by Terri Edda Miller and Andrew W. Marlowe — the production team behind ABC’s well-rated, long-running crime procedural “Castle” — “Take Two” is, not surprisingly, similarly premised.
Trade “Castle’s” male mystery writer, Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion), for a troubled female actress and you have Bilson’s Sam Swift. And exchange female detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) for a male private investigator, and you get Cibrian’s Eddie Valetik.
As the pilot opens, TV celebrity Swift, whom Valetik describes as “the tabloid train wreck,” is emerging from a 60-day stint in rehab.
Swift was once the star of the popular fictitious crime drama “Hot Suspect.” But her show was canceled, and she responded to her boyfriend’s treachery in breaking up with her on the red carpet by setting his bed on fire, after which she was, of course, forced to seek help. She’s also on probation as a result of the vandalism.
Her agent, Syd (Heather Doerksen), believes playing a private investigator in an upcoming production could be Swift’s opportunity for a comeback. Syd leverages her relationship with Valetik — her former boyfriend — to convince him, against his better judgment, to let the actress shadow him to prepare for her part.
Valetik insists that Swift refrain from interjecting herself into his cases. But Swift predictably oversteps, fully immersing herself in the action.
After Swift demonstrates her mettle, and her talent for relating to prospective clients, Valetik asks her to become his partner. With the offer for the plum role no longer on the table, the actress readily accepts, because private investigation “felt like something real, like something I was doing mattered.”
“Take Two” contains a fair amount of violence, but nothing over-the-top. Its sexual content, including an adultery theme, and mildly off-color language, taken together with references to drug use and trafficking, suggest an adult audience. So, too, does the script’s foray into some morally questionable philosophizing.
Discernment is also required where the topic of Swift’s newfound sobriety is concerned. Several times, their work takes Swift and Valetik to a watering hole, prompting Swift to ask incredulously, “You’re taking me to a bar?”
As the series’ brief season evolves, and its heroine moves in an environment fraught with temptation, the program’s writers, who occasionally and appealingly implement a playful tone, should be careful not to treat Swift’s ongoing recovery cavalierly.
Nonetheless, the fact that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously — as many grim, dark contemporary TV productions do — is to its credit. The second episode, for example, opens with Swift imitating a classic film noir voiceover. It isn’t the sharpest satire viewers will ever hear, but it refreshingly counters audience expectations.
The success of this kind of series ultimately depends on the dynamism of the two leads, as well as the tension and unexpressed romantic feelings between them, all kept just below the surface. It’s a trope as old as TV, but “Take Two” executes it well.
Grown-ups looking for breezy diversion after a long day’s work may appreciate this series. Whether Bilson and Cibrian’s synergy will be sufficient to make “Take Two” stand out amid a glut of viewing choices, however, is another question.
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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.