Whiskey Cavalier. ABC. Premiering Sunday, Feb. 24, 11:35 p.m., then moving to Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
The biggest problem with ABC's new action-rom-com Whiskey Cavalier is figuring out which other show to compare it to? Is it a dumbed-down version of NBC's spy thriller The Enemy Within? Or a smartened-up version of ABC's long-ago Thin Man rip-off Hart To Hart? Or a décolletage-challenged version of FXX's Bond spoof Archer?
Which is an illustrative (or, if you speak editor-ese, long-winded) way of saying you've seen Whiskey Cavalier before, a thousand times since the beginning of moving images: Wisecracking couples mix gunplay and foreplay as they fight crime, spies, or vampires.
That doesn't mean you can't have some fun with Whiskey Cavalier, in which two mutually disdainful but sexually overheated counterintelligence operatives from the FBI and the CIA chase terrorists while stewing in their own hormones. It's slick, it's sexy, and just when you think it's totally predictable, it throws you for a loop. (Two words: exploding tampons.) Just don't expect Myrna Loy and William Powell.
The story opens with FBI agent Will Chase (get it? Will Chase? Whiskey Cavalier? spooky codetalk!) at dumped-by-his-girlfriend DefCon 1, dead drunk in a trashed-out hotel room and singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" to a bourbon bottle.
Fortunately, his boss calls and tells him to go kill somebody, chicken soup for the national security soul. His recovery from heartbreak is slowed only slightly when CIA hit lady Frankie Trowbridge busts up the operation because she wants to interrogate the target before they kill him. Hijinx ensue!
Naturally, these two are polar opposites. Will's a sensitive sap, while Frankie brags that "I don't do emotional attachments." He's all heart, she's all brains. About the only things they share are itchy trigger fingers and professional contempt. He: "The CIA is just a bunch of trigger happy cowboys who run around like Rambo without a jockstrap." She: "The FBI is a troop of buttoned-down Boy Scouts who don't have a clue about what's going on." As formulas go, this one features significantly fewer herbs and spices than Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Nonetheless, Whiskey Cavalier—which gets a sneak preview right after the Oscars wheeze to the finish line Sunday night, then moves to Wednesdays at 10 p.m.—has an appealingly daft streak of sophomoric loopiness. Not so many network shows feature scenes of playing catch with severed eyeballs, or blank-verse dialogue like this:
"It's a retinal scanner."
"How does it work?"
"It scans the retina."
Scott Foley of Scandal is appropriately hunky as Will, and Lauren Cohan as Frankie is even cuter than she was bashing out zombie brains as Maggie the farmer's daughter on The Walking Dead. Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) adds some comic points as a nerdy NSA analyst whose defection to Moscow is played strictly for laughs. Edward Snowden, take note.