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As of this writing, 49 (er, 50 now with "Love Monkey" getting picked up by CBS) new scripted series will debut during the 2005-06 season on the six major broadcast networks. Those 49 projects were culled from the 120 or so pilots shot during the past development season. So what happens to those 70 or so pilots that didn't get picked up? Most likely nothing at all. A few like NBC's "noTORIous" and FOX's "Windfall" found homes elsewhere (VH1 and NBC respectively) while others may get a midseason order later this year. The overwhelming majority however will simply collect dust on their respective studio's shelves.
So are there any hidden gems that are being stored away? We've been lucky enough to get our hands on a couple of the pilots that didn't make the cut and will review one each day until our stock runs out (which unfortunately will be sooner rather than later).
As always there's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:
THE CATCH (ABC)
The network's description: "Part detective, bounty hunter, bodyguard, and net-head, private investigators must be a one-stop shop for clients whose cases have slipped through law enforcement's cracks. And they do it all without back-up or free donuts. Greg Grunberg (Alias, Felicity) and Kym Whitley (Along Came Polly, Deliver Us from Eva) form an impossible partnership that's 'Ricky and Lucy' meets The Rockford Files. With comedy legend Don Rickles, the team behind Lost and Alias creates a seriously funny detective series."
What's its current status: Despite some rumblings of going to another network (broadcast or cable), it appears "The Catch" is dead. Co-star Kym Whitley has since signed a talent holding deal with Touchstone Television while Greg Grunberg has exited "Alias" as a regular.
The plot in a nutshell: Bounty hunter/private investigator Tom "Koz" Kozikowski (Greg Grunberg) has two things he absolutely hates: guys who run and guys who call him fat. As we meet Koz, his latest catch ends up doing both. A quick meeting with a plate-glass window later (the first of many very cool stunts) and Koz has his man. But that's just the beginning of his troubles: the bounty won't cover his fledgling agency's bills and his partner/grandfather Roy Sutton (the always great to see on TV Don Rickles) is considering suicide as a way out. Even worse, his sister (Joanne Kelly) is calling into question his single-parenting skills regarding his daughter Maddy (Daylia Wallace). But Roy finds their savior in the form of Honey (a scene-stealing Kym Whitley), an outspoken, newly wealthy, African-American woman who wants to buy into their agency for unspecified reasons. Her only caveat though is that they show her the P.I. ropes and involve her in all the investigations, including their latest - a man looking for his missing daughter. Koz not surprisingly protests, but eventually agrees to have her tag along. From here the show hits the expected "Odd Couple" beats as Honey's brash and blustery nature conflicts with Koz's meticulous, low-key approach. And again as you'd expect, they also find they work well together, most notably when Koz attempts to go undercover at the plastic surgeon's office where the missing girl was known to have visited. It's mostly played for laughs, but eventually things take a more dramatic approach as both Koz and Honey's reasons for being who they are and doing what they do become crystal clear.
What works: First and foremost, "The Catch" is the first show in well, it seems like forever, to figure out you can have a show about an overweight person and not have the entire show be about that person's weight issues ("Thick and Thin," "Fat Actress," cough, cough). Sure there are jokes about Koz's weight, but it doesn't overwhelm the plot and it doesn't come cheaply (a sequence in which a plastic surgeon lists the things "wrong" with Koz quickly goes from funny to downright humiliating to surprisingly dramatic). Secondly, holy shit does Grunberg rock the house. Grunberg's Koz is an offbeat mix of Mel Gibson's determined (and routinely beat-up) Porter in "Payback" and the sweet, endearing guy you've seen him play before on "Alias" and "Felicity." There's a scene in which Koz tries to retrieve his daughter's car seat from a burning car that without a doubt seals the deal that Grunberg can not only carry a show, but deserves one - like right now. The same goes for Whitley, who takes the "sassy black woman" archetype in surprisingly new directions. Her dramatic confession to Koz about her reasons for wanting to be a P.I. - her son went missing years ago and was never found - completely sells the somewhat hokey "Moonlighting"-esque premise of the series. Together they make a uniquely fun and interesting duo, the kind of which TV hasn't seen in a long time (if at all). And let's not forget about Don Rickles. It's Don Rickles folks - end of story.
What doesn't: Not surprisingly, the main "case" comes off as the weakest aspect of the pilot, which is generally the case for any bad-guy-of-the-week shows. To its credit, "The Catch" does an amazing job of showing the actual grunt work involved in being a P.I. There are no calls to the C.S.I. lab or psychic premonitions to help - Koz and Honey have to figure things out old-school style.
Should you be sad it wasn't picked up: Absolutely. "The Catch" was actually one of the first pilots I saw this year and it's hung in the back of my mind ever since, some 50 pilots later. It's a throwback to the more character-driven detective dramas of the 1970s and 1980s, back before the "Law & Order" and "C.S.I." franchises, and before the word "procedural" become the gold standard. More importantly, it's just unlike anything on TV right now. It's just a shame it couldn't find a home.