Whiskey Cavalier (ABC) pilot preview: Sexy for the ride

Written and executive produced by Dave Hemingson (How I Met Your Mother, Don’t Trust the B****, The Catch). Also produced by Scott Foley, Bill Lawrence (Life SentenceCougar Town, Scrubs, Spin City) & Jeff Ingold (Rush Hour, Ground Floor, Undateable). Directed by Peter Atencio (Jean-Claude Van Johnson, Key & Peele). For ABC, Warner Bros. Television & Doozer Productions. 60 pages. 3rd Network Draft. 1/12/2018.

Description: the adventures of FBI agent Will Chase (codename: Whiskey Cavalier) who, following an emotional break-up, is assigned to work with CIA operative Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge (codename: Fiery Tribune). Together, they lead an inter-agency team of spies who periodically save the world (and each other) while navigating the rocky roads of friendship, romance and office politics…

With Scott Foley (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, True Blood, The Unit, Scrubs, Felicity), Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries, Chuck, Supernatural), Ana Ortiz (Devious Maids, Hung, Ugly Betty), Tyler James Williams (Criminal Minds, The Walking Dead, Everybody Hates Chris), Vir Das

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Mr & Mrs Smith, Castle

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10, Tuesday at 10, Wednesday at 10.

 

Whiskey Cavalier is entering the pilot race with a big advantage: its cast. And these days, when most of the biggest names are more tempted to work for a streaming platform like Netflix or Amazon instead of a good ol’ broadcast network, it’s already a victory! And not a small one. Hottie and goodie Scott Foley became some sort of household name thanks to his roles on Grey’s Anatomy and then Scandal and he’s worth a shot as a leading man. The whole project was built around him by the way, he was attached to star from the get go. Lauren Cohan was one of the most sought-after actresses of this pilot season, being a fan favorite from the most watched TV show out there -you probably recognized The Walking Dead– and from the dozen of projects she received, that’s the one she chose. It’s quite telling. Together, they make an attractive pair. Let’s just hope they have chemistry. The cast also includes Tyler James Williams. Even though his appearance on The Walking Dead was shorter than Cohan’s, it’s still someone people can identify and he’s here for his comedic skills. Last but not least: Ana Ortiz, who’s a sweet addition; the kind of actress you’re always happy to have back on your screen, even in a small part. And not a small part it is here. Now, the question is: does the script live up to the cast?

I’d like to give you a simple answer but sorry, it will be a bit more complicated than that. The thing is, Whiskey Cavalier is far from inventing or even re-inventing the wheel. It could have been made 5, 10, 15 and even 30 years ago. But it will probably look better today. You won’t see there anything you haven’t already seen before, probably more on the big screen than on television though. It’s more movies that come to mind when you think about light action fare. But there’s also a dynamic that TV knows by heart, and its viewers too: the “will they? won’t they” situation created when two sexy people who hate each other at first sight are asked to work together against their will and slowly fall in love. I don’t see how Whiskey Cavalier could escape this trope and I don’t even think that’s something they’d want. They know it’s gonna happen sooner or later. We know it too. That’s part of the fun. But maybe there will be a love triangle to spice things up a little bit. Yes, another trope where two women are fighting for the same guy… I don’t want to to sound too cynical: ratings have proven time and time again that that’s what the audience want, as long as it’s well-made. And I have a feeling this one will be.

The pilot’s most obvious strength is that it never takes itself too seriously. The writer knows he’s not doing The Bourne Identity. He’s not trying to. He makes his own little thing that could become something big if lightning strikes. The script is as efficient as a script can be on a broadcast network. The action scenes are promising, it’s always going fast, constantly moving from one place to another. It starts in Paris, it goes to Moscow and New York, and it ends up in Reims (a little city in France). It’s constantly funny, playful, exciting. Maybe a little exhausting too. All the characters have a great sense of humor but not the same kind. I mean, it starts with Will Chase (Foley) singing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in his pajamas. It sets the tone. Will & Francesca tease each other all the time; and Tyler James Williams’ character Edgar Standish -who’s one of the bad guys when we meet him, or so we think- is simply hilarious as the jittery genius who has enough super-secret informations to get him bought off, imprisoned or killed by a dozen governments. While we’re here for the fun and we get plenty, the main plot stays interesting all along, with enough twists and turns -not too predictable or complicated- to keep us happy.

You probably got it now, Whiskey Cavalier is a procedural action dramedy and the pilot’s main goal is to assemble the inter-agency team. Will & Francesca will be helped permanently by Edgar, Ana Ortiz’ Susan Sampson, who’s the FBI’s top behavioral scientist and also Will’s best friend; and Rutger, CIA’s quartermaster and Francesca’s friend. They work from an apartment since their missions are top-secret, even for the others at the FBI & the CIA. Expect a bit of workplace comedy in there. Their missions can send them anywhere on the planet. I didn’t tell you much about our two heroes but all there is to know so far is in the logline. We’re not given a lot of details about their past, just a few hints. And that’s all we need for now. I have one concern about them: their cat and mouse game in the pilot works very well, since they’re enemies and they’re not exactly looking for the same thing, but will it be as fun when they’ll have to work side by side, not against each other but together? I really hope so! Towards the end, Rutger asks Susan: “You think it’ll always be like that?” and she answers: “I hope so!“. We all do!

Take Castle, change the “police” part by an “espionage” part, bet on the jokes, step on the gas, improve the budget, put on sexy clothes and you get Whiskey Cavalier! With a strong script, an attractive cast and an upbeat tone, this is a very serious contender at ABC, a damn fun ride. I don’t know if this is what people want but it certainly what the alphabet network thinks people want right now. They may be onto something…

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