ABC’s new action-comedy/potential romance Whiskey Cavalier delivered a necessary post-Oscar ceremony salve to anyone who stayed awake long enough to see Green Book win a pair of awards it had no business winning. For those who didn’t tune in to the host-less ceremony at all, or were unaware the show had already premiered, ABC has been nice enough to run it again in its regular Wednesday night time slot. The second airing is more or less a formality intended to get audiences excited to watch it live as it airs Wednesday nights for the next 13 weeks. But it’s also a chance for to rewatch what is one of the most unabashedly fun new series so far this year.
When Whiskey Cavalier was first announced at the network upfront presentations in 2018, it looked like a surefire hit. Despite a recognizable and eminently likable cast that throws Scott Foley’s FBI agent Will Chase and Lauren Cohan’s CIA operative Frankie Trowbridge into the deep end of a tenuous and flirty working relationship, the series was shuffled off to midseason status, rather than join the likes of The Rookie and A Million Little Things as the Alphabet network’s newest and hour-long series. The decision to reposition the show at the end of February likely had to something do with Cohan’s time as Maggie on AMC’s The Walking Dead coming to a tentative end in the fall of 2018. But it also probably had even more to do with the international production of the series and, of course, network strategy, as the expanse of television options feels less daunting near the tail end of winter, and viewers might be more inclined to sit at home and watch attractive people do exciting things when it’s cold outside.
Whether or not that strategy works remains to be seen, but Whiskey Cavalier certainly makes a splash with a pilot episode that goes all-in on its playful personality, while getting the business of being the start of a new series out of the way so things can really take off in the coming weeks, with episodes like ‘The Czech List’ and ‘When in Rome,’ which are markedly more entertaining than the admittedly successful pilot episode.
The show’s easy charm and instant likability has a lot to do with the chemistry between Foley and Cohan. The two are well matched as TV versions of government agents, with Will being more of a straight-laced Boy Scout type and Frankie being a 007-level spy, complete with gadgets like exploding tampons and other goofy ephemera evocative of the Bond franchise’s cheesier moments. But while Whiskey Cavalier isn’t a spoof of Bond or Bourne or any other international espionage action franchise, it’s also not so self-serious that it doesn’t want the audience not to laugh at the idea of some quartermaster hiding a charge in a tampon.
That goes for Foley and Cohan, too, as their characters are meant to upend action-hero stereotypes without being a full-on parody. A lot of that is tied up in Foley’s Will Chase, who, at the beginning of the series finds himself struggling to come to terms with the end of a serious relationship. Creator David Hemingson gets a lot of laughs out of Will’s emotional turmoil without being indifferent or unempathetic to his suffering. Instead, Hemingson leaves that to Cohan’s Frankie, who no problem poking at the gaping wound where Will’s heart used to be, whether they’re on a mission to save the world or not.
The main cast is helped out by a pair of charming performances from Ana Ortiz as FBI profiler Susan Samson, and series standout Tyler James Williams as NSA analyst Edgar Standish, who is also the crux of the pilot episode’s fairly standard but enjoyable plot. Though it features a large cast that includes Dylan Walsh, Vir Das, and Josh Hopkins, Whiskey Cavalier never forgets its really about the relationship between Will and Frankie. And yes, that means the series is walking into a minefield by essentially setting up the kind of will-they-or-won’t-they suspense that will eventually cause fans to lose their s**t on social media when the potential for romance does or doesn’t heat up in exactly the way they want it to.
Thankfully, Whiskey Cavalier seemingly has the goods to not only create that particular nightmare scenario, but also to give audiences a fun and engaging new series to watch outside of any insistence these attractive characters get to kissin’ on anyone’s time table but their own — or that of the show’s writers. It all makes for a charming new addition to ABC’s lineup and one of the network’s most immediately entertaining new shows in recent memory.
Whiskey Cavalier continues next Wednesday with ‘The Czech List’ @10pm on ABC.