“Take Two” is a lightweight addition to the summer lineup that is basically “Castle” in reverse. Where “Castle” focused on the pairing of a successful male novelist with a female NYPD detective, “Take Two’s” version teams up a famous actress in need of a career boost with a male private investigator. The show is actually from the creators and executive producers of “Castle,” so maybe it’s a sort of follow-up idea rather than an unoriginal one? Either way, it doesn’t get much help from predictable writing and a lack of chemistry between the leads.
Rachel Bilson plays Sam Swift, the star of a hit cop show who has a public breakdown that sends her to rehab. Her one chance at a comeback is to audition for a role as a private investigator so she convinces her agent that she needs to shadow a real P.I. for research. Her agent calls in a favor from a former boyfriend, Eddie Valetik (Eddie Cibrian), and he reluctantly agrees to let Sam follow him for a week. Sam makes headlines solving a case and the week turns into a partnership.
The adjectives used to describe Eddie and Sam in press materials hint at how predictable their characters are. He’s a “lone wolf” and she’s “high-spirited” because who would a lone wolf dislike more than someone who is high-spirited? It all makes perfect, unoriginal sense. So of course, Eddie’s relationship with Sam is punctuated with a lot of “here we go again” eye-rolling, because that’s how a loner would react when forced to deal with someone who is carefree. What would be more interesting and slightly less typical is if Eddie was an edgy outsider who spent less time being exasperated.
Bilson gives it her all as Sam, hitting every high-spirited synonym. Her performance is playful, lively, and smart but the writing lets her down. Some of her lines are so easy to guess, you may find yourself responding before she does. Bilson is likeable and watchable but there’s not much she can do to elevate such expected writing.
The breezy take on the expert/neophyte formula doesn’t need intriguing cases to solve to be successful. It’s not as if anyone expects weekly plots that have torn-from-the-headlines topicality, but it does need witty repertoire between the leads to make it fun to watch. It also needs a certain amount of chemistry that Bilson and Cibrian are missing. There’s no spark, romantic or otherwise. What’s worse is that it’s hard to care.
On a positive note, there are a few laughs from sarcastic one-liners, but then the writing gets in the way and it’s back to predictable. In one scene, Sam has a monologue meant to inspire Eddie to action. He tells her he liked it, almost as much as when she gave it on an episode of her show. The only way you wouldn’t have seen that line coming is, well there’s no way. Trying to copy a winning formula is one thing but “Take Two” needs a lot more takes to get it right.
“Take Two” is on Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT on ABC.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.