'Take Two' offers new take on 'Castle' formula

Posted June 15, 2018 11:49 a.m. EDT

— Created by the producers of "Castle" -- and conceptually just birthed from its rib -- "Take Two" is the slightest of crime procedurals, one that will live or die on the appeal of its stars. Fortunately, they're both adorable, which might not be enough to sustain an ABC series that might as well have been titled "Castle 2."

The premise again pairs an actual crime fighter with a dabbler in that arena -- in this case, a private eye ("CSI: Miami's" Eddie Cibrian) and an actress ("Hart of Dixie's" Rachel Bilson) who once starred in a popular TV cop show.

After a tabloid run-in that left her in rehab, Bilson's Sam Swift is out and looking for redemption in her next big role. She's eager not to mess things up, and hopes to add to her authenticity by shadowing Cibrian's Eddie Valetik, who grudgingly agrees to the assignment as a favor to Sam's agent.

Much sniping, squabbling and sleuthing follows, with Eddie griping about babysitting and saying curmudgeonly things like, "I like actors. What I don't like are stars." Sam, meanwhile, keeps trying to solve cases by drawing upon her TV-informed knowledge, which proves occasionally useful, and just as often misguided and dangerous.

The real trick, of course, is to find a way to extend this unlikely partnership beyond the pilot, and the writers -- "Castle's" Terri Edda Miller and Andrew W. Marlowe -- accomplish that with a not terribly convincing twist. It's worth noting that both of the characters appear to have lives, and relationships, beyond the central pairing, which of course won't prevent the flirty banter and "Will they or won't they?" conceit baked into the premise.

How long "Take Two" can sustain that tension will likely depend on just how hungry people are for this sort of light escapist fare during the summer; and if the show exhibits even modest signs of life, how much ABC could use a possible utility player to plug into its lineup when something inevitably fails in the fall.

"Have you met me?" Sam asks brightly, when Eddie wonders why she's doing something.

Frankly, anyone with a functioning TV has met both of these characters, just under different names, about a hundred times.

"Castle" managed to run eight seasons, so there's clearly an appetite for this kind of comfort food. The question ultimately boils down to whether the Bilson-Cibrian combination is charming enough to keep the cameras rolling, as opposed to yelling "Cut!"

"Take Two" premieres June 21 at 10 p.m. on ABC.