Take Two series premiere review: Is ABC’s crime dramedy worth a second take?

Photo Credit: Take Two/ABC/David Bukach, Acquired From Disney ABC Press
Photo Credit: Take Two/ABC/David Bukach, Acquired From Disney ABC Press /

Rachel Bilson and Eddie Cibrian star in ABC’s Take Two as an unlikely detective duo. Although it could use some work, it’s essential summer escapism.

For fans of ABC’s former crime dramedy procedural hit Castle, all of the familiar beats are in play in Take Two. An untamable creative-type pairs with a no-nonsense detective to research for her latest project, but her uncouth methods and informal knowledge on investigation ultimately balances out her seasoned partner. It’s how actress Sam Swift (Rachel Bilson) winds up swapping a life in front of the camera for a new role as Eddie’s (Eddie Cibrian) partner in crime solving.

Not by any stretch of the imagination is Take Two something we haven’t seen before on the small screen, though that’s not to discount its unique charms. Castle may have had its star alignment of knockout casting and a tighter focus, as did the USA Network’s former slate of frothy summer series with punny titles (shouts out to Psych, White Collar, and Royal Pains), but those shows didn’t have television’s most underappreciated secret weapon in its arsenal: Rachel Bilson.

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For what Take Two lacks in originality and chemistry, Bilson picks up all of the slack. She’s never tackled a role and not been totally game to deliver a tactful comedic performance. From Summer Roberts in The O.C. to Zoe Hart in Hart of Dixie, she’s proven time and time again that she can hold her own and stand out as an unstoppable force — even in a series like Take Two, where the higher concept premise looks to overshadow her shine.

In the pilot episode, Bilson channels her best Sydney Bristow as the opening scene, a clip from the show within a show, offers a taste of Sam’s fake cop skills. Her character uses her five-inch heels, which Eddie later dogs Sam for, to kick up a gun and use it against the criminal holding her up at gunpoint. Of course, Sam recalls this scene from Hot Suspect and tries it out IRL to free them from a major Los Angeles crime kingpin. All in a day’s work.

Photo Credit: Take Two/ABC/David Bukach, Acquired From Disney ABC Press
Photo Credit: Take Two/ABC/David Bukach, Acquired From Disney ABC Press /

The writing elsewhere throughout the episode could live to break free of popular cliches (“She’s behind me, isn’t she?”), but the old trick of full circle linearity will never go out of style. It’s one often employed in shows and movies where the underdog must rise above their limitations, and that’s precisely the cornerstone of Take Two.

Sam, a fallen star looking to recover her reputation with a comeback role, bites at the chance to shadow Eddie’s cases at his private investigation firm. He’s reluctant, given his own reputation took a hit on case three years back, but Sam’s spirited determination (the powerful women Bilson plays most often and best) wears him down. He even admits he was secretly a fan of her show, which Castle fans could see coming a mile away.

As a freshman series unlike the majority of dramas on TV these days and more like those earning high marks years ago, it’s unclear what ABC has in mind for Take Two. Is it looking to replicate the success of Castle and move it to the fall schedule? Is it looking for an addictive summer sensation? Is it burning off a benched order that didn’t make the cut last season? Whatever the future holds, it’s certain to grow into its rhythms and become a sexy, savvy shot of serotonin.

Next: Take Two series premiere preview: Rachel Bilson and Eddie Cibrian heat up summer TV

Take Two might not have much to offer for television fans with an elevated palate and a disinterest in cute crime procedurals, but it’s wise not to overthink this one. Should it lean further into its comedy and strengthen the back-and-forth between Bilson and Cibrian, there’s no reason it won’t act as the unchallenging diversion it needs to be. When push comes to shove, it’s essential summer escapism with charming leads and stories compelling enough to suck you in for an hour. If you’re looking to free your mind from reality, ride along with Take Two.

Will you be tuning into Take Two this summer? Let us know in the comments!

Take Two airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.