by Doug Snauffer
Cold war intrigue is upon us this spring — not from Washington, D.C. or the Kremlin, but from ABC. Viewers need only turn to the alphabet network on Wednesday nights at 10:00 pm to catch the ambitious new hour-long espionage series Whiskey Cavalier.
The lightweight spy spoof/buddy comedy follows the escapades of an inter-agency group of agents who join forces to save the world from the worst the enemy has to offer.
Scott Foley (The Unit, Scandal) stars as Will Chase, an FBI super-agent whose official designation is ‘Whiskey Cavalier.’ He’s earned a reputation as a top-level spy, yet his mojo is currently on the fritz due to a nasty breakup with his fiancee (the as-yet unseen Gigi) six months earlier.
In the pilot episode, Will met and matched wits with his no-nonsense CIA counterpart, Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), as the two pursued rogue NSA systems analyst turned hacker Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders), who was wanted for treason after he amscrayed from his department with covert intelligence files.
With their competitive natures, Will and Frankie (whose own field designation is ‘Fiery Tribune’) played a dangerous — and often comic — game of one-upmanship in order to deliver Standish to their respective agencies. Their rivalry in turn became the greatest threat to the success of their mission.
But when the Russians showed up to steal Standish from both of them, Will and Frankie were forced into an uneasy alliance that not only thwarted their opponents but led to Standish’s vindication.
Their bosses were so impressed by the joint venture that they decided to keep Will, Frankie, and Standish together in an inter-departmental effort between the FBI, CIA and NSA. Joining them are a support team of fellow spooks: Dr. Susan Sampson (Ana Ortiz, Ugly Betty), a top FBI profiler who also happens to be Will’s analyst; and CIA Weapons Specialist Jai Datta (Vir Das), the only person in the world Frankie sincerely trusts.
Then there’s Ray Prince (Josh Hopkins, Quantico, Cougar Town), the FBI’s Head of Evidence Response. Ray wants to be a part of the team, too. Problem is he’s incompetent and untrustworthy — and could very well be a double agent.
The five mismatched agents must pull their resources while keeping their egos in check. To protect their true identities from the rest of the world (particularly their enemies), the team poses as a group of friends partnering up to open a New York Irish pub called ‘The Dead Drop.’ In essence, it becomes their batcave.
Will and Frankie make for an interesting pair. Their strengths and weaknesses could either make or break their missions. Will is emotionally needy, while Frankie is withdrawn and unavailable. Yet despite their differences, these two oddball agents have somehow made a mutual connection. There’s always a chance that they’ll end up satisfying each others needs, which might lead to romance. But let’s hope they’re able to become friends first.
Whiskey Cavalier is one of the more ambitious programs to hit network TV recently. ABC placed an initial order for 13 episodes, then sent the cast and crew packing. The series is set in different foreign locale each week, but rather than recreating the world on L.A. soundstages, the producers opted to add authenticity by filming on actual locations in and around Prague and other areas of the Czech Republic. Production commenced on September 8, 2018 and wrapped on February 23, 2019, just one-day before Whiskey made its high-profile debut following this years Oscars telecast.
Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the lighter moments of the show. Whiskey is a ‘dramedy, ’ but today’s audiences may not be as open to the genre as past audiences were. It’s like trying to sell fans of Daniel Craig’s James Bond on “Moonraker” or “Octopussy.” It’s become a sore spot with many viewers.
Yet one look at the names of those working behind-the-scenes on Whiskey and suddenly the programs often comedic tones will make a little more sense. The show was created by David Hemingson (Just Shoot Me) and produced by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs).
The reasoning behind the move, according to Scott Foley in early interviews, is that there’s so much violence and hate in the real world — and on TV — that they wanted to do something that would provide fans with both thrills and a bit of escapism.
Once Foley signed on, he packed up his entire family — his wife Marika and their three young daughters — and made the six-month shoot in Prague an extended family affair. The girls even attended school there for a semester.
The series got off to a great start with its post-Oscar show preview, scoring impressive numbers (including an 85 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) and positive reviews.
But in its regular Wednesday night timeslot, viewership has dropped consistently over the past five weeks, and analysts are predicting that the future of Whiskey Cavalier will most likely ride on how the two episodes scheduled for April 10 and 17 perform in the ratings.
Perhaps Standish can hack into the Nielsen computers.
Doug Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.