Here’s a quick rundown of the premise of ABC’s The Company You Keep: Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us) plays Charlie Nicoletti. The Nicolettis — sister Birdie (Sarah Wayne Callies), father Leo (William Fichtner), and mother Fran (Polly Draper) — are a family of con artists and thieves. In the opening episode, they con a crime family, The Maguires, out of $10 million, but Charlie’s fiancée cons him out of the money and disappears.
The Maguires realize that they’ve been snookered and demand that the Nicolettis repay them under the threat of violence. Daphne Finch (Felisha Terrell) runs point for the Maguire family to ensure repayment. The Nicolettis arrange a series of cons in order to pay back their debt — their deal seems to be that they only rob bad people, so our allegiances are never tested.
Meanwhile, Charlie also falls in love with Emma Hill (Catherine Haena Kim). He doesn’t know she’s a CIA officer. She doesn’t know he’s a thief. But as they fall harder in love, their paths outside of their romantic relationship come dangerously close to crossing, as she’s investigating the very crime family to whom the Nicolettis are indebted.
That’s it. There’s some Mr. and Mrs. Smith prequel energy, a lot of cons, some very attractive people, a romance, and some politics, too (Emma’s brother is running for their dad’s Senate seat). These action-adventure romances don’t have a history of working well enough on television to justify their budgets (who remembers Whiskey Tango?), but there are no extravagant location shoots or expensive special effects in The Company You Keep: It largely gets by on the charms of Milo Ventimiglia and Catherine Haena Kim, who make a sexy and believable couple, and the breezy, lightweight tone.
The writing is decent, too, although it falls prey to a problem that plagues a lot of series that require missions, heists, or cons every week, which is to say: They’re not particularly well constructed. They feel like cons, the actors behave as though they’re pulling off cons, and the action and music suggest cons, but there’s not a lot of actual conning going on. They’re like the manilla folders in Suits: Simple plot devices, which is fine, but I do wish they’d put more thought into the details.
Ultimately, it’s a better-than-decent thriller-action-romance, and for people who only subscribe to basic cable (and none of the streamers or premium channels), it’s as close as you’re going to get to prestige television on Sunday nights. For everyone else, it’s a welcome break from the prestige dramas on the streamers and premium channels on Sunday nights.