‘The Company You Keep’ tests a cop-criminal romance that’s not quite out of sight

CNN Newsource Pristine Villarreal

(CNN) — Milo Ventimiglia is all about family again in “The Company You Keep,” only this time, it’s a family of thieves, and the romance he’s trying to balance is, unknowingly, with a CIA agent. Adapted from a South Korean show, the ABC series aims higher than most broadcast dramas, but the criminal-cop dynamic feels like a concept with, at best, a built-in expiration date.

The “This is Us” star’s Charlie is rebounding from a relationship gone very, very wrong when he encounters Emma (Catherine Haena Kim), as the two flirt and lie to each other and eventually wind up spending a whirlwind 36 hours or so in a hotel room.

The complications to this meet-crime relationship, however, are higher than most, with Charlie’s family indebted to a criminal enterprise that Emma by happenstance is working to investigate. That points to a potential collision of romantic fantasy and reality, and a major wakeup call for the two leads.

As an added bonus, Emma comes from a politically connected family — her mom only half-jokingly refers to them as the Asian Kennedys — so if her dalliance with Charlie starts to get serious, that rehearsal dinner could be world-class awkward.

The most obvious comparison would be the George Clooney-Jennifer Lopez pairing a quarter-century ago in the film “Out of Sight,” which offered the same cop-criminal dynamic and steamy chemistry. The challenge here is stretching that out in serialized form, as the lines already begin to intersect by the second episode.

Kim (whose credits include “Ballers” and “FBI”) holds her own in this breakthrough starring role, and the central duo is surrounded by a strong cast, with William Fichtner and Polly Draper as Charlie’s grifter parents, Sarah Wayne Callies (“The Walking Dead”) as his sister in crime and James Saito as Emma’s dad.

Ventimiglia has already been associated with a pair of hits for NBC (“Heroes” preceded “This is Us”), so his next venture — serving as an executive producer as well as star — merits attention, a prospect ABC will seek to help along by scheduling the show after “American Idol.”

“The Company You Keep” starts just well enough to want to see where these threads are heading, at least for a while longer. Yet despite its solid pieces, it’s premature to say whether this tale of cops and robbers has the makings of becoming good company, or as is so often the case, if it’s simply living on borrowed time.

“The Company You Keep” premieres February 19 at 10pm ET on ABC.

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