The ‘This Is Us’ star continues his hit NBC series with an overloaded hybrid that can’t generate much heat with a family of cooks in the kitchen.
Before “This is us”, Milo VentimigliaThe main roles are felt with one voice. There’s Jess Mariano, the troubled young rebel from “Gilmore Girls”; Peter Petrelli, a tortured nurse struggling to control his powers in “Heroes”; Robert Balboa, Rocky’s son (in “Rocky Balboa” and, later, “Creed II”) who is stuck in his father’s shadow, even when he doesn’t know who he is without her. Ventimiglia’s specialty was playing the bewildered bad boy with a good heart, and whether it was a wife (like Rory), a calling (like Hiro’s), or a father (like Rocky), he only needed help. ‘one thing to go well for the rest of his life to get in place. In other words, he was the guy someone looked at and thought, “I can fix it” — and they were usually right. (Hell, Jess turned out awesome, and all he did was pine for Rory.)
Then “This Is Us” happened. Jack Pearson wasn’t a kid trying to pick up the pieces; he was a super dad; a father etched in the minds of his children from the second he died in that tragic slow cooker accident, all the way through his offspring’s steady maturation into parents themselves. Of course, Jack had flaws (alcoholism, drunk father, questionable facial hair), but they endeared him only to his family, just as they endeared him to tens of millions of viewers back home.
But even after Ventimiglia made the leap from drifting teenager to confident adult, one unifying factor remained: seriousness. Jess might have been a shitty boyfriend in high school, but he was serious about Rory – he just didn’t always know how to express it. Peter also approached his responsibilities with determination, and you know Rocky Balboa’s kid gave his all. Jack too. Even when he wasn’t giving life-changing speeches or sacrificing himself for the family photo/dog album, he made every moment memorable, from pool days to game nights. These were the moments that mattered, the moments worth remembering, and Jack treasured each of them.
All this to say that Milo Ventimiglia isn’t the first person that comes to mind when you think of a crook. Yes, he appeared in two episodes of “Con Man” – Alan Tudyk’s 2015 web meta-series about a sci-fi star clinging to fame – but the “con” in the title stood for “conventions” (and Ventimiglia was just playing himself). Sincerity can help sell a scam, but as long as the public is in on the bet, they eventually have to see how good a liar the scammer can be. Typically, there’s a smile that’s as reassuring as it is revealing (à la Danny Ocean), or a satisfied laugh after a job well done (little better than Paul Newman). Scammers live for the scam, so they tend to take pride in getting one on their merit marks.
Which brings us to “The company you keep“, Ventimiglia ABCThe hybrid heist and family drama, where he plays Charlie, a shrewd but short-skinned con man working on his biggest score yet. To most people, Charlie is just a bartender at a restaurant in Seattle. But to the public, he is a silver-tongued man of many faces – a pickpocket, a planner and a loyal partner in crime. That last descriptor suits Ventimiglia just as well as Charlie’s custom tuxedo, and his physical skills as a quack come across quite well. But there is no gleam in his eyes; he doesn’t enjoy robbing the rich and disreputable – certainly not enough to justify devoting his life to the work, as he apparently has for the past forty years. Parts of Charlie are perfect for Ventimiglia — his loyalty to family and friends, his blue-collar cover story, his passion for a new flame — but “The Company You Keep” asks too much of its lead actor and tries to do far too much himself.
See, Charlie isn’t just a crook. He is the quarter of a family of crooks. His mother, Fran (Polly Draper), and father, Leo (William Fichtner), are career criminals, and they raised their two children to follow in their footsteps. Charlie is the face of most hugs, and his sister, Birdie (Sarah Wayne Callies), runs the operation behind the scenes. Heck, when we first meet the Nicoletti family, Charlie’s fiancé is part of the crew – before she betrays them, leaves Charlie, and gets away with the $10 million score.
Its release opens up the already crowded family series to a third genre: romance. After losing his future wife, Charlie bumps into Emma (Catherine Haena Kim) and, wouldn’t you know, sparks fly. Emma just caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman, so she’s especially receptive to a bit of ex-bashing and lots of drinking. But what seems like a mutual rebound soon turns out to be something more. They love each other. They share a connection. Maybe the time isn’t right, but they’re going to have to work through this relationship, for better or for worse.
Courtesy of ABC/Scott Everett White
Too bad for the horny couple, the “worse” seems inevitable. Emma works as a data analyst for a logistics company – or so she tells everyone because it’s generally frowned upon to walk around saying, “Hello, stranger. I work for the CIA! Her family doesn’t even know what she’s really doing, despite her brother running for the US Senate as the successor to their dad, who recently retired from the now open seat. Although the Hills aren’t too happy about Emma’s lack of a husband, she can rest assured that they won’t interfere in her career as long as her brother keeps all eyes on him.
Charlie doesn’t ask too many questions either, having been put to sleep by his deliberately boring explanation, but co-showrunners Julia Cohen and Phil Klemmer wisely point out that neither of them are looking to talk about work. They see themselves as an escape from work, family, and the general stresses of their dangerous professional lives. Their attraction, while never as electric as the plot would have you believe, functionally connects the two halves of the series: the half focused on Charlie’s heist and the half solving Emma’s crime. But then those halves are split into several smaller sections, where Charlie takes care of his family, Emma takes care of hers, Charlie goes to work, Emma follows closely, and avenues for additional storylines branch out from there.
Their ongoing romance and family drama are squeezed into episodes built around the heists of the week, making the first two hours cluttered but unsurprising. Perhaps it’s best for a broadcast series reliant on the charisma of its two stars to keep its options open, in the hopes that certain dynamics will work better than others and that the dead weight can be reduced over time. as the season progresses.
Still, “The Company You Keep” might not go that far. Emma and Charlie’s superficial bonding doesn’t light the screen on fire. They imply a lot more heat than they capture, and what’s glimpsed is blocked and captured too awkwardly to resurrect Hollywood. hectic sex life. Supporting as-in-the-hole stars like Fichtner and Callies don’t have enough time to make a lasting impact, and the constant presence of parents and siblings serves as a cold shower for any flickering flame. Glimmers of wit surface intermittently, giving some hope to a lighthearted original that needs more attitude, but the series is getting too close to its straight-laced star.
While it’s nice to see Ventimiglia trying to expand his range after his biggest role yet, “The Company You Keep” ties him more into the duties of family patriarch, not encouraging the actor to be playful, mean or anything other than serious. Heists are just more fun with a flashing rogue at the helm, and Ventimiglia’s bad boy alter egos seem stuck in the past.
“The Company You Keep” premieres Sunday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Register: Stay up to date with the latest film and TV news! Sign up for our email newsletters here.