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Silly spy comedy with charm

For years, Scott Foley was one of those actors who never quite secured leading-man status despite appearing to tick all the right boxes.

His characters couldn't catch a break either. Foley's Noel was snubbed by the heroine of hit show Felicity (1998 to 2002) in favour of rival hottie Ben; he was also the romantic loser and second banana in Scandal (2013 to 2018); and his 2010 to 2012 stint on Grey's Anatomy ended with an ignoble death on the operating table.

Foley's fans must therefore be over the moon seeing his name leading the credits of Whiskey Cavalier, a frothy new spy comedy. And they will breathe easier knowing he will be harder to kill off given the title is the code name of his character, FBI agent Will Chase.

Chase may be a super spy, but in the first episode, he is also the mopiest, neediest spy, because his fiancee has just dumped him and he is a wreck.

But then an assignment goes awry in Russia and he finds himself forced to work with a crack CIA operative, Frankie Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan from The Walking Dead (2011 to 2018).

There is sexual tension to spare between the two but - surprise - they do not get along. She "doesn't do emotional attachments" while he is sensitive to a fault, although the show spins this as a sort of superpower in their left-brain profession.

Scott Foley and Lauren Cohan star as rival operatives in spy comedy Whiskey Cavalier.
Scott Foley and Lauren Cohan star as rival operatives in spy comedy Whiskey Cavalier. PHOTO: WARNER TV

  • VIEW IT / WHISKEY CAVALIER

    Warner TV (Singtel TV Channel 306, StarHub TV Channel 515) Thursdays, 9pm

    3 stars

  • MIRACLE WORKERS

    Warner TV (Singtel TV Channel 306, StarHub TV Channel 515) Wednesdays, 10pm

    3 stars

There is nothing ground-breaking here. The series is pure popcorn, with lots of spy games and spy toys, pantomime villains, preposterous action sequences and nonsensical storylines. But that is part of the appeal.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, the show leans heavily on Foley's affable charm. Cohan is likeable as well, although she is given less to do as the slow-melting ice queen.

Their FBI versus CIA inter-agency rivalry is trite, as is the head-versus-heart contrast the show keeps hammering at. But there are some nice one-liners and gender role reversals to savour.

If you want to power down your brain and watch something silly, this is a solid choice.

Miracle Workers, another new comedy, might tax your synapses a little more - but not nearly as much as it thinks, perhaps.

A workplace comedy set in heaven, it casts Steve Buscemi (Fargo, 1996) as God, or rather the CEO of Heaven Inc, which is in disarray because he has mentally checked out of the job.

He would rather be day-drinking and planning his next hare-brained scheme - a dumb idea for a restaurant - rather than address the many problems on Earth, which include various natural and environmental disasters.

In the two episodes previewed, it is unclear whether the disasters are God's doing or humankind's or both; the exasperation of his assistant Sanjay (Karan Soni) suggests it is at least partially the boss'.

When he decides to annihilate Earth so he can focus on his restaurant, two lowly angels, Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) and Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan), get him to make a bet - if they can contrive a way to make two particular humans fall in love, he will cancel the apocalypse.

The premise invites comparisons to The Good Place (2016 to present), which also depicts the afterlife as a sort of bureaucratic hell.

Another similarity is that this teases a number of existential questions, including about free will and how that might fit in with the notion of an almighty deity.

But unlike the highly regarded The Good Place, Miracle Workers is not especially imaginative or clever in examining these ideas, at least in these early episodes.

It lands a few small jokes that may raise a smile - for instance, about how humans rarely pick up on ominous portents, or a cheesy gag involving comedian Bill Maher, whose atheism irks God no end.

The show may redeem itself yet. But for now, its saving grace is the excellent Buscemi, who wonderfully conveys the subtlest shades of irritation, idiocy, shallowness and sloth.

Soni does a fine job as his comic foil. If anything, the weak link is the most famous member of the cast - Harry Potter star Radcliffe.

His performance as the dorky, jittery Craig has only one gear and if the writers decided to annihilate him, the show could easily carry on without him.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Silly spy comedy with charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe