It’s not every day that you fall in love. And it’s certainly not every day that you fall in love with a CIA agent you meet in a hotel bar who has no idea you’re a successful conman. But hey, that’s TV.
If you have seen “The Company You Keep,” chances are you’re either an avid “Gilmore Girls” fan here for Milo Ventimiglia (guilty) or you saw ABC’s relentless Twitter ads and decided to throw in the towel. These demographics make up the show’s current viewers, but they aren’t the people to whom I recommend the show. Lovers of crime-romance tropes seem to be “The Company You Keep’s” perfect audience. Hey BookTokers, this one might be for you.
From romance novels to blockbuster movies (think “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”), tropes have propelled storytelling forward and broken many of its more cliché aspects down to a science. Whether this is a good thing is up to the internet to decide. But “The Company You Keep” isn’t at a loss for these more cliché storytelling conventions, and I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing. “The Company You Keep” is cheesy and wildly unrealistic. But it finds its most critical strength in that it knows this. The series may feature well-known actors and have an ABC-level budget, but a self-awareness of its own trope-y nature is what pushes “The Company You Keep” beyond the boundaries of “cliché” and toward an idea of paying tribute to the crime-romance staples that came before it. The ABC series accomplishes a feat few shows are bold enough to attempt: It recognizes its own clichés and runs toward them, not away.
As well as a critical self-awareness and a unique approach to the tropes often found on our TV screens, “The Company You Keep” features dynamics often unexplored in similar stories. Charlie Nicoletti (Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”) may be a highly skilled conman, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going at it alone. Conning is the family business for the Nicolettis, and they’re never above a bank job or a good family argument. By allowing us to observe Charlie’s dynamic with his family, the show lets us into his life on a more personal (and professional, technically) level. “The Company You Keep” also delves into Emma’s (Catherine Haena Kim, “Ballers”) family life and the “spin over substance” parenting style that affected her upbringing and taints her personality to this day.
“The Company You Keep” may not be the most original or life-changing piece of television the world has to offer. Still, its ability to acknowledge this raises the series to an unforeseen level of respectability. As the series uses its self-awareness to pay homage to its genre, this crime-romance earns itself the title of love letter (in more ways than one).
Daily Arts Writer Olivia Tarling can be reached at email@example.com.