There’s been a dearth of sexy shows on television. That shouldn’t be conflated with the number of skin-baring scenes that any given series might sprinkle into their narrative — but a genuinely sexy show, consisting of a fun, engaging dynamic between the romantic leads, believable chemistry, and all the plot obstacles that contribute to making the potential of their new relationship that much thornier. Enter ABC’s new heist drama The Company You Keep, based on the K-drama My Fellow Citizens and developed by Julia Cohen and Phil Klemmer, which feels blended from equal parts Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Leverage and served up smooth for what might be one of the most surprising network TV contributions of 2023 so far.

In his first role since his long-running turn in the hit drama This Is Us, Milo Ventimiglia leads this new series as Charlie Nicoletti, a professional con man who has been active in the “family business” for as long as he can remember but has always distantly set his sights on getting out and going legit. The team, led up by his parents, Leo (William Fichtner) and Fran (Polly Draper), as well as Charlie’s older sister Birdie (Sarah Wayne Callies), run a local dive bar as a front for the real operation — but the family has always operated with a sense of morality even while working in the gray areas of legality. Their targets are the rich and terrible — often, wealthy parties who are skimming off the top themselves, or funding evil enterprises. (See where the Leverage comparisons come into play?) It’s this modus operandi, a Robin Hood strategy, that ensures the family at the center of this show remains one to root for, with all the baked-in relationships that a group who’s been intimately working with each other for years would possess. Ventimiglia and Callies are the ones who most believably play off of each other as siblings, especially since Charlie and Birdie are more likely to be caught humorously bickering during a job instead of focusing on the mission at hand — but Fichtner and Draper also lend a gravitas to their roles as the heads of the family who are aging out of the business they’re in but have to stick it out a little longer.

While the Nicoletti family might be The Company You Keep‘s beating heart, it’s the chemistry between Ventimiglia and his co-lead that contributes to its fluttering pulse. After a job that could have set the family for life goes bad for them instead, Charlie heads to a hotel bar with the aim of shutting off his phone and drowning his sorrows — where he meets a woman with her own reasons for ordering a stiff drink. Emma Hill (Catherine Haena Kim) has a wide range of professional and personal troubles weighing on her, but the circumstances are just right for the two of them to strike up a conversation. One drink leads to another and another and another, and before they know it, they’re falling into bed together for a night of unforgettable passion — with as much steam as could possibly be allowed by network standards. The only problem? Emma is an undercover CIA agent, and because the two of them have already agreed to remain near-strangers to each other — only revealing small details in between several rounds of bedroom action — neither of them is aware of what the other really does for a living.

Image via ABC

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It would be one thing if Charlie and Emma’s one-night-stand remained just that — but as they wake up the next morning, tumble back into bed, and then finally go their separate ways, neither party can get the other one out of their head. In fact, Charlie’s about 99% sure he might be falling in love with a woman he barely knows anything about, but the potential for new romance is the least of his problems. Not only does he have to figure out a way to see Emma again and possibly figure out if this one-time-only fling can turn into something more permanent, but his family’s financial security is also hanging in the balance. Someone the Nicolettis screwed over in their recent past has come to collect on what they’re owed, and they won’t stop until they’re repaid every single cent. So, in spite of his earlier efforts to guarantee his family’s future with one more good score, Charlie finds himself drawn right back into the heist business — complete with elaborate disguises, cleverly orchestrated plans, and unsuspecting targets with enough cash and jewels to earn the Nicolettis a little more time to pay back their very large debt.

This blend between a sexy romance and a family drama is where The Company You Keep settles into its rhythm, thereby ensuring that the series never becomes too one-note. Granted, Ventimiglia and Kim catch and keep your attention every time they share a scene together, but this show hinges on every single one of the naturally winning qualities that Ventimiglia brings to the table. As the leading man, the romantic interest, the committed son and brother, and the career criminal, he has a lot of variances to the character to juggle. Charlie wouldn’t be nearly as compelling without the charm Ventimiglia exudes, as well as the actor’s ability to make him equal parts affable, vulnerable, and emotionally reserved without veering into broody or closed-off territory.

Image via ABC

We don’t spend quite as much time with Emma and her home life — although the initial episodes unveil the fact that she has plenty to navigate with her own family, especially since her brother, David Hill (Tim Chiou), is running for office and keeps trying to hire her away from the unassuming data firm — where he mistakenly believes she works — in order to be a part of his political campaign. The stark dichotomy between the show’s two families is intriguing on its own, with the Hills widely known as a Baltimore dynasty in their own right and the Nicolettis scraping by through their less-than-legal measures. However, the places where Kim gets to shine away from her scenes with Ventimiglia are the occasions that Emma is given to be a badass CIA agent, her investigation closing in on a mysterious new figure in the criminal world who always seems to be standing just out of range for any cameras to pick up the precise details of his face.

The overarching question of exactly how long Charlie and Emma can continue their burgeoning, forbidden romance hangs over everything, creating a delicious note of tension that has yet to break. It’s also an incredibly satisfying episodic caper show as the Nicolettis work to pull off a new con each week, which is entertaining on its own but ultimately reminds us of the growing stakes around the bad guy who currently holds their leash. Although it’s too soon to tell exactly where The Company You Keep will end up by the end of its freshman season, this new series has already positioned itself to steal audiences’ hearts with its dynamic cast, fun plot, and swoony romance.

Rating: B+

The Company You Keep premieres Sunday, February 19 on ABC, with new episodes airing weekly every Sunday after.

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