[06/22/11 - 11:52 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Suits" (USA)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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The network's description: ""Suits" will launch its freshman season with stars Gabriel Macht ("Love and Other Drugs"), as one of Manhattan's top corporate lawyers sets out to recruit a new hotshot associate and hires the only guy that impresses him - Patrick J. Adams ("Lost") as Mike Ross, a brilliant but unmotivated college dropout. Though he isn't actually a lawyer, this legal prodigy has the book smarts of a Harvard law grad and the street smarts of a hustler. However, in order to serve justice and save their jobs, both these unconventional thinkers must continue the charade.

The series also stars Meghan Markle ("CSI Miami"), Gina Torres ("Gossip Girl") and Rick Hoffman ("Samantha Who"). From Universal Cable Productions, SUITS is executive produced Doug Liman (COVERT AFFAIRS, the "Bourne" trilogy, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "The O.C.") and David Bartis (COVERT AFFAIRS, "The O.C.," "The Heist") of Hypnotic. Creator Aaron Korsh ("The Deep End") wrote the pilot and serves as co-executive producer and Gene Klein serves as producer."

What did they leave out? It originally ran under the title "A Legal Mind." And as is custom for USA's pilots, it runs a healthy 70 plus minutes.

The plot in a nutshell: Meet Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). He's Pearson & Hardman's closer, that is to say he's who they call when clients get cold feet or deals start to unravel. Said position often causes Harvey to stretch the ethical boundaries of the legal profession, a fact not lost on his boss Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres). She nevertheless has enough faith to make him a senior partner, a promotion which comes with an associate to work under him. Rather than hire the "Harvard summer associate douche," Jessica wants him to hold interviews to find the next Harvey Specter, a prospect that horrifies him as he prefers to work alone.

Meet Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams). Once a promising law student, Mike now spends his days getting stoned and taking the LSAT as other people for cash. Both pursuits however are quickly wearing out their welcome, especially when he gets the news he'll need to come up with $25,000 to keep his Alzheimer's-stricken grandmother (Rebecca Schull) in her nursing home. His best friend/pot dealer Trevor (Tom Lipinski) suggests joining his business however an early brush with the law puts him on a different path: one which accidentally sees him crash Harvey's aforementioned interviews.

There, between his cavalier attitude and encyclopedic knowledge of the law, Mike strikes an improbable impression on Harvey and makes an equally improbable proposition: give him the associate position. One small problem though: Mike doesn't have a law degree, nor has he actually passed the bar as himself. Harvey agrees but under the condition Mike cleans up his act: no more pot, no more trouble. And of course, they'll have to lie and say he went to Harvard. Before long Mike is saddled with his first case: a woman who's suing her former employer for sexual harassment. That's when the reality hits of what Mike is trying to do... and how in over his head he (and Harvey) may be.

What works: Once its con-man-with-the-heart-of-gold and soulless-arrogant-wheeler-dealer kicking legal ass and taking names premise finally kicks in, there's definitely plenty of sparks to go around. Macht and Adams prove to be great finds as there's an amusing back and forth between them ("I thought it would be cruel not to let you witness my greatness," Harvey quips at one point after letting Mike know he'll be joining him at a critical hearing) while the flip of the usual good-guy-and-bad-guy-forced-to-work-together trope is a nice touch (it's Mike that openly wants to play for the angels while Harvey has to be dragged alongside him).

There's also quite a deep bench in the supporting cast, from Meghan Markle as no-nonsense paralegal Rachel, who gives Mike the lay of the land; to Rick Hoffman as Louis, Harvey's nemesis at the firm; to Sarah Rafferty as Donna, Harvey's sardonic assistant. And the case, while not particularly groundbreaking, gives our heroes a variety of beats to play as they drill down to the evidence that will win their case. All in all, it's a likeable bunch with an intriguing hook.

What doesn't: It takes a while for the show's various pieces to come together as Harvey and Mike don't actually meet until a solid 20 minutes in plus the traditional case-of-the-week doesn't turn up for another 10 minutes after that. And while all of USA's pilots run long, it's still something of an understatement to say that's a rather slow burn. Everything you really need to know about Mike and Harvey comes out in their initial meeting, making the preceding 20 minutes feel like an extraneous origin story. Sure, some of those elements ultimately loop back into the plot but even then it comes across as tangential and distracting.

Beyond that, there's the nagging question as to why Harvey would open himself up to this kind of arrangement. Sure he's not above telling a few white lies or making some selective omissions, but an ongoing conspiracy to cover up for someone he professes not to need in the first place? Just because he likes the cut of Mike's jib? It's definitely one of those the-less-you-think-about-it-the-better TV buys (and what's up with me and the dashes today?). Toss in some softball twists regarding Mike's seemingly eidetic memory - wait he remembered the thing we happened to spend an awkward beat on 20 minutes ago that saves him from being exposed, no kidding? - and it's definitely not the smoothest launch ever. That being said, once all the necessary groundwork is laid...

The bottom line: ...it's hard not to be charmed by the characters and ultimately the show itself.

  [june 2011]  


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