Thursday, August 09, 2012

Review: SUITS

The USA Network has enjoyed great success mounting hour-long series that are all glossy, colorful, and generally lightweight. That’s not a criticism. They’re a well-executed collection of escapist fare. Imagine HAWAII 5-0 if everyone involved wasn’t brain dead. Pretty people. Pretty locales. Chase scenes. Explosions. P-G romance. P-G violence. Dashes of humor. It’s the TV equivalent of summer beach reading. I doubt you’ll ever see NECESSARY ROUGHNESS edge out MAD MEN for the Best Drama Emmy, but there’s a place for shows you can watch while texting.

And yet, out of this pack has emerged one truly excellent show – SUITS. I shouldn’t say “emerged”; it’s more like “evolved.”

SUITS started out last summer like most USA Network shows – with a high-concept premise and quick beauty shots of New York. Gabriel Macht is Harvey Spector (no relation to Phil), a super-slick shark attorney with charisma and bravado to burn. Adam Levine without the tatts. He works in a sleek Manhattan law firm – the kind that handles the Bank of America and Charlie Sheen. He hires Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) as his junior lawyer/protégée. Mike is brilliant, has a photographic mind, but he is harboring a little secret that only Harvey knows. He’s not a real lawyer. He’s a law school dropout. But just saying you went to Harvard Law School apparently gets you a job in a prestigious New York law firm or a staff writing job on THE SIMPSONS.  Yes, it’s a preposterous premise, but as the series unfolds that gets pushed to the background.

What surfaces instead are knotty legal problems, fun quirky characters, strong internal dynamics, and first-class writing. THE GOOD WIFE meets DOOGIE HOWSER.

I’m guessing at the start the focus was supposed to be on young Mike Ross. How was he going to avoid getting caught? How was he going to save the day by remembering a box score from 1985? But Harvey has become the true main attraction. Some actors just command the screen and Gabriel Macht is one of them. Best of all, you can just sense he’s having an absolute ball playing this character. And why not? He’s a cocky asshole who is smarter than everyone else and always right. If you can’t be Michael Phelps or Batman, this is the dude you want to be.

The side characters are also noteworthy. Especially Rick Hoffman as sleazy lawyer, Louis Litt. Picture Frank Burns but smart. The man can grovel and strut at the same time. Not easy to do.

And there’s Harvey’s saucy secretary, Donna (Sarah Rafferty). At the moment she’s fired but I’m sure that will change. Like Joan in MAD MEN, she’s smarter than most of the doofas men in her firm, but unlike Joan she doesn’t have to downplay it. Joan slept with a client to get ahead in the agency. Donna would just order one of the interns to do it for her.

Season one had more self-contained stories. Season two has a continuing arc of Harvey facing disbarment and the firm being taken over by a guy so insidious that even the ghost of Johnny Cochran has said telepathically, “If a lawyer’s that snide, I cannot abide!”  These guys are always in a pickle.

What I admire most about the show is the storytelling. Series creator, Aaron Korsh and staff have an uncanny knack for trapping their characters with seemingly no way out. And yet, ingeniously and organically they do manage to pull a Houdini act week after week.  To my knowledge it's the only USA series that doesn't end every week with a warehouse explosion. 

SUITS airs tonight at 10. Well worth one billable hour a week.

20 comments:

Paul D Brazill said...

Goo call. I fell into the show and really enjoy it now. Some smart lines, too, and nice cameos from some pretty good chatacter actors.

cpreynolds said...

I love this show! High compliments from such a great writer as you.

Emmett Flatus said...

Sorry, Ken. I never could get around the "preposterous premise" part.

MikeAdamson said...

I like it!

Kathy said...

I love this show too. I'm glad Mike Ross isn't the main focus anymore; he wasn't nearly as charismatic as Harvey. He's the genius, but Harvey's the smart one.

David said...

We've enjoyed Suits from the outset -- yes, the "will they find out Mike's secret?" premise wears thin, but they smartly keep it in the background as much as possible. The chemistry between Adams and Macht is marvelous, Rick Hoffman is always entertaining as Louis, and Gina Torres can never have too much screen time.

As for the guest stars, it was especially amusing to see Jacinda Barrett as a jury consultant from Harvey's past, since Macht and Barrett are married in real life.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for describing your take on the show. What a terrific ensemble cast and it's interesting to watch 'Harvey' break out as the lead. In its own way, Suits is a highly-effective buddy show.

John in Palm Springs

Anonymous said...

Suits has been solid this year since they moved the "Will they find out storyline to the back. But USA has several solid shows among the fun and frothy hours. Covert Affairs is a well done fun spy series. It's over now but In Plain Sight was very well done. Burn Notice does end every week with the warehouse explosion but it's also a good hour to watch. And for someone who traditionally doesn't watch Doctor shows I've enjoyed the fun and frothy but often serious Royal Pains. Even their lighter shows like Psych are fun. As much as I love Mad Men, one doesn't always have to push the envelope to have 40+ minutes of very watchable TV. -mw

chris mcdermott said...

uh oh, a little bit of me died to read Gabriel Macht is married...and it appears his wife is the gorgeous gay lawyer from the 2nd Bridget Jones...well I'm surviving Colin Firth's real-life marriage, guess I can deal with this. Loved the show since episode #1...you can find the chase/suitcase scene on YouTube. Classic. Harvey and Donna's relationship established in nano-seconds, everybody's top notch. Louis is proving to be almost...adorable at times. Agree 100 percent with you on this one, Ken.

criminal defense law firms said...

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Brian said...

I too enjoy Suits. I think you do a good service Ken to mention shows like this.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about any of the rest of the shows, but PAX shows Psych for hours and hours straight on Saturday nights. I can watch one of them, and it is fine. After the kids watch 3 or 4 in a row, I just want to take the TV to the curb.

Mike said...

Suits is not PG. USA is definitely pushing to get more cursing on air a la FX.

schnell abnehmen said...

very good post

Paul Duca said...

But I don't want to be Michael Phelps or Batman...I want to be Ken Levine.

XJill said...

Suits is one of my summer pleasures, the cast is so uniformly great. Gina Torres and Rick Hoffman have been especially amazing this season. I also love the Harvey/Donna relationship and can't wait to get backstory there; also cool is that Gabriel and Sarah have been friends for like 20 years.!

jbryant said...

This is probably one of my two or three favorite shows right now. Sure, credibility-stretching premise, but they pull it off. I was worried that season 2 added an arc, but that's proved to be a wise decision as well. The show also has a great visual look.

Surprised you didn't mention that WINGS' Rebecca Shull has a nice recurring role as Mike's grandmother.

Flying Fingers said...

When I watch Suits, I feel like I've worked with these guys (I'm a court reporter in NYC). wait, I HAVE worked with these guys! I was the court reporter in the first episode. The ensemble case is wonderful -- and Gabriel Macht is so nice in person.

bettyd said...

I am catching up on your blog and glad to read this post about one of my summer favorites.

I am worried that the show is getting into a bit of the House formula - unsolvable problem, failed first solution, reprimand from superiors, final solution is best for patient - I mean - client. There is a lot more going on around the main story, unlike House, but I think they need to be careful about the formula.

Love Rick Hoffman. I like that everyone respects how smart he is, even though he is not the best socially.

Sebastian Peitsch said...

Thanks for the tip Ken. Just caught up to the current episode..

I like the show. It's basically Ally McBeal for guys, something I always wanted :-)

It doesn't hold a candle to The Good Wife though IMHO. There are too many scenes that break my suspension of disbelief. Too much walking fast while wearing suits too much walking in slow-motion while wearing dresses and overall too fast answering with whitty comebacks. You can't start talking unless the information reaches your brain first. I think that's what I like about The Good Wife. They chose the dramatic pause as emphasis.

I love the numerous movie references though. Makes this a lawyer show for nerds and I guess that's why it hits home for me :-)