Judge Josh Rode only wears suits to weddings and funerals.
Two lawyers. One degree.
Yet another variation on USA's favorite theme. How long can they keep it up? Well, as long as their shows continue to be well-written and acted, I guess they can go on indefinitely.
Facts of the Case
Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams, Lost) is a pot-smoking slacker genius who makes a living taking the LSAT's for prospective law school applicants. A chance meeting with power attorney Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht, Love and Other Drugs) opens the door to becoming an associate at one of New York's most prestigious law firms. Life then becomes very busy, as Mike tries to balance learning the ropes of the firm, while hiding the fact that he doesn't have an actual law degree.
Back in 2006, the USA Network starting creating original series. After six years, their programming slate has proven not to be all that original. From Psych to the newly-spawned Common Law, the basic cable network continues to churn out shows that have basically the same premise; a slightly tweaked "buddy cop" setup…not always with cops. Suits is, in essence, White Collar set in a law firm instead of the CIA. And yet, it scores pretty high. Perhaps the reason USA keeps repeating its own formula is because that formula works really well.
The secret to Suits' success (and that of other USA shows) lies in casting and characterization. Every actor is spot-on. Harvey is a supremely confident, smooth-talking control freak who always knows just what to say and do. Macht and his slicked-back hairdo fit the part like a glove. Since every series these days must have a tough-as-nails boss, Suits gets one in the form of Gina Torres (Firefly) who gives her more depth than your average television drama boss. Sarah Rafferty (Small, Beautifully Moving Parts) steals every scene she's in as Harvey's personal assistant Donna.
And then there's Louis Litt, played with savage glee by Rick Hoffman (Battleship, but don't hold that against him). Every place of business has a Louis; the guy who's competent at his job, but has the social skills of mayonnaise. Louis personifies everyone's deepest fears about the law profession: he's unscrupulous, devious, and willing to stick a knife in your back if that'll help him win. It takes awhile to get used to Louis, but once you're there, he's the best part of the show.
Mike comes across as smart, talented, and in over his head. That has as much to do with the writing, as it does with Adams' portrayal. Given Mike's natural abilities, it would have been easy to write him as a wunderkind who picks up the job as if he's been there for years. Instead he makes mistakes and does so constantly. His incompetence nearly loses the firm clients and he has no idea how to fill out even the most basic paperwork. He's a genius, but continually gets suckered into doing other associates' work. Mike's relationships feel entirely organic, especially with gorgeous paralegal Rachel (Meghan Markle, Horrible Bosses). She starts off amused by his come-ons, shutting him down the instant he tries to talk her up, but as the season goes on they become closer. The amazing thing is the actors' chemistry changes along with their characters; there is no spark between Mike and Rachel at the beginning, but by the time the season ends there definitely is. It's a remarkable feat of writing, directing, and acting.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Suits does have its share of weaknesses, especially those found in other hour-long dramas. Call it the Castle syndrome: everything has to be wrapped up with a neat bow by the end of each episode, so narrative shortcuts are taken. Mike finds just the right sheet of paper from a room full of boxes, seemingly hopeless cases are won in dramatic fashion at the last second through some amazing stratagem, and the missing witness shows up just in the nick of time. The good shows are able to rise above these limitations, by being more about the characters and their interactions than about the actual story. Suits does just fine in this regard.
The biggest challenge the series faces is finding a way to keep from becoming just another law firm show. Suits stakes its claim for uniqueness by having one of its lawyers lack a degree, but how long can they keep that integral to the story? Season One already shows cracks in this regard; a couple of the later episodes give Mike generic plotlines that could have been a part of [insert any generic courtroom drama here].
Technically, Suits looks and sounds like a television show. The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is clean with reasonably deep coloring. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix doesn't stray far from center channel and the sub-woofer is an afterthought. Extras include minimal deleted scenes on sporadic episodes, and a couple of commentaries that hold more silence than interesting facts. We also get a generic gag reel and a "question and answer with fans" featurette wherein questions from Facebook fans (e.g. "What is the secret can-opener ritual?") are answered by the principal cast.
Suits: Season One is very much like all the other USA network shows…which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Harvey Specter was in charge of the defense, and he never loses. Not
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