June 19, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Premieres Thursday 10PM on USA:  If Nothing Else Is On… (But it’s summer, so nothing is.)
At this point, I think we could all identify a USA Network series blindfolded and with the soundtrack running backwards.  There’s the quirky, unconventional savant lead–available, like a comfortable sweater, in several colors:  cop/detective (In Plain Sight, Psych, White Collar), spy (Covert Affairs, Burn Notice), doctor (Royal Pains) or lawyer (Fairly Legal and the new SUITS).  Whatever the profession, the protagonist is usually a con artist of some sort, pretending for purposes of the job to be something he or she isn’t.  There’s at least one bantering sidekick, and one or more stodgy representatives of the established order, so the leads can run circles around them.  Add a disease/case/crime of the week, and mix well.  The formula has been staggeringly successful for the network:  this summer, USA will broadcast 8 hours a week of original scripted dramas, on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays–that’s more drama, and almost as many scripted series in total, than FOX will air next fall. And FOX and the other networks only wish they could have USA’s recent track record for success; like an expert politician, USA knows how to stay on message.

In Suits, our hero, Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), is smart enough to have gotten into Harvard Law School, but a youthful screw-up ruined his prospects, and now he makes ends meet by taking tests for others, passing effortlessly because of his phenomenal memory (have I got a girl on CBS for him!).  All this changes when he comes to the attention of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), an arrogantly brilliant attorney who can’t find a junior lawyer built enough in his own image to assist him.  Bromantic sparks fly, and Mike is the firm’s new “lawyer,” able to throw around legal concepts while needing the help of the firm’s cute paralegal (Meghan Markle) to file the simplest motion.  The forces of authority are represented by the firm’s managing partner (Gina Torres, sympathetic) and Harvey’s scheming rival (Rick Hoffman, who always plays this role).  
On the USA scale, Suits, at least in its 90-minute premiere episode, is a little more earnest than usual.  (TNT’s version of the show, this summer’s legal romp Franklin & Bash, goes the other way–too silly to have any weight at all.)  Since Mike really did want to be a lawyer, and he honestly wants to help people, in Sean Jablonski and Aaron Korsh’s script he’s less of a smart-aleck than most of the network’s heroes (Harvey, who’s more in the cynical-with-a-heart-of-gold mode, has the mentor part), and perhaps correspondingly, Suits is a bit low in initial buoyancy.  There is, for example, a grandmother for Mike who, despite her Alzheimer’s, is unfailingly able to give exactly the right advice–not to be brutal, but granny’s  probably not necessary.  Still, the central characters are all likable, as are the actors, and the storytelling, however predictable, is efficient; the one-hour format will probably help boil subsequent episodes down in a helpful way.  
Pick the simile:  Suits fits USA like a glove, it’s made to order for the network, it’s custom tailored to their measurements.  The point is that the network’s streak is likely to continue.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."