March 7, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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WHERE WE WERE:  Contra Security, a wacky high-tech firm run by the extravagantly enigmatic Oz (Christian Slater).  Contra tests the security measures of its clients by cracking them wide open, staging mock break-ins, robberies, and similar hijinks.  Its roster of idiosyncratic experts include hacker Cameron (Bret Harrison), gadget guy Cash (Alphonso McAuley) and, for the moment at least, lock-picker Melanie (Odette Annable).
WHERE WE ARE:  A somewhat different version of Contra.  BREAKING IN‘s behind-the-scenes story was at least as interesting as anything that happened on the show.  It aired initially with the giant lead-in of American Idol, and scored not-bad ratings in the mid-2s.  When FOX moved the show away from Idol at the end of the season and gave it Raising Hope as a lead-in, the number plummeted to 1.3.  So one’s feeling about the ratings of the show sort of depended on how much one was squinting when looking at them.  In the (sort of) end, FOX didn’t renew the series when its network option was up in May.  But Sony Television, which produces Breaking In, didn’t give up, and when the cast options were expiring at the end of June (it’s typical for cast options to extend beyond the network’s, in case the studio can place the show somewhere else with a little extra time), it had talked FOX into splitting the cost of extending the deals for a few more months, so FOX could have a chance to reconsider.  Which, in the (real) end, it did, renewing the show for a midseason run that began tonight–and giving it the hit New Girl as a lead-in.

It’s safe to assume that part of the pitch Sony made to the network was a shift in the creative elements of the show, and so the cast of Breaking In 2.0 isn’t exactly the same as last year’s.  The disguises expert who was part of the team is gone, as is Melanie’s buffoonish fiance. And Melanie herself, for that matter, will only recur in some of the remaining episodes (Annable had meanwhile taken a role on FOX’s House).  The bigger news is that Contra would have new ownership, with Oz selling the company to a conglomerate personified by the new character of Veronica (Emmy Award-winner Megan Mullally, who’s been added to the cast), and her assistant Molly (Erin Richards).  
The season premiere, written and directed respectively by series co-creators Adam F. Goldberg and Seth Gordon, was mostly concerned with setting up the new premise of the show.  Since every single FOX promo had made it clear that Veronica was the new boss, the first half of the episode was unintentionally tiresome as it introduced her as the new perky and annoying assistant to Oz she was pretending to be.  Once the reveal finally took place, the focus was on the Contra employees, so there was still no clear picture of who Veronica is actually going to be.  (Presumably the producers and network are fully aware that having both Mullally and Slater sharing a screen squeezes an awful lot of hamminess into a very small space.)  The Molly character was only briefly introduced, so other than being British and (naturally) acerbic, her role isn’t defined yet either.
The basic dynamic of last year’s Breaking In was that every week, Cameron and the others would leap to conclusions about what their assignment was and what Oz was really plotting, and every time, it would turn out that Oz was fiendishly playing mind-games with them and was actually 3 steps ahead.  Presumably with Mullally around, that’s going to be somewhat different.  The other major thread was Cam’s not-quite requited longing for Melanie, and with Annable playiing a limited role, that’s not going to be the same this season either.  So the show is going to have some fundamental changes to its DNA.
As for tonight’s episode itself, it was at best mildly funny:  Cash’s pranks are rarely as clever as the writers seem to think, there was little opportunity for the pop culture jokes that usually abound (apart from an extremely forced Breakfast Club bit), and the script had to do a lot of heavy lifting to contrive both Mullally’s arrival and Slater’s continuing presence.  Breaking In was far from memorable TV before–we’ll find out in the next few weeks if the changes have made it any less disposable.

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."