Suits

August 11, 2012

Simplistic TV: White Collar

CUTE

In 2002, Steven Spielberg directed the film Catch Me If You Can starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio.  It centered around the true story of a brilliant con artist gallivanting around the country and the relentless FBI agent tasked with capturing him.  It is one of Spielberg’s better, yet, forgotten films.  Hanks is great, Leo is great, and Christopher Walken steals every scene he’s in.  The film itself ends…(SPOILER ALERT) with Leo, the criminal, beginning to help Hanks, the FBI agent, solve some of the white collar crimes in order to commute his sentence.  This is where the USA Network show White Collar picks up.

White Collar is a procedural dramedy…or…comedrama…wait…that sounds stupid…lets stick with dramedy….about a master thief/con artist helping the FBI capture criminals while trying to stay on the straight and narrow himself.  A concept that serves as a great foundation and a smart jump off for some very original ideas rarely seen on a typical procedural cop show.  As with most USA Network shows, White Collar doesn’t shine when it sticks to the monster of the week procedural formula.  It shines when they focus on their character’s chemistry and ONE all encompassing story arc.  If there is one thing you can say about USA, most of their shows have casts and characters WITH CHEMISTRY.  Whether that be Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, and the LEGENDARY Bruce Campbell on Burn Notice….Gabrielle Macht and Patrick J. Adams on Suits…or here with Tim DeKay, Matt Bomer and Willie Garson on White Collar.  You like these characters and you like to see them have conversations with each other, no matter what they’re talking about.  This serves White Collar very well.

Where White Collar draws some critique is in its occasional tone shifts.  Where Catch Me If You Can is more drama than comedy, White Collar is more of the latter.  It feels more at home in the CUTE, light-hearted format.  For example, the tone of film The Sting, is where White Collar might want to stay.  However, there are instances where the show tries to get serious and dark.  However, it doesn’t ring very believable because its such a departure from the tone it has originally set.  Burn Notice is a show that can be fun then turn dark and it works because of the nature of the hero. (A Burned Spy)  A white collar criminal or con artist isn’t usually confrontational.  Danny Ocean isn’t ever going to beat the sh*t out of someone or kill anyone.  Neither should Neal Caffrey.

Now, I can’t blame the show runner Jeff Eastin too much for something that happens occasionally.  I’m willing to bet they’ve been knudged into shifting tone by USA during finales or sweeps.   Mainly because there is nothing that television networks love more than running an ad with somber music and a gravely voiced narrator whispering “On A Special Episode Of….Fill In The Blank” with text flashing across the screen that reads “ALL…BETS…ARE…OFF!”  And for the most part, Eastin’s show stays true to it’s better nature.

White Collar benefits from its concept, its cast, (Which includes KELLY F*#KING KAPOWSKI) and its cleverness.  Its good fun when it remembers it is supposed to be fun.  Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 27, 2012

Simplistic TV: Suits

UNDERVALUED

There hasn’t been a lot of great lawyer shows in a while.(I hear Damages is ok but I’m still in the process of watching it.) Probably not since David E. Kelly’s show Boston Legal. I don’t count any of the Law & Orders because they focus solely on the cases and let the personal lives of the characters fall by the wayside. Making it a show about law and not about lawyers. However, the USA show Suits is finally a return to the lawyer show. And not just a Boston Legal or an Alley McBeal type show. Suits harkens back to Steven Bochco’s 80s classic LA Law, while still having modern appeal and wit.

Created by Aaron Korsh and produced by Doug Liman, Suits in a nutshell is this. What if a higher functioning Rain Man joined a law firm headed by Tony Stark. An interesting concept to say the least. Most people dismiss USA Network shows as procedural fluff. And some of them are. However, Suits has fast become one of the network’s stand outs. I attribute it’s steady increase in quality to the fact they begun downplaying the Rain Man gimmick actor Patrick J. Adams portrays in Mike Ross. If you rely on a gimmick, viewers will begin figuring out your shows before they’re over. It’s the Batman utility belt method. No matter what jam Batman gets in, the viewer is just waiting to see what deus ex machina he’ll whip out to solve it. Suits recognized it wasn’t the premise that was the strength of the show, rather the relationships of the lawyers. That is where the show shines.

Harvey Specter, the Tony Stark-like hot shot lawyer, is played brilliantly by Gabriel Macht. An actor who you’ll probably only remember from this travesty. What Macht and Robert Downey Jr.(Yes, I’ve noticed how many times I mention him) do with both their characters is make them an *sshole but still an *sshole you can like and root for.

Suits walks that tight line of Boston Legal fun and The Practice seriousness.  And it walks it well.  Its a show that week in and week out presents UNDERVALUED performances by its cast and satisfying weekly stories that allow them to flourish.  You haven’t experienced real joy until you’ve seen a Harvey Specter ownage of Louis Litt.  Give the series a chance….the first episode especially…then tell me I’m wrong.

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