If you're watching a USA Network show, you're probably aware of what you're going to get. It's likely a buddy comedy with two mismatched partners, quick, witty dialogue and a few good dramatic moments. Look! I just described every big show on USA -- White Collar, Psych, Royal Pains and, to lesser degrees, Burn Notice and Covert Affairs. Yes, Suits followed that formula last night. But unexpectedly, it had an extra oomph. Some of the subjects it tackled were darker than usual and the leads were more sympathetic -- they had unusually well-developed backstories and strong chemistry. It's a USA show, but sprinkled with fairy dust and the best one I've seen on the network in a long time.
Suits takes us to New York City -- we know because of the suave, aerial shots. Harvey Spector (Gabriel Macht) is a hot shot lawyer. He's famous for being a "closer" -- apparently that's a thing -- someone who comes in and closes cases when they're...in need of closing, I guess. He has his own way of doing things, but not just because he's a douche and likes to stick it to the man (cough, Franklin & Bash) -- he kind of is the man. Harvey has to hire a new associate, which is where Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) comes in. Mike is a young man "knocked into a different life" because of a series of bad decisions, but he's unbelievably smart and has an incredible memory, so he makes money by taking exams for law students. His deadbeat, pot-dealing friend Trevor has him take part in a drug deal in the same hotel where Harvey is interviewing potential associates and that's our meet cute. Mike comes clean to Harvey -- he's not a lawyer, he's just trying to get away from cops during a drug deal -- but then he showcases his photographic memory. Harvey decides Mike is the best candidate he has, so he's hired.
Yes, it's unrealistic. But: 1) We don't watch TV for realism -- that's why we all hated watching Mitch cry every week on The Killing -- and 2) About a million other things keep the show afloat. The whole pot storyline is something that's not really addressed on network TV, especially not a "suit" who smokes. Mike and his friend Trevor are not the classic image of TV stoners, but in reality, people who smoke pot are just as likely to look like them as they are to look like Bob Marley. They are young and in New York and bored with their lives, so they get stoned. It's not the most uplifting of plotlines, but it gives the show weight. Then there's the strength of the two leads. Adams plays a cheater and a stoner, but he brings heart to Mike's relationship with his grandmother and embodies the eager-to-learn whiz kid with ease. Throughout his career, Macht has mastered the art of playing a character just on the edge of smarmy and he does it here again. But he makes it easy to see there's more to Harvey than that -- he's winning, he's got charisma to burn, but he's as thrown off by (and as invested in) Mike as we are. Harvey has a heart, it's just buried somewhere underneath. By the end of the episode, the two have had it out with each other multiple times -- the rookie stands up to the vet and vice versa -- and Harvey defends Mike to his colleagues on multiple occasions. Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The show did get a bit slow towards the end, but I'm hoping that's because it was an 80-minute pilot. Plus, they've got almost too many things going on for following episodes to ever feel slow again -- Mike clearly has trouble kicking his smoking habit and leaving his old life behind, there's already a love triangle (rectangle?) developing. Plus, the flawless Anna Espinosa -- err, Gina Torres -- is on board as Harvey and Mike's boss. Mike is the classic seen-it-all underdog, but now he can't help but be in awe of the new life he's found -- just when he thought he had an answer for everything. And Harvey thought he had an answer for everything until he met Mike. Their relationship -- really, their discovery of one another -- is one worth watching.
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