USA has enjoyed so much success with light drama, its new shows are starting to conceptually bump into existing ones, ever-so-gently moving the thematic needle to approximate similar experiences. So it is with “Suits,” which weaves together elements of “White Collar,” “Fairly Legal” and “Psych,” with a brilliant protagonist whose beautiful mind emboldens him to try faking his way through an associate’s position at a major law firm. Slightly darker than most USA fare, “Suits” follows the channel’s pattern well enough, but breaks down when it comes to fulfilling the whole “Characters welcome” slogan.
The two central players are each immensely talented but seriously flawed. A genius slacker, Mike (Patrick J. Adams) is introduced passing the law school admissions exam for money, one way to earn his keep when he isn’t delivering pot. Asked how he can be so adept in that area, he explains, “I consume knowledge like no one you’ve ever met.”
Meanwhile, Harvey (“The Spirit’s” Gabriel Macht) is a high-powered “closer” at a Chicago law firm, albeit so arrogant he nearly derails his own ascent to senior partner. Grudgingly interviewing associby order of his boss (Gina Torres), he has a chance encounter with Mike, who is merely seeking refuge from a drug deal gone wrong.
Harvey is intrigued by Mike’s savvy, and the fact he doesn’t resemble the cookie-cutter Ivy League grads the firm normally hires. So he gambles — somewhat inexplicably, though apparently out of boredom — on hiring Mike despite his lack of formal credentials, participating in a fraud that, if discovered, could potentially torpedo his career.
Mike is a smarty-pants, perhaps, but humanized by his youth and financial need on behalf of his ailing grandmother. By contrast, as constructed by series creator Aaron Korsh, working with the “Bourne” and “Covert Affairs” team, in the 90-minute premiere, Harvey simply comes across like a swaggering ass — a handicap, along with the artificial scenario, that even their playful banter can’t overcome. The two are also such similar types, physically, as to diminish their interplay.
The supporting cast (including Torres and Rick Hoffman as a rather suspicious attorney who can’t stand Harvey) almost redeems the show, but they amount to accessories, while the two primary pieces aren’t especially colorful.
Like Mike, USA has consumed ample knowledge about what its audience wants, and scored with some so-so ensembles; moreover, “Suits” will premiere following the channel’s signature hour, “Burn Notice,” which can’t hurt.
Still, chalk up this new show’s shortcomings to the dangers of buying concepts off the rack. For a network that has made its mark emphasizing personality, it’s hard to get too excited about a couple of empty suits.