On TV: Suits

Television is a passion of mine. Some people like sports. Some people like nature. Some people like nightlife. I like watching good television. Sometimes, I even like watching bad television.

USA Network has given me some great television shows in the past few years. It started with Burn Notice; which was once lampooned on Saturday Night Live as the most popular show that nobody watches. Well, it may have started earlier than Burn Notice (2007), but I didn’t notice USA as a source of original programming until that point. The 2011 Summer season gave me Suits. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

The idea behind Suits is simple: Mike Ross (played by Patrick Adams) accidentally lands an Associate position at Pearson-Hardman, one of the top firms in Manhattan, under the great Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). The only catch is that Mike isn’t a lawyer, but he does have a photographic memory and an incredible understanding of the law.

Initially, I wasn’t interested in watching the show. The concept seemed boring, and ripe for “uncomfortable situation” jokes. I had imagined “Meet The Parents,” but with everyone questioning Mike’s law degree instead of Robert De Niro questioning Ben Stiller’s… everything. Nevertheless, I picked up the pilot for free on iTunes (I love it when they give away free pilot episodes). The first episode was intriguing, the second was okay, but the third was phenomenal. The storyline was excellent. The dialogue was witty. The characters had clear motivations. The acting was great. The chemistry was present and resounding. I was hooked after three.

The first thing people expect when they see the promos is a bromance between Mike and Harvey. It turns out that there isn’t one. It’s actually more of a teacher/student thing – think Obi Wan and Luke rather than Starsky and Hutch. Harvey has the experience, reputation, and absolute presence; he owns the room. Mike has a brilliant legal mind, and the naivete that allows him to be outwardly compassionate. They make a great team, but I wouldn’t call it a bromance.

One of the best aspects of the show is character growth. To its credit, Suits was able to take a character that I hated, played by an actor that I disliked, and turn him into a character that I love to hate, played by an actor that I love.

Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) is the antagonist of the first season. The first time I remember seeing him on television was as a villain on the Knight Rider (2008) reboot. I don’t know if it was the writing, direction, or if he just chose to do it, but he was Heath Ledger’s Joker. While he gave a good performance, I couldn’t help but feel like they were just capitalizing on both the blockbuster movie and the late actor.

However, even watching with prejudice, I came to really like the character of Louis Litt (maybe not until the end of the first season). He’s just really good at being slimy, and he makes no apologies for it. I respect that. He fills the role of antagonist and comic relief so well that when you see him ‘win,’ it’s even more impactful. Watching him completely destroy the associates under his charge for being entitled and lazy with a “back in my day” speech and a stack full work he completed for them was so very satisfying.

I can’t write a review of the show without mentioning Donna. She’s a legal secretary; Harvey’s legal secretary. But she’s much more than that. She’s the pulse of the law firm. She knows all. She’s also Harvey’s “better half,” but not in the traditional sense. Where Harvey is cocky, Donna is more subtle. Both can (and will) manipulate people to achieve a goal, but they’ll go about it different ways. Watching them work together is extremely entertaining.

Two minor criticisms:

  1. That “House” moment – they do it less often now, but characters tend to find their solutions in random words they hear during completely unrelated conversations. House was famous for ending episodes in that fashion. While I actually enjoy those ‘lightbulb moments,’ I suppose it’s possible to overdo it.
  2. Gina Torres is underutilized. Even in the second season, as she took a more hands-on role in the main arc, she still felt sidelined. I get that Mike and Harvey are the main characters, but so far all we’ve seen her do is fight a bitter war with Daniel Hardman (David Costabile). It would be nice to get her into court. We all know Zoe can hold her own.

So that’s Suits. I can honestly say that it’s my favorite show on TV. If you were a fly on the wall in my house, you’d hear me shout, “SUITS!” every Thursday evening. Imagine it as a guttural cheer/mantra that leads-in to my weekend. It’s my equivalent of “STEAK NIGHT!

Side note: Suits just finished their Summer season, and will be back in January. I also hear that they’ve been picked up for a third season on USA.

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