Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pilot Review: Breakout Kings

Breakout Kings (A&E)
Premiered March 6 at 10pm

I read something about this show before I got the chance to see it, and I do always try to avoid that because it tends to sway my viewpoint at least slightly. I read that this is exactly the show you’d expect from the creators of “Prison Break,” and so I went in looking forward to a highly complex, more than occasionally senseless, action series that would leave me holding my breath and scratching my head with fairly equal frequency. Instead I found a relatively dull, uninvolving series about a few personality-free cons that get a chance to help out the feds in finding and re-incarcerating an escaped killer. I would have loved to see “Prison Break” get all rebooted with different characters (or even the same ones) trying to find a way out of their first prisons. I’m talking about pretending seasons two, three, and four never happened, and even going back to the beginning of season one and modifying the circumstances to create a new show. Here we have an insanely simple breakout story that happens within seconds of the show’s start, and the cons themselves are just let out by elective hand raising and actually offered the chance to work off their sentences one month at a time. The end revelation that Ray is actually an ex-co also is a surprise, but all it means is that we have a whole bunch of loose cannons that aren’t nearly as bad-ass as they like to think they are. Domenick Lombardozzi plays the same character in everything, and here he’s just a version of Vince's troublesome buddy Dom from “Entourage” with a badge. Serinda Swan’s biggest role to date was as Zatanna on “Smallville,” one of my most-hated characters on that show, and she isn’t any more convincing in this part. Brooke Nevin, who plays the sheepish non-con, is actually the same actress who played Rachel in the short-lived live action version of “Animorphs” way back in 1998. She’s grown up, but her character isn’t any more compelling. I’m especially disappointed in Jimmi Simpson, who, in addition to his recurring role as Mary on “Psych,” was absolutely haunting and terrific in the pilot for one of TV’s great unproduced series, “Virtuality.” Simpson here is regulated to obnoxious probability speeches and phone conversations with his mom. I don’t see where this show is going, and I don’t care to find out because all the characters are one-note and uninteresting.

How will it work as a series? They were only after one villain in the pilot, and I imagine that, with the bar set pretty high, ensuing criminals won’t be nearly as vile. The line “we’re not cops” can only be used so many times, and I find it hard to believe that they’ll literally be cycling in and out of prison every other weekend to work with the cops. That doesn’t seem like a sustainable premise to me, but then again, “Prison Break” dragged on for four seasons.
How long will it last? A while. The numbers for the pilot were higher than those for “The Glades,” which was a hit, and so this show will definitely play out for the rest of the season. I’ll guess that it will be renewed and will just have to sustain an audience, but if the pilot did it for people, the rest of the show should keep them just as hooked for an endless amount of time.

Pilot grade: D-

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