by Deborah Harter Williams
USA Network’s new series Suits asks “can a guy with eidetic memory pass the bar exam without going to law school, and fake his way through a big time law firm with the help of a senior partner?” And to up the stakes, he has to pretend he graduated from Harvard, in a firm full of Harvard Law grads.
Gary Macht as Harvey Specter is the epitome of a big time lawyer jerk with fast cars, slick women, disdain for those around him and a constant need to assert his cleverness and power. His slicked back hair and cowboy demeanor puts him right on the line between charming and insufferable. He prefers to work alone and has no problem lying to his clients if it gets the job done. But in order to get the senior partnership he wants, he is required to take on an associate.
Enter Mike Ross, with a shady academic past, crashing the line of interviewees carrying a suitcase full of money, in order to dodge drug dealers who are following him. After a little male jousting, Mike shows off his memory skills and a partnership is created. Whether this is Harvey’s way of tweaking the powers that be or whether he sees a kindred maverick spirit we don’t know, but let the games begin.
With a chance to start over, Mike goes at it with a mixture of bravado and apprehension. When he scores a success he sometimes acts like a Harvey, Jr. Following shortly will come the inevitable comeuppance with plot twists and power shifts once again putting him on defense. Mike represents compassion and Harvey ruthlessness. The ongoing question is how much of each characters will rub off on the other.
Rick Hoffman plays the part of Louis Litt, a rival partner, with menacing appeal. He is the consummate nerd-villain. He can’t compete with Harvey’s style and charm, so he sets himself up to subvert Mike and trip him up. Every time he comes on the screen you wonder what his real motivation is and anticipate some sort of wince-inducing social behavior. Delicious.
Lawsuits are obviously the center of the show, but the ongoing visual metaphor of multi-thousand dollar suits versus Mike’s cheap suits clashing in sartorial one upmanship is fun. In the first episode Mike’s bicycle riding, down-and-out garb contrasts with the suit smorgasbord of his successful drug dealer friend. And when Harvey hires Mike, he immediately sends him to his tailor to erase the look of Mike’s off-the-rack cheap wardrobe.
The mantle of “the suit” is something that Mike aspires to but can’t seem to get to fit. In flight from the bad guys, he rips the pocket of his jacket. Later, when he borrows Harvey’s spare suit, he ends up looking much like a kid playing grown-up.
Gina Torres is the classic strong heroine (Xena, Serenity) and she gets to wear high-heels for this one (though at 5’10” she doesn’t really need them). She is managing partner of the firm and Harvey’s mentor who tries to get him “to develop a soul.” Too bad she’s not given much to do here. The character is uneven – unemotional one moment, then impatient and petulant the next. She does know how to play “big dog,” reminding Harvey, “I’m taller than you.”
The other women characters are believable. The smart-girl researcher who has all the answers but clutches when confronted with the bar exam, and Harvey’s smart-ass loyal secretary who knows and anticipates his every move and need. She helps Mike on occasion but not at the expense of her preferred status. On the periphery is the grandmother who cheers him on but needs some expensive medical treatment and his oldest friend, who drags him into complications with his drug-dealer world.
The series shows its pedigree. Creator/writer is Aaron Korsh (Everyone Loves Raymond and Just Shoot Me) who brings a sense of humor and male angst. Producing partners are Doug Limon and Dave Bartis (Covert Affairs). Limon directed the first Bourne movie and was sent back to shoot more action. It is a lesson he has obviously learned. Each episode has enough action to keep the plot moving visually and increase the tension. Bartis came up through Quincy Jones’ organization and Fresh Prince of Bel Air, along with executive stints at HBO. Attribute to him a fine sense of casting. All the elements come together with banter, action and ambiguous characters – Suits me.
To learn more about the show and watch some of the episodes check our the show’s USA web page.
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