Sunday, June 26, 2011


I, like many other critics, was a little skeptical when I first heard the plot of this new USA series: Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht from Love and Other Drugs, The Spirit, and Because I Said So), a hot shot lawyer, is in search of a Harvard law grad to work as his legal associate, but instead decides to hire Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), a desperate young guy who makes money passing the bar for law school students in order to care for his grandmother. Together they plan to fool everyone in the office into thinking he has a law degree, using his photographic memory and savvy street smarts.

It sounds like a flimsy plot, inspiring the question: Why doesn't he just go to law school or skip it and take the bar, if he's so smart? I'll give credit to the creators for answering that question pretty quickly. The reason he didn't just go to college is because he was kicked out after his best friend Trevor (Tom Lipinski) convinced him to steal a math test and sell the answers. And the reason he can't just go to law school is because, while he does remember everything that's ever happened to him and that he's ever read or learned, getting into law school isn't just about what you know, but who you know and how you apply that knowledge. And lastly, taking the bar won't solve his problem, because the firm has a strict policy of only hiring Harvard graduates.
But what makes it all work are the actors, not the technicalities. USA prides itself on being a character-driven network, placing likable and endearing personas in tricky situations, whether they're uncovering a government conspiracy ("Burn Notice") or using them to acquire the greatest treasure in history ("White Collar"). Macht is a vet when it comes to laying on the charm, but the promos don't do newbie Adams justice. You don't get the sense that he could co-run the show and keep you as enthralled as Macht, but he does. Even before they lay it on thick with the caring-for-my-grandmother subplot, you can tell that this is a path he never meant to take, and his eagerness to do better makes you root for him. He doesn't come off as too cocky, because Macht is cornering the market on that personality trait, or too nerdy, because his skill is effortless not labored. He's a very reactionary character, sizing people up first before he engages with them, sort of acting as the viewer's lens—you evaluate them as he does.
What also makes it work is the chemistry between the actors. Mike and Harvey's relationship is less bromantic, like Sean and Gus on "Psych," and more master and apprentice, like Wysocki and Evers on FOX's "Chicago Code"—and sometimes, refreshingly, like competitive equals, like Neal and Peter on "White Collar." Sometimes Mike gets schooled and sometimes Mike does the schooling. It keeps it interesting to see who'll end the episode victorious.
The resident villain of the series is Louis Litt, played by Rick Hoffman ("Samantha Who?"), who has a huge debilitating chip on his shoulder after Harvey got the promotion he'd been waiting for, so he's going to go out of his way to try to trip them both up in every episode. He amps up the suspense in the when-will-they-get-caught-and-fired department. Other possible whistle-blowers include their boss Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres from Serenity), who put Harvey through law school and acts as his platonic mentor; Rachel (Meghan Markle), the head legal aide who had her cold, defensive exterior melted by Mike's earnest eyes and no-bullshit approach; and Trevor, his ex-best friend who might have a grudge against him after he stalled a $25,000 drug deal, told his girlfriend he was a drug dealer, and callously responded to his plea of "Michael, you know I don't want to live in a world where we're not tight." with "Then kill yourself."
Their only ally is Donna (Sarah Rafferty), Harvey's assistant, who stole more scenes than Macht's dimples, snapping at Harvard grads and sardonically pretending to have predicted Harvey's desire to marry her, because of her impeccable usefulness, by having had him sign a marriage license when they first met.

You could tune in to see how long they can pull this off, but I'll be tuning in to see how these lawyers win cases by manipulating the handbook instead of throwing it out. They should've named the series Loopholes, because it defines Mike's brand new life perfectly.


  1. There is a mistake in your article.

    Lisa isn't Trevor's girlfriend. She is the waitress Harvey slept with.

  2. I can't wait to see how this first season folds out! It's cool to see a law show that doesn't focus on the courtroom, esp since most lawyers spend their time building cases.
    I have to say, I like the wardrobe choices so far; anyone know who designed the dress Donna wore in the 2nd episode? The black one with thin horizontal stripes.