This week Amber West and I review two returning police procedurals, neither of which is light and fluffy; the characters and story lines are darker than usual which might explain why these shows are on TNT and A&E: Southland and Breakout Kings.
We’ve reviewed similar shows in which convicts assist law enforcement to do good (White Collar) or where con men and women help out regular citizens when other bad guys steal from them or make their lives miserable (Leverage), and A&E’s Breakout Kings does more of the same – a group of convicted felons help the U.S. Marshal’s office capture fugitives in exchange for reduced sentences (one month for each bad guy found and arrested) and transfers to lower-security facilities.
The group is led by Marshal Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso, Avatar), who is on a type of probation himself. He suffers from a heart defect and supervising the team of convicts is his only chance at not being stuck on desk duty for the remainder of his career.
Working as second in command is former Marshal Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi, The Wire). Ray has all of the necessary skills for the job, but he must work with a dark cloud hovering over him since his own conviction for taking money from a crime scene. He currently lives in a half-way house, and until the end of season one keeps his secret from the convicts.
The only other non-con working on the task force is Jules Simms (Brooke Nevin). Jules was unable to complete her training for the Marshal’s service due to a few disorders of her own – including anxiety and panic attacks. Instead of working in the field along with the team, she serves as the assistant or analyst, researching the history and potential resources of the fugitives the team is assigned to find.
Next we meet the team of convicted felons, a colorful group of people without many similarities among them, other than surviving prison and hoping for an early release:
Serinda Swan portrays Erica Reed, a single mother who was arrested on weapons charges when she should have been charged with murder. She used her skills as a bounty hunter to track each of her father’s murderers down and planned each attack so diligently, that she only went away for the lesser of the charges. Erica is smart, concise, beautiful, and very meticulous. Honestly, I think she may be the best hunter on the team.
Shea Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin) has the team’s street smarts. As a former drug smuggler and dealer, Shea knows how the bad guys plan to move through networks and what avenues they will have available to them once on the outside. Perhaps the most dangerous of the bunch, Shea oftentimes proceeds through cases with a chip on his shoulder, waiting for the Marshal service to retract on their special arrangement.
And last but not least, we have Dr. Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson). That’s right – he is a genius with a PhD in psychology, a professor, and a published author. So how did he wind up in prison? Lloyd suffers from an addiction to gambling and he went to prison for writing and selling fake prescriptions to his students to help cover his debt. He has an innate ability to break down the fugitives psyches for the team, and he also provides unsolicited counseling to the others on the task force. Lloyd is funny and quirky, and a perfect addition to the team; perhaps my favorite character.
So there we have it – the team of misfits who make up the Breakout King Task Force, appropriately named by Shea.
Each week, Charlie and Ray pull the others out of prison to track and eventually arrest their next fugitive. Many of the fugitives may look familiar to some of us too, including: Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell (Robert Knepper, Heroes), a convicted murderer who kidnapped and raped his multiple victims; Andrew Brenan (Richard Burgi, Desperate Housewives), a felon convicted of tax evasion, but also the suspected leader of a successful jewelry heist team – which he is; and Virgil Downing (Mark Pellegrino, from Being Human, Supernatural, and The Closer), a convicted contract killer with dozens of killings under his belt.
Breakout Kings is more than just a police procedural; each episode is just as much about the characters as it is the fugitive on the loose. It also has heart…and anger.
Charlie is angry; he wants nothing more than to prove to his superiors that his medical condition is not an issue and he can successfully run this task force. Ray is angry; he wants his life back, he wants to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, and he wants his badge back – permanently. Erica is really angry; she wants the freedom to spend time with her daughter, a relationship that has been strained since she was arrested. Shea is angry; but deep down he is a teddy bear and he loves to earn some alone time with his girlfriend, even if it’s in the elevator. Even Jules is angry; sitting behind a desk is not what she had in mind when picturing her career in law enforcement. Lloyd may be the only King without anger, but he is damaged and wants nothing more than for his mother to accept his apology for ruining his life (it’s not really a very healthy relationship between mother and son).
Because of the cat and mouse game with the fugitives and the in-depth and dark characters, Breakout Kings earns a JFTV rating. It’s not a show that we must watch immediately when it airs, but it does have the sweet appeal of a once-a-week candy bar and we’re happy to see it when it appears on the DVR like magic.
Considering the fact that Breakout Kings premiered silently on A&E last year (our house just ‘happened’ upon it), I’m afraid not many are aware of this program. But after today’s review, I hope more of you will check out the season two premiere Sunday, March 4th.
What do you think? Do you watch Breakout Kings? Who is your favorite King, or do you prefer the Marshal? I’d love to hear from you!
Now click over to Amber’s blog and read her thoughts on the networking hopping series, Southland. I think it may have finally found its home on TNT.
Come back next week when Amber and I review two of Fox’s new dramas: Alcatraz and The Finder.
Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.
A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:
GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech