A&E’s massively hyped new crime series, Breakout Kings, is the street version of USA’s more urbane, better written White Collar.
Where White Collar has an FBI agent enlist a charming con man to help him find art-forgers, embezzlers and other high-echelon criminals, Breakout Kings prides itself on being down and dirty, with U.S. Marshalls enlisting a band of maximum-security prisoners to help them run around tracking recently-escaped fugitives.
The series also brings in a bit of The Mod Squad, The A-Team and other worn-out shows with its mix-and-match set of supposedly quirky characters. One Marshall (Laz Alonso, above right in photo) is a by-the-book type. Of course he’s paired with a hot-headed anything-goes guy, played by Domenick Lombardozzi, Herc from The Wire, who actually makes this kind of righteous lunkhead character work.
The team includes a smarty-pants Mama’s-boy former professor -- that’s all one character ! -- a con woman who misses her young daughter, and a street-wise guy who . . . after two episodes I’m still not sure why here’s there except to sulk.
The premiere episode (Sunday, 10 ET) has a high-profile film director, Gavin Hood of X-Men Origins and Rendition, who keeps it moving sharply. But the fugitive cases aren’t very captivating, and when we gradually begin to learn about the characters’ pasts, the stories only pick up a bit.
If you’ve been tempted by the hype, you’re bound to be disappointed. If you’re expecting one more competent, unimaginative crime series, you’ve got it.