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Television Review

‘Breaking’ not bad

Slater’s new series on Fox shows some potential

From left: Christian Slater, Odette Annable, and Bret Harrison in “Breaking In.’’ From left: Christian Slater, Odette Annable, and Bret Harrison in “Breaking In.’’ (Richard Foreman/Fox)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / April 6, 2011

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Christian Slater has made two recent runs at series TV, first with “My Own Worst Enemy,’’ one of the worst split-personality dramas ever conceived, and then “The Forgotten,’’ which no doubt you have already forgotten. For an actor whose screen persona is an almost smug comfort in his own skin, he seemed pretty uncomfortable in both of those series.

But the TV powers that be haven’t given up on him yet. And finally, with “Breaking In,’’ he has found a TV project — a single-camera comedy — that nicely serves his wry, Jack Nicholson Jr. persona. Plus, it’s pretty good.

“Breaking In,’’ premiering tonight at 9:30 on Channel 25, has some of the charm of ABC’s short-lived “The Knights of Prosperity,’’ which was also about a group of underdogs performing criminal activities. Slater’s Oz owns a secretive company, Contra Security, that exposes the weaknesses in clients’ security systems. So Oz and his team of techies and con artists make their living breaking into corporations. They enact elaborate capers like a sitcom version of TNT’s “Leverage,’’ all while slinging geek trivia and playing tricks on one another.

Enter Cameron, played by TV Everyguy Bret Harrison of “Reaper’’ and “The Loop,’’ a slacker whose hacking skills have kept him in college for free for many, many years. The admiring Oz hires him — or, rather, blackmails him into coming on staff — and tries to mentor him. Looks like Cameron has found a cigar-chomping father figure who is going to pry him out of his life of sloth, whether he likes it or not.

We’re introduced to the Contra team through Cameron, of course — someday I’ll tally how many TV pilots revolve around newbies. Cash (Alphonso McAuley) is a sci-fi obsessive always at the ready with “Star Wars’’ references — note the Han Solo outfit — who challenges Cameron to a prank-off. Lock-picker Melanie (Odette Annable) catches Cameron’s eye. Alas, she’s got a doofus boyfriend, Dutch (Michael Rosenbaum), who drives a yellow Hummer and sells clean urine on eBay. No doubt, she will become his romantic obsession, the Pam to his Jim from “The Office.’’

The “Breaking In’’ pilot isn’t wildly original. It doesn’t have the kind of truly distinctive comic tone and sensibility that “Raising Hope’’ and “Modern Family’’ had right out of the gate. It’s a mix of familiar material, from the ensemble banter of “Community’’ to the fanboy in-jokes of “The Big Bang Theory.’’ But it’s a happy mix, a breezy, playful half-hour that has the potential to open up into something special. Only time will tell if “Breaking In’’ can break out.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog.

BREAKING IN

Starring: Christian Slater, Bret Harrison, Alphonso McAuley, Odette Annable, Trevor Moore, Michael Rosenbaum

On: Fox, Channel 25

Time: Tonight, 9:30-10