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TELEVISION REVIEW

Bland ‘Suits’ is tailor-made for USA lineup

Gabriel Macht portrays an arrogant lawyer known for closing cases in “Suits.’’ Gabriel Macht portrays an arrogant lawyer known for closing cases in “Suits.’’ (David Giesbrecht/Usa Network)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / June 23, 2011

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The USA factory just keeps churning out the original series. And they all share a similar tone. “White Collar,’’ “Royal Pains,’’ “Fairly Legal,’’ “Covert Affairs,’’ “Psych,’’ “In Plain Sight’’ — they’re light, inoffensive, character-driven, and mostly sunny with a chance of drama. It’s hard to hate these shows, but at the same time, it’s hard to feel great loyalty to any one of them as they cycle through their familiar plots of the week.

“Suits,’’ which joins the USA lineup tonight at 10, is an especially neutral venture. It’s too bland to elicit very strong feelings either for or against. It’s a legal drama with the same kind of buddy dynamic as “Psych’’ and “White Collar,’’ and by the end of the hour — or, just for tonight, the hour and 20 minutes — I felt like shrugging my shoulders. I’d seen everything in “Suits’’ before, from the New York law firm’s political tensions to the case of a corporate boss accused of sexual harassment, and I’d seen it all done better — and worse.

The buddies are Harvey (Gabriel Macht), an arrogant attorney best known for his ability to close cases, and Mike (Patrick J. Adams), a drifter scam artist. Through a few extremely contrived twists, Harvey winds up interviewing Mike for an associate job, even though Mike doesn’t have a law degree. Harvey likes Mike’s whiz-kid intelligence, though, and so he helps him fake a Harvard Law education in order to practice.

On the surface, the two are opposites. Harvey wears gorgeous suits and prides himself on his insouciance, saying, “I’m not about caring, I’m about winning.’’ Mike, on the other hand, is a sincere guy who was raised by his grandmother and who bonds with clients. But, of course, Harvey and Mike quickly develop a strong, bantering rapport. Harvey started in the mailroom at his law firm, and his own Harvard tuition was paid by the firm’s top partner, Jessica (Gina Torres); he sees himself in Mike. This being USA and not FX or HBO, we can assume that Harvey is indeed a good guy despite his vanity.

There is a villain at the law firm, played by Rick Hoffman, who always looks exactly like central casting’s “villain at law firm.’’ He is bound to be trouble, since he is jealous of Harvey and seems to sense something amiss with Mike. In the meantime, though, Mike proceeds as if he’s been practicing law for years, simultaneously coping with a crooked roommate, a crush on his roommate’s girlfriend, and a suitcase filled with pot. The long “Suits’’ pilot is elaborate, and probably more convoluted than it needs to be. It’s a little too loose in the middle.

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

SUITS

Starring: Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman

On: USA

Time: Tonight, 10-11