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"Breakout Kings" Review: Hey! It's a Show. And It's On TV

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 8, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 8, 2011 |

Originally developed for Fox, “Breakout Kings” found itself a home on A&E, Appropriately, the show comes from creators Nick Santora and Matt Olmstead, who were writers on “Prison Break.” “Breakout Kings” is something of a mish-mash between a reverse “Prison Break” and the TNT show, “Leverage.” In it, a group of inmates skilled in different fields — conning, tracking, car robbery, cons, psychology — are brought together to under a federal marshal to track down escaped convicts. With each escapee they track down, they get a month shaved off their sentence, and in the meantime, are allowed to reside in a minimum security prison.

Laz Alonso is the federal marshal in charge, formerly a desk jockey who now has a drug problem. His right-hand man/nemesis is “The Wire’s” Domenick Lombardozzi, a former cop living in a half-way house after getting busted for being on the take. Malcolm Goodwin is the car thief; the gorgeous Nicole Steinwedell (“The Unit”) plays the con, although she’s replaced after the pilot with a tracker, Serinda Swan; and Jimmi Simpson (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) is the racist, sex-obsessed child-prodigy with deep mommy issues. He’s also the best part of “Breakout Kings.”

The show plays out exactly as you’d expect it to play out: Each of the members uses their talents to help track down the convict, wise-cracks are made; lingerie is worn; and Domenick Lombardozzi puffs up his chest a lot.

The truth is, it’s not a bad show. Tonally, it’s somewhere between one of the shows on the USA Network and one on TNT, which is to say: Breezy, a little heavy-handed, and rife with cliches. In fact, I’ll probably watch it again, if only because Jimmi Simpson is great and I want to see how they write out Nicole Steinwedell.

Still, it’s hard to see the point in another basic cable episodic procedural, another show like “In Plain Sight” or “Leverage” or “Dark Blue” or “Covert Affairs” or “Burn Notice” with only token serial arcs, shows that you can tune in or tune out of, shows that’s require little effort to watch, no investment in characters, and that have very little to draw us in on a week-to-week basis.

If “Breakout Kings” was unique in these elements, there might be a reason to check in, but at this point, there are a dozen of these decent-enough formula shows, most of which are anchored by more interesting actors (“Fairly Legal,” for instance, currently holds the throw-away slot on my television schedule, thanks to Sarah Shahi). “Breakout Kings” is just another in the growing landfill of okay-but-nothing exceptional television shows, and when there are better offerings like “Mad Men,” or “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead,” it’s hard to see the point, really.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.