A&E;'s Breakout Kings came in hot and heavy on my radar after an intriguing trailer laid out the premise of the series: It's a fun cop show where convicts are given easier prison stays in exchange for cooperating with and helping U.S. Marshals who are trying to reel in fugitives. And that was pretty much explained in the first five minutes of Sunday's pilot as if the show's pants were on fire and the first commercial break was a bucket of water.
The fast pacing actually helped the opening, even though viewers' necks had to be set to "swivel" just to keep up. But then the sprint slowed to a jog, and the episode's momentum was impeded by heavy-handed foundation-laying for upcoming season-long arcs. One cop explained that his daughter means everything to him, so expect big-time family drama in the weeks to come. Another cop discretely popped pills in a random bathroom, setting up what will presumably be his eventual turn in the spotlight. (The cons all have their demons as well, but mostly they'll be concerned with getting out of jail.) All told, the pilot was a Merry-Go-Round of the characters' problems, all of them paraded before us to let us know exactly what's going on deep in their hearts—and what they'll have to overcome by the time the season ends. Character development on the most basic of levels.
But as far as "getting stuff out of the way," the pilot worked. It was less of a first chapter than it was a Cliff's Notes for the entire series. We know who the characters are and what they desire, so now we can hopefully spend more time catching the bad guys and making a few wise-cracks along the way. That's what we really want to see, right?
As far as characters and performances go, I'll echo what most of the interwebs are already saying: Freaky-smart con Lloyd (Jimmi Simpson) is clearly the early favorite, with a look and act that's simultaneously funny and creepy. He even made a "Who farted?" joke work. If this show makes it, producers should write Simpson a thank-you card and stuff it with hundred-dollar bills. (In related casting news, sexy seductress-con Philly, played by Nicole Steinwedell, was unceremoniously dropped from the series in favor of a new sexy con played by Serinda Swan. My deepest condolences if you were a fan of Philly, but apparently she wasn't blonde enough.)
There's potential here for a worthy series, but I'm not sure it will amount to anything we haven't seen before. But I'll give it one more shot before I lock it up and throw away the key. Will you?