TV Preview: Breakout Kings

I have a soft spot for crime dramas that use criminals to catch criminals. Think 48 Hours, Players, Leverage. It's a great premise, but one I think gets short-shrift on television. And honestly, I can't tell you why that is since we as a society tend to root for a bad guy out to redeem himself. I can't tell you why that is either. I'm no psychologist or sociologist - I just know that I tend to root for flawed individuals seeking some modicum of redemption and I'm going to attribute that to society as a whole. Don't like that? Sue me.

Which brings me to Breakout Kings, a new drama created by the minds behind Prison Break. So, what do we get in the pilot? A convicted murderer busts out of jail six months into a 25-year bid. I must say, it's a pretty clever use of license plates so props to the writer on that. To capture him, U.S. Marshals Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) and Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi) form a special unit made up of former fugitives: Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson), former child prodigy and psychology whiz; Shea Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin) former gang leader and counterfeiter); con artist "Philly" Rothcliffer (Nicole Steinwedell); and big-game hunter Gunderson (Brock Johnson) - who learns that it's probably not a good idea to stash a knife in your sock at a diner. The cast is rounded out by Julianne Sims (Brooke Nevin), who's hired by Ray to do the background work in their Brooklyn offices.

I don't think it's spoiling anything by saying that, yes, they catch the bad guy. Duh. It is a one-hour crime drama after all. However, there is a catch. But you knew that, right? Our cons seeking their shot at redemption are offered a month off their sentences for every case they crack, and each character uses his or her expertise to make that happen. But if that wasn't enough to stay on the straight and narrow (at least during their 48 Hoursesque furloughs), Charlie has added a kicker: if any one of them tries to escape, they all go back to prison with sentences doubled. Um, Cain? Yeah, you are your brother's keeper. That is, if you feel like staying out of jail for the rest of your natural life.

What I found interesting is that we begin to learn that each character - bot criminal and cop alike - is flawed in their own way: Lloyd has some serious Mommy issues to work through, Charlie has a heart condition similar to that of his father, Ray lives in a halfway house after lifting $8,250 during a bust, and Julianne suffers from social anxiety, panic attacks and depression and is hoping that this job can save her from a life in her mother's basement. Some very compelling subplots, if used properly.

I'm not going to tell you that Breakout Kings breaks new ground heretofore unseen in crime dramas. You've seen it all before - Ocean's 11, 48 Hours, Leverage, Payback, etc. But I will tell you that from what I've seen in the pilot, it does have potential to be a very entertaining hour of television. Well worth replacing that DVR time slot you've given to America's Next Top Model Chef Hoarder Loser.

Breakout Kings debuts Sunday night, March 6th, at 10 PM ET on A&E.

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