Monday, May 27, 2024

Alan Pergament: Why the absurdly entertaining legal series ‘Suits’ is back in fashion

Must read

In a recent column about ways to survive the strikes in Hollywood that have shut down production, I half-jokingly suggested to “Make a Date with Meghan Markle” and stream the former USA Network series “Suits” on Netflix or Peacock.

Apparently, America beat me to the suggestion.

According to the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, “Suits,” which ended its run in 2019, was the No.1 streamed program among acquired series in the last week of June and had more than three times the viewing of the current Hulu series “The Bear.”

In was No. 5 on Netflix’s most recent list of programs.

I hope the actors and writers are getting fair compensation in residuals.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the series set inside a fictional New York City law firm full of Harvard-educated lawyers with questionable ethics is so popular now because of the recent anecdotal evidence I have witnessed.

People are also reading…

I overheard several people sitting at a table at the Outer Harbor talking about the series.

A sister-in-law told me she just started watching it.

A 90-year-old retired lawyer told me that she got hooked after her trainer told her to watch it even though she finds the legal actions in the show “more than absurd.”

The popularity of the series now makes me question why I missed it when it first was carried on cable from 2011-19.

In my defense, broadcast television was more of a thing when “Suits” premiered more than a decade ago. And a critic can’t watch everything.

Perhaps I missed it because anyone who knows me also understands I hate wearing suits and the title was just a turnoff.

I started watching it last month because my better half didn’t enjoy the first episode of the second season of “The Lincoln Lawyer” and was looking for an alternative on Netflix one night.

She has a big influence on my nightly TV watching. She didn’t like any of the despicable characters on the HBO series “Succession” so I had to watch that alone after she went to sleep.

I watched “The Lincoln Lawyer” when she went on a weeklong bicycle trip.

She chose “Suits” primarily to check out how good an actress Meghan Markle was before she married Prince Harry. She quickly liked all the characters, one of her main viewing requirements.

Markle turned out to be the most appealing member of the cast playing Rachel Zane, a paralegal and future law school student. She falls in love with Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), a brilliant guy with a photographic memory who was hired by series lead Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) despite not having a law degree from Harvard or anywhere else.

One retired colleague explained the show’s success in a recent discussion of “Suits”: “I fell in love with Meghan Markle years before Prince Harry.”

Not everyone shares his love. The man who inspired my column about how to survive the Hollywood strikes said he wouldn’t watch “Suits” because Meghan “brought down the monarchy.”

If so, more power to her. But Rachel would never do that.

It isn’t true in every case, but the women in the series are the most likable characters while the men the most devious and self-centered.

The cast also includes Gina Torres as the firm’s managing partner, Jessica Pearson, and Sarah Rafferty as clairvoyant legal secretary Donna Paulsen. Abigail Spencer has a recurring part as Dana Scott, a smart lawyer who is romantically involved on and off with Harvey.

Every character is well-dressed, with my better half frequently admiring the clothes the women wear as much as she admires their intelligence.

She probably wishes that I looked as good as Harvey in a suit.

There’s also the manipulative, insecure, deceitful Louis Litt played by Rick Hoffman. He has some of the show’s best comic moments. The two-faced Litt is a jealous man of many faces and quirks. A woman at the Outer Harbor called him her favorite character and I’m sure she is not alone.

Louis is jealous of Mike and Harvey, who eventually have a bromance. They started a charade that threatens the law firm’s existence for several seasons.

You could have a great drinking game played to the number of times a character goes into an office and dramatically says, “we have a problem.” It usually involves Mike’s secret.

Harvey and Mike bond repeatedly over their love of movie and television references, which is another reason to enjoy the series.

At one point in one of the later seasons after Harvey makes a reference to the 1985 movie “The Breakfast Club,” Jessica asked him: “Do you ever not quote a movie?”

“No,” replies Harvey. “If you have a problem with that, ‘frankly, I don’t give a damn.’ ”

I don’t get all the show’s movie references, but I suspect everyone caught Clark Gable’s line from “Gone with the Wind.”

The series created by Aaron Korsh has the vibe of a David E. Kelley (“L.A. Law,” “Ally McBeal”) series. Not surprisingly because of the show’s absurdly comic tone, Korsh worked on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Just Shoot Me” before “Suits.”

It is a near-perfect binge show since each episode is about 42-45 minutes long and they end with cliffhangers that would make waiting a week between episodes as much fun as having a mud bath with Louis Litt.

A guilty pleasure, the series is addictive.

My better half was so addicted that she couldn’t help herself when I went out of town for four days and broke an agreement that she wouldn’t watch while I was away.

I caught up on a rainy day after my flight home was delayed for almost four hours and arrived at 3:45 a.m. I almost wished I could have hired Harvey to sue the airline.

The key question is why – besides curiosity about Markle – is “Suits” having such a big second life.

I was considering using a famous Harvey quote when trying to find the definitive answer about the enduring success of “Suits”: “I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I don’t want to.”

But the question of why it is so popular now deserves an answer.

I suspect part of it is that viewers are rooting for Mike not to get caught so he and Rachel can eventually marry and live the happily ever after fairytale life that Meghan and Harry apparently are finding difficult to achieve.

I think every man wants somebody to look at them the way Rachel looks at Mike. And I think every woman wants somebody to look at them the way Mike looks at Rachel.

There also could be an element of people rebelling against the idea that everyone needs a degree to succeed.

The series also has done a good job of giving the back stories of the characters that explain even highly successful people have had to overcome personal hardships and emotional pain.

Even the criminally handsome Harvey, who has Michael Jordan on his Rolodex, has painful childhood memories that lead to panic attacks and the inability to commit to a woman.

And like all successful shows, “Suits” has created a workplace family easy to root for even when many of the members are quarreling.

The best way to pinpoint its success may be to quote a line from “Casablanca” that speaks to viewers after Harvey hires Mike in the first episode: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Latest article