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TV Review: breaking_in – “Pilot”

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Most network television shows are winding down by this time of the year, or more accurately, ramping up for a big finale. But there are a few that, for whatever reason, didn’t make the schedule until now, and are getting one last chance to succeed. Usually, these series air for less than ten episodes and are never heard from again. There are exceptions, such as Grey’s Anatomy, that end up being runaway hits. Wednesday, FOX presented breaking_in, a sitcom that I find really funny, so I hope it’s the next exception.

The story begins with Cameron (Bret Harrison, V, Reaper) in his seventh year of college, easily hacking his way through school, and being paid to help others do the same. A man named Oz (Christian Slater, The Forgotten, My Own Worst Enemy), who runs a security company, catches Cameron in his illicit activities. Oz offers Cameron a choice: be exposed and go to jail, or come work for him. You see, Oz’s company breaks into businesses for a living. They are not crooks, exactly, but hired to be crooks by their victims to test security measures. Cameron reluctantly accepts the latter option.

Harrison is a comic genius, brilliant at playing the straight man forced into situations he doesn’t want to be in. He’s done it multiple times before, and he accomplishes it just as well as ever here. Slater, on the other hand, exudes power and threat with a glance, and is obviously relishing his role as leader of the crazies. His catch phrase, “I’ll allow it,” is uttered with a smirk whenever he catches one of his employees pranking another, even if the prank goes beyond the bounds of human decency, as they usually do.

These are the two actors the show will depend on. One fairly fresh faced and new, the other experienced with an established following. Their interactions are some of the best parts of the episode, and there will definitely be a power struggle between the two as the series goes on. Cameron initially wants out, but by the end of the pilot, decides to stay. However, I do not see him going along easily with Oz’s free-wheeling ways, so there are bound to be plenty of clashes.

Joining Cameron and Oz in this odd job are Cash (Alphonso McAuley), a nerd obsessed with candy bars and hazing the new guy in outrageous ways, Josh (Trevor Moore, The Whitest Kids U’Know), a sometimes jerk and flaw(less?) character actor who vies for leadership, Creepy Carol (Jennifer Irwin, Eastbound & Down, Still Standing), an annoying office worker who sneaks up on people, and Melanie (Odette Annable, formerly Odette Yustman, October Road, Brothers & Sisters, Cloverfield), a total psycho whom Cameron is attracted to. Of course, she already has a boyfriend, with a personality more similar to hers, named Dutch (Smallville‘s Lex Luthor, Michael Rosenbaum). There are other employees; it’s a big office; but none that got any attention or lines.

Rosenbaum will make you forget all about Lex in seconds. He is unrecognizable with hair and an attitude. Moore basically takes all of the things he does well in his IFC sketch show and does them within a larger plot, a good use for the actor. Irwin is likely a recurring character, but her familiar face is welcome. McAuley is funny, and I assume Cash will be Cameron’s best friend before long. Annable is everything you want in a love interest. She’s generically sweet and attractive, but it’s the flashes of insanity that will set her apart. Ensemble wise, the chemistry is great from the get go. Each different personality brings something unique to the table, which will help with varied assignments.

As soon as Cameron comes to work at the company, Oz puts him in charge of a mission. Oz is very much of the “toss him in the water and he will sink or swim” persuasion, not a caring mentor. He hires the people he thinks will get the job done, and has little patience for hand holding.

Josh takes offense, feeling passed over. I find that surprising, because Oz seems the type to give this test to any rookie, and Josh should have seen it before. Cameron also has a temperament that will serve him in a leadership role, as he listens to everyone and cares about people. Josh, on the other hand, will clearly let ego get in the way.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking Josh is dumb, though, or he would never have gotten the job in the first place. Josh subtlely tricks Cameron into stealing the wrong car in his first assignment. Cameron pulls off a complicated, tricky job with the entire team, but has done so at the wrong dealership. Josh does prove he’s not a total tool, and Cameron shows his ability to handle difficult people, when Cameron gets Josh alone to help him fix the mistake. Cameron is not a pushover, as one might first suspect. During the second attempt, he just throws a rock through the window and runs inside. Hilarious.

I think this series has some real comedy gems within it, and I look forward to more episodes. breaking_in airs Wednesday nights at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com