After an extremely disappointing first foray into scripted television with The Glades, A&E is trying its hand again with a rejected FOX pilot, Breakout Kings. The differences between the two are enormous. Breakout Kings would be better compared to Leverage, except the pilot has me thinking Kings will be a darker, edgier, better developed version. Which is good, because I got bored with Leverage and stopped watching awhile ago. Unlike Leverage, the main characters are immediately given some real depth. Plus the cast is just plain better.
The concept is that several cons will work with the U.S. Marshals to catch fugitives in exchange for reductions to their sentences. Four are chosen, but one is quickly kicked off the team, so we are left with three. Lloyd (the fantastic Jimmi Simpson, Psych, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is super smart, especially at reading people, which probably contributed to whatever gambling-connected illegal activity got him into trouble. Shea (Malcolm Goodwin, American Gangster) can pick a lock or drive in a high speed chase equally well. Philly (Nicole Steinwedell, The Unit) is a sexy con woman, who regrettably will be replaced in episode two by Erica (Serinda Swan, Smallville, Percy Jackson).
They are joined by Ray (Domenick Lombardozzi, The Wire) a loose-with-the-rules cop that once caught them, now secretly also a con, and Charlie (Laz Alonso, Southland, Avatar), the boss. The two struggle for leadership for much of the pilot, though Ray eventually defers to Charlie. This seems strange, given his personality, until the ending twist that Ray is no longer a cop, and is as much making a deal as the other cons. Also present at their office is Julianne (Brooke Nevin, The 4400, Call Me Fitz), a woman with social anxiety problems whom Ray is protective of for reasons still unknown.
The con the group goes after in the pilot is interesting, as he is extremely smart and keeps them scrambling. However, my main interest in the case of the week is how he tests the central cast. Lloyd, Shea, Philly, Ray, Julianne, and Charlie all have to contribute to his take down, so we get an immediate look at each character's specialty, and how they will contribute to the whole. I can't imagine how effective the booted con would have been, as he appeared to be there for muscle, not exactly a need for this task force. I think his presence in the beginning of the episode is merely to show that Charlie means business and will not hesitate to remove anyone who will not cooperate.