For those of you who couldn’t get enough of the former Fox TV sensation Prison Break, two of its regular writers — Nick Santora and Matt Olmstead — have returned with a similar but slightly different A&E series titled Breakout Kings. Instead of glorifying the bad guys, however, Santora and Olmstead devote their new show to the good kind of bad guys. In order to catch recent escapees from various penitentiaries across the eastern seaboard, Deputy U.S. Marshal Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) recruits several convicts to help him track the bad bad guys down.
Assisting Duchamp in his weekly endeavors are a former federal marshal who got caught stealing (Domenick Lomdardozzi) and who is now living at a halfway house. There’s also the mandatory computer girl (Brooke Nevin) who was expelled from a government training center for her various psychological problems. And finally, the “cons” themselves: an ex-gang leader who used to have a big criminal enterprise (Malcolm Goodwin), the daughter of a bounty hunter who hunted down and murdered the men who killed her father (Serinda Swan), and a creepy former child prodigy and behavioral specialist (Jimmi Simpson) who analyses everybody and everything.
Essentially, Breakout Kings is a cross between Criminal Minds and Leverage, done à la Prison Break. The show starts out with a pretty decent premiere episode, wherein Nicole Steinwedell co-stars instead of Serinda Swan (the pilot was filmed before the series was commissioned), and quickly becomes formulaic. By the time the third episode (which guest stars Robert Knepper, reprising his Prison Break role of Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell — thus connecting the two shows further) ended, I said to myself “I wonder if they’ll have an episode with a non-violent innocent guy busting out of stir.” Sure enough the very next episode was just that: it was almost as if the show was unsurprising in its unpredictability.
By the time Breakout Kings: The Complete First Season had concluded, I was no closer to being a fan than I was at the start of the show. While the notion of such a series is a rather nice one, the delivery here just isn’t “hot” enough. The characters are supposed to be flawed, I know, but they’re all just too parallel to the folks we’ve seen on Criminal Minds and Leverage (et al) — only “bad.” Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings us all 13 episodes from the show’s freshman season via a four-disc set that includes a couple of audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a few featurettes as extras.
Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. I’ve seen much worse, but this could have been better. It sufficed admirably for some, obviously, since a second season premiers later this year on A&E.