TV review: Breakout Kings

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Most people tune in to A&E for reality fare like "Intervention" or "Hoarders," but the cable network has moved toward scripted series in recent years with the Benjamin Bratt vehicle "The Cleaner" and the murder investigation procedural "The Glades." Unfortunately, neither is particularly outstanding.

Now A&E brings viewers "Breakout Kings," a series that lives up to the network's track record of scripted television that's not great but not altogether terrible.

With cable so far ahead of the curve when it comes to scripted dramas, why doesn't A&E attempt something more groundbreaking, following the leads of AMC and FX? It's not that the network doesn't have the support needed to produce quality programming. All of their scripted shows have a strong visual aesthetic and quality production.

But mediocre concepts are marred by even worse writing.

And "Breakout Kings" is just more mediocrity executed with the utmost languor. U.S. Marshal Charlie DuChamp (Laz Alonso) tempts fate by asking the cop nobody wants to work with, Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi, aka Herc from "The Wire"), to join his special task force that uses convicts to catch escaped prisoners.

The criminals - a street-smart gang banger, a sexy con woman who learned bounty hunting from her father and an oddball genius with an expertise in psychoanalysis - quickly fall in line without even the slightest concern about helping the organization that put them away. (!?)

It's almost plausible at first - the payoff is a transfer to minimum security and a month off for every captured fugitive - but turns farcical when you realize that these criminals operate without much supervision. No monitoring devices!?

The flagrant miscues paired with predictable storytelling are even more vexing because there's actually some decent stuff going on. The camerawork is above average, the action sequences are well executed and the prisoners' escapes are fun - the creator of "Kings" also developed "Prison Break."

What pains me most about this series is the complete lack of thrill. You know the bad guy will get caught, and one of the former fugitives will think about running before changing his mind. Give me something unexpected!

Maybe "Breakout Kings" will evolve past these blunders, but I kind of doubt it.

"Breakout Kings"

Premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday


Grade: 2 stars out of 4