First off, I want to apologise to Kate and Glen. You both have already done two wonderful in-depth analysis on Suits. And I will do my best not to re-hash what you two have already covered or steal any of your content. But It’s the show I’m most familiar with, so I feel like I have to talk about it. And I have to agree with both of you. Suits is the sort of show that we should be examining for developing Fear or Favour.
For those of you that have read the other two’s work, this synopsis may sound familiar.
The first season is an introduction to the world of corporate law. Mike Ross, a failed law school student, makes a living by cheating on other people’s tests and selling opportunities to get into law schools. Despite being insanely intelligent, past mistakes prevented him from getting into Harvard and he’s stuck in life. After Mike attempts to deliver drugs for his friend, and almost getting arrested, he accidentally wanders into an interview to become Harvey’s associate at the Pearson Hardman law firm. Despite not being qualified at all, Harvey realizes how sharp Mike is at law after he proves he’s memorized a law textbook word-for-word. In a move that would help and hinder him for most of his career, Harvey hires him anyway. This sets up the first season, where Mike is a fish out of water trying to make a name for himself while not revealing to anyone that he’s not a Harvard lawyer. Harvey, in the meantime, tackles high-profile corporate law cases where his hubris and cocky attitude often gets him into trouble.
*SEASON SPOILERS AHOY!*
Going back to the first season after watching the whole show shone an interesting light on how the show developed over time. While much of the show can focus on comedy and office antics, the heart of each season relies on both the drama of each respective case, along with the inter-office drama that can stem from it. Having the final episode of the first season end with Harvey setting out to free an innocent man from prison represents an interesting arc. We get to see what happens when his ‘Winning first’ past comes back to bite him in his posterior. More importantly, we also have Jessica (The firm’s current boss) discovering Mike’s secret of not going to Harvard. This is a turning point in the show, as the entire cast falls down a slippery slope as lies are tossed around like currency and inter-office politics threaten to tear the firm apart. But that’s season 2 and onward.
The opening season, first and foremost, established the firm’s characters. Many of the cases Harvey and Mike encountered were often ‘Monster of the Week’ Variety. That is to say, they would be resolved in one or two episodes. This isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The shows writers decided instead to use the time to develop the Firm’s cast. We get to see how arrogant and clever Harvey is. We get to see how intelligent Mike is, but also how wet behind the ears he is when it comes to practicing law. Louis Litt (another Lawyer at the firm who specializes in taxes and book-balancing) starts out as a sleazy, underhanded crook, but shows a softer side when people treat him with a little respect and dignity. Even Harvey’s Secretary, Donna, gets ample screen time to show her colors and she remains one of my favourite television characters to date.
I found that the pilot accomplished everything it needed to be. It established both Mike and Harvey’s distinct characters, as well as giving them time to get to know each other. Both men are the same, yet completely at odds. Both are Law prodigies, but both have a completely different outlook on life. Harvey is a ‘winning first’ kind of guy, but he does have principles (As we see in the season finale) Mike is the opposite. He cares about his clients, and some sense of justice, but is in the law firm due to lies and deceit. The banter and development between these two for the first season is palpable.
The point we should be bringing to Fear or Favour is that the first season doesn’t need a series-long plot to be popular (Like Damages tries to do with varying degrees of success) If you develop likable, interesting characters and put them into interesting situations, those situations don’t need to be connected for us to be invested. The characters do all the work. For Fear or Favour, character development should be the primary goal of a first season. After we’ve developed our characters, then we can delve into the deeper aspects of law and the minutia that follows.
All in all, the first season of suits is a wonderful example of how to make a law show, and I believe we should consider learning from it if we wish to make Fear or Favour as successful as we can.