Preview: FOX’s New Comedy “Breaking In”

Attendees at WonderCon had the unique opportunity to screen the Pilot episode of FOX’s new comedy series “Breaking In” right before the panel discussion.  The series will be premiering Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 9:30pm immediately following ratings behemoth American Idol.

FOX’s description of the series is as follows:  BREAKING IN is an offbeat half-hour workplace comedy about a high-tech security firm that takes extreme – and often questionable – measures to sell their protection services. Created by Adam F. Goldberg and Seth Gordon, the series centers on a team of uniquely skilled oddball geniuses hand-picked to work for a manipulative mastermind.

Contra Security, corporate America’s answer to “The A-Team,” gives clients a sense of security by first ripping it away. The firm is led by OZ (Christian Slater), a larger-than-life head honcho who is a man of mystery and master of manipulation. The members of the odd squad include alluring bad girl MELANIE (Odette Annable), who is in charge of lock-picking, safe-cracking and heart-breaking; and CASH (Alphonso McAuley), a fanboy who specializes in strategy, logistics and office pranks only a mad genius could think up.  Oz’s newest recruit, plucked right out of college, is lovable and charming computer hacker CAMERON PRICE (Bret Harrison). Unfortunately for Cameron, cracking into state-of-the-art security systems is a lot easier than dealing with his co-workers. Between Melanie’s sex appeal and Cash’s hazing, Cameron has more than a few obstacles to overcome if he wants to cement his status as part of the team and become Oz’s go-to guy.

Continue reading for my thoughts on the screened Pilot.

The Pilot begins by quickly introducing us to the characters, their quirks, and the premise of the series.  In order for Contra Security to become an invaluable asset to those they are trying to sell their security services to, they must first prove that current security measures are weak and penetrable.  The various skills of the team are put to good use as they proceed to carry out their often zany business plan, which is basically to break into a prospective client’s place and steal something valuable to show that they need better security.

The mastermind is “Oz” [Christian Slater] – that’s short for ‘Osbourne’ and has nothing to do with the “prison show featuring full frontal male nudity.”  Oz can be extremely persuasive when he needs to be, as demonstrated when he visits 27-year old computer hacker Cameron [Bret Harrison] who has carved out a very comfortable college existence for himself by registering as twins in order to get a solo dorm room… among other things!  Harrison once again plays a very familiar character previously seen on “Reaper” and again most recently on “V”.  Although it may appear that he is being typecast, he has a certain affable adeptness with this type of character, which ultimately isn’t a bad thing.

A rivalry is quickly established between Cameron and wannabe golden boy Josh [Trevor Moore] who is a master of disguise.  And yes, we do devolve into a few sophomoric pranks.  There is also a running pantsing gag that poor Cameron has been contending with since the days of toddlerhood.  The nerd extraordinaire of the team is Cash [Alphonso McAuley] who provides the logistics of the operations.  Although I’m not exactly sure how his knowledge of Klingon would ever be useful.

All the characters can be described as oddball geniuses with unique skills.  The Pilot did not make good use of gorgeous resident safe-cracker Melanie [Odette Annable], but then again, it was only the first thirty minutes and a lot of ground had to be covered.

Without a doubt, the scene stealer was Michael Rosenbaum playing Dutch, the almost-sleazy, biker-type boyfriend of Melanie.  Dutch is the type of character who goes around asking for ‘clean’ urine samples that can then be resold to those needing them in order to pass screening tests.  There are no shades of Lex Luthor here at all, as Michael flexes his comedic chops to an utterly delightful but brief guest performance.  During the WonderCon panel, when the producer was asked how often Michael will be appearing, he responded with an enthusiastic “as much as he wants to!” and I couldn’t agree more.

There will no doubt be a tendency to compare this series to Leverage.  After all, similar premise, similar teams.  Whereas Leverage is definitely more complicated in the fabrication of their cons and is ultimately more drama with a generous sprinkling of comedy, Breaking In is definitely more comedy.  And that’s really where any comparison between these two should end.

The second episode “Tis Better to Have Loved and Flossed”, airing April 13 welcomes Alyssa Milano in a guest role.  The third episode airing April 20 and titled “Need for Speed” features a thrill for NASCAR enthusiast Dutch as it welcomes NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson.  There will also be an episode that takes place at Comic Con!  The production team did such an outstanding job of transforming their soundstage into a mini Comic Con set, that others who were not aware that filming was going on actually believed a convention had been scheduled on site!  And come to think of it, Cash’s fluency in Klingon might actually come in handy at this point!

Comedy is a very subjective thing.  While a critically-acclaimed comedy garnering multiple awards can bore some people to tears, another rude and raunchy one can have them in side-splitting laughter.  Ultimately, it comes down to one issue:  did this comedy make me laugh?  And to that I would answer ‘yes’.  The show is amusing, clever, and works well as a half-hour comedy.  This is just the right amount of time needed to keep the break-in action moving forward, without having too long to focus on jokes which may not always work.  While “Breaking In” doesn’t break any new ground, it is an enjoyable way to spend a half-hour with a very likeable group of actors.

One bit of trivia though:  you will see Oz sitting in what appears to be Captain Kirk’s chair from the Starship Enterprise (of original Star Trek).  It IS indeed that actual chair, currently belonging to Christian Slater.  Oh, and Happy Birthday to Bret Harrison and to Christian’s son who are both celebrating on premiere day.

BREAKING IN is produced by Happy Madison Productions, Adam F. Goldberg Productions and Sethsquatch, Inc. in association with Sony Pictures Television. Goldberg, Gordon and Doug Robinson (“Rules of Engagement”) serve as executive producers, while Goldberg serves as writer. The pilot was directed by Gordon. All photos courtesy of FOX.

Final Grade:  B