Series Premiere — Breaking In, “Pilot”

Here we are with yet another new comedy, which immediately makes me just want to point to the piece I wrote a handful of weeks ago about watching and writing about new entries in the genre. Much like so many of the new comedies this season, Breaking In has a lot of potential. In fact, based on the premise, cast and overall vibe, it might actually have the most potential when compared with the likes of Traffic Light, Perfect Couples, Mr. Sunshine and Mad Love. I actually really like those first three and could deal with watching Mad Love, but Breaking In is definitely more interesting than those series — in theory.

There is a lot to like about this series, even if there’s much less to actually like about this pilot episode itself. The cast is full of likable, recognizable people: Bret Harrison in The Bret Harrison role (intelligent slacker!), Odette Annable (who should really be way more famous at this point) as the love interest and Christian Slater with his third new series in three seasons as the slightly crazy boss Oz. Smallville‘s Michael Rosenbaum is also here, but barely and although I’m all for him trying to prove to people that he can be funny, his 45-second appearance here doesn’t do a whole lot to confirm that theory. I know FOX loved it so much that they made him a series regular so he’ll get plenty of opportunities to make a stronger impression. Alphonso McAuley is one of those guys you’ll immediately recognize but not know where from and that quickly won’t matter because he’s the best part of the pilot. Trevor Moore is the most unfamiliar of the cast and he’s fine as the workplace antagonist.

Breaking In has two more things going for it: its premise and the creative team. A security team breaking in to businesses and locations to test their security system could be very interesting, at least for seven episodes. Everyone on the team has fairly defined roles very early on and the pilot just jumps into a break-in sequence, but I guess that’s the restriction of the 21-minute format (I’ll get back to this). Nevertheless, this episode is easily digested and makes sense despite the moderately high-concept (for a comedy, I guess). And yeah, the creative team of Adam F. Goldberg and Seth Gordon seems like an appealing combination that could find the right balance between laughs and minor character development. These are all good things that Breaking In has going for it from the get-go.

The problem is that this episode isn’t especially strong on its own. The goodwill I have for most of the performers means I’m not going to have a lot of trouble liking the characters even if they haven’t done anything to gain that respect, but this episode burns through plot very, very quickly. There are two break ins and the second one lasts about 12 seconds. In the second half of the episode, things jump around between the heist things and office insanity so much that it appears things are happy simultaneously but at the same time days later. I’m not 100 percent sure things matched up continuity wise. And although I rarely ever say this, I agree with so many of the critics who say this series should actually be an hour-long. The premise is good enough to sustain it and only then would the premise actually be executed to its best possibility (in theory) while still giving the characters a tinge of development over the season or whatnot. That’s unfortunately not going to happen so let’s just hope that this episode is just so busy because it’s trying really hard to nail down all the details of the premise.

Finally, the pilot isn’t too funny. I’m not sure if it’s because FOX has been marketing the crap out of this that I’ve seen so many of the sequences already, but I mostly smiled at the places I was obviously supposed to laugh. McAuley’s Cash is fun, but it appears the series is trying a bit too hard with the character and his nerdiness. Literally everything he says has a popular culture reference in it, and not in the cool Abed way. Slater ends up being the most enjoyable part of the episode and he’s still basically coasting on persona.

There are a lot of great elements with Breaking In and I’m fairly confident that the cast and creators can put it together in future episodes. However, the pilot is a case where the sum of a bunch of great parts don’t add up to a good whole.

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