If Christian Slater has proved anything over the past few years, it’s that he can’t draw a television audience. The high-concept action drama My Own Worst Enemy crashed and burned within two months in 2008, while 2009’s investigative procedural, The Forgotten, managed to hang around for a full season before being canceled. Still, Slater is back for his third show in three years with Breaking In.
He plays Oz, the fast-talking owner of Contra Security, a company people hire to test their security systems. Bret Harrison (also on his third show in three years, after Reaper and V) plays Cameron, the fresh-faced hacker who is new to the company. In the first episode, he has to endure hazing not just from Oz, but also from resident gadget guy Cash (Alphonso McAuley) and arrogant disguise man Scott (Trevor Moore).
And then on his first day, Cameron meets and instantly develops a crush on lock-picker Melanie (Odette Annable), who happens to have a dumb but lovable boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum). If this all sounds a little familiar, that’s because it is. Breaking In plays like a half-hour comedy version of Leverage, or a live-action version of Archer. Except it isn’t as much fun as the former, and it doesn’t even approach the hilarity of the latter.
Really, there’s nothing wrong with Breaking In that couldn’t be fixed with better writing and more sharply drawn characters. There’s plenty of comedy potential in a show that revolves around weekly heists, and the workplace where those capers originate. But the first two episodes of the show only manage to elicit the occasional chuckle.
Writer/producer Adam F. Goldberg has done some decent work in the past (the underseen CW series Aliens in America, the underrated movie Fanboys), but his resumé is dominated by Hollywood hackwork like the mediocre sitcom Still Standing and the cheapquel Daddy Day Camp.
So far, Breaking In is leaning more towards the hacky side of his ledger. The characters are archetypes without personalities of their own, as if there was a producer off to the side checking off boxes containing character traits. Oz is the omnipresent boss who knows everything that’s going on; Cash is a huge nerd who gets to make all the geek references (cheap and easy ones at that, as the first episode has an extended Star Wars gag and the second does Star Trek); and Scott is a jealous jerk who only seems to be around to annoy Cameron.
The show also has a tendency to zip through the capers in mere seconds, apparently in order to get the cast back into the office as soon as possible. Maybe this is a function of budget or misplaced priorities, but it just seems wrong. The capers would seem to be the point of the office meetings, but the show doesn’t seem particularly interested in these missions. It’s like the producers have set up Breaking In to be an action-comedy but nobody involved really cares about the action portion. But if the show is starting as a mild disappointment, it’s far from terrible.