? I know, I know, but please stay with me here; it's still lockdown and there are nine series to this legal drama, with usually 16 episodes in each. Tired of watching repeats? Perhaps it's time to give it a go and ignore the embarrassment. Was it curiosity about Meghan Markle? Absolutely.
One might as well get the flaws out of the way up front: occasionally the plotting develops holes; there are times when the resolution – case solved – is strained; and, as for the dress code, well one just has to accept that it is downright dubious, such as suits are for men. But outweighing these caveats, it has class, and it has quality.
Other television series, such as Big Little Lies
, with its starry cast, received all manner of praise and awards, yet at heart can be vacuous and glossy, touting a morality that is big on glamour but very low on integrity. How is it that a long-running series about a fictional New York City law firm, full of the usual dealing and double-dealing, can be said to have an ounce of integrity? Well, because that is the way it is conceived by its writer and producer Aaron Korsh, based loosely on his experiences as a Wall Street investment banker.
The superb cast of Suits
, coupled with clever, intelligent and witty dialogue, creates a world, believe it or not, where men and women of the law seek to do the right thing, though not always in the right way. The viewer cares about them – and their cases – because each character's backstory eventually seeps out during the proceedings, and their frailties become exposed. The principal conceit of Suits
is that lawyers have no feelings, but the tale being told is in constant contradiction to this.
The series ran from 2011 to 2019, keeping the main characters in place, for the most part. Gabriel Macht plays Harvey Specter, a senior partner in the firm Pearson Hardman; Patrick J Adams portrays a legal wunderkind, Mike Ross, who is admitted to the law firm, but actually has no qualifications barring an exceptional memory and ability to think outside the box; award-winning Gina Torres is the head of the firm: Jessica Pearson.
Around them circle a very interesting cast of characters whose ambitions and emotions are constantly tripping each other up: Meghan Markle is a highly respected, smart paralegal (with her own office and name on the door), whose inability (panic) to take exams for law school gives her a sense of inferiority. She is Mike's love interest – one of. Harvey's irreplaceable assistant Donna, Sarah Rafferty, knows everything that is going on, has gone on and will probably happen.
However, it is Rick Hoffman as Louis Litt who constantly steals the show in terms of being the schoolboy who was never picked for the team and would do anything to have a friend. The trouble is that the boy never grew up, and is destined over and over to face the truth, which is that no-one really does like him, no matter how clever he is, how many deals he closes nor how many front row seats he can procure for the latest New York shows. It is a brilliant performance that one moment is laugh out loud funny, but the next is cringe-making. In a lovely cameo performance, by a Skype call to his (real) parents, we see – and understand – why Louis is longing for approval.
The casting is quite inclusive, with a black female as head of the firm; Meghan Markle, of course; and among other black actors, Dulé Hill (from The West Wing
, Aide to President Bartlet, remember?) joins the show and the firm, as an old friend of Harvey's, in season 7.
The question has to be asked: is Suits
sexist? At one level, definitely, in that the men wear the suits and the women wear the most astonishing array of clothing in the office that anyone could imagine, mostly showing leg and cleavage that would be expected in a 1950's American B-movie. However, it isn't as simple as all that, because the women in this story have the power to go with the plumage, no matter that it's titled Suits
. Jessica Pearson is the real deal, who can out-think the boys and certainly out-dresses them. Yes, the suits are smart and expensive, but what the women wear draws the eye. It was ever thus, you may be thinking. What confuses the issue is that the women seem to wear their finery without giving consideration to the male gaze (with some exceptions, Rachel up the law library ladder springs to mind) and even then there is a sense of irony, saying 'we know what you're thinking and we don't care'.
Each episode, sometimes it takes two, sees a case being solved, constantly with conflict and complexities that keep Harvey and Mike either up all night or running in circles, seeking out the judge, a witness or an old friend or enemy (even in the boxing ring). While Mike grapples with his shady past, and is grounded by his warm attachment to the insightful grandmother who brought him up, Harvey – ever the unemotional lawyer – covers his own losses with a harder edge than he can always maintain. Basically, it is like a 'buddy movie', or as Patrick J Adams has said, 'its heart and soul depends on these two characters getting along'.
In the manipulative world of New York law, Harvey and Mike learn not to manipulate each other, and discover that a sense of trust – something they both desire and fear at the same time – is possible, even in difficult circumstances. Their relationship, with a lot of witty repartee, and clever case-closing skills, is fun to watch. From episode to episode through each series there is also a running storyline, one which threatens the firm or one of the characters, and this is then wrapped up satisfactorily. Suspense, laughter, betrayal and resolution.
While it's a big unpleasant and untrustworthy world out there, in Suits
there is enough to reassure you that sometimes people really do want to do the right thing, eventually.