On a scale of TV series that shoot for the high end of mediocre, USA's "Suits" (10 tonight, running 82 minutes) fares far better than the recently introduced TNT legal drama "Franklin & Bash." The guys in "Suits" are more likable, and the legal stories a little more grounded in reality.
Set at a (realistic) corporate law firm where partners condescend to junior associates, hotshot partner Harvey Specter (Carnegie Mellon University graduate Gabriel Macht) is intrigued by potential new hire Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), who runs into an interview room with a briefcase full of pot as he tries to hide from police.
Mike is a genius who remembers everything he reads but in the past has failed to apply himself while falling under the influence of a drug-dealing childhood friend. Harvey takes a chance on hiring Mike as an associate attorney and keeping the secret that Mike has not gone to law school or passed the bar exam.
Where Harvey puts on an air of superiority that allows him no time for a pro bono case, Mike gets emotionally invested in the struggle of a woman who was fired after she resisted her boss' romantic overtures.
"This woman, her life has been ripped apart, you don't even care?" Mike asks.
"I'm not about caring," Harvey replies. "I'm about winning."
"Why can't you be about both?" Mike asks.
"I'd explain it to you, but then I'd have to care about you."
The pair's snappy banter is part of the appeal of "Suits," which also features Gina Torres ("Firefly") as Harvey's boss.
Newcomer Mr. Adams, in particular, makes a winning impression. His Mike may make bad choices at the series' outset, but it's quickly apparent that he has a heart, and that serves as a useful balance to Harvey's arrogance.
Even though CBS's "Amazing Race" has started to feel a little tired -- last week it was renewed for two more cycles to air this fall and in spring 2012 -- one look at ABC's "Race" knockoff, "Expedition Impossible" (9 tonight, WTAE), proves how good, comparatively, "Race" remains.
Not that "Expedition Impossible," executive-produced by Mark Burnett ("Survivor"), is the worst reality show ever (not by a long shot), but it reveals how challenging it must be for producers to introduce a whole mess of teams in a season premiere.
"Expedition" takes 13 teams of three and sends them on assorted adventures in Morocco, some that will be familiar to "Race" fans (wrangling camels, most notably). The show is well-cast with a bickering team, a team of tough guys who turn out to be not-so-tough and one team that includes a blind man, but with so many more people participating, it's difficult to get a sense of many of the characters.
The prize, compared to the $1 million on "Race," is pretty paltry ($150,000 plus an SUV). Also, unlike in "Race," it appears "Expedition Impossible" takes place in just one country, which curtails the sense of seeing the world. Maybe these are necessary compromises that come with being a summer filler show. Still, "Race" fans craving a summer replacement could do worse.
How you feel about "Wilfred" will probably be determined by your reaction to the premise of the show before ever watching the show itself: Ryan (Elijah Wood, "Lord of the Rings"), a young suicidal former lawyer, sees his neighbor's dog as a human in a dog costume.
Furthermore, the neighbor's dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann), speaks in Australian-accented English. Wilfred simultaneously encourages Ryan to improve his life even as Wilfred sabotages Ryan's best efforts.
Viewers willing to go along for the ride probably won't be disappointed in the bizarre/scatological humor that's part of the show's DNA; those who turn up their noses at the notion of a talking, pot-smoking furry as a lead character won't even give "Wilfred" a try.
Based on an Australian series, which also starred Mr. Gann, "Wilfred" has the same merrily offensive tone as FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which should make it a big hit with college kids. The presence of a guy in a dog suit should also make it the talk of Anthrocon 2011, which kicks off in Pittsburgh today.
"Wilfred" begins as Ryan tries to kill himself -- one wonders if he actually succeeded and everything that follows is part of his experience in purgatory -- and is interrupted in his umpteenth effort when new neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) shows up at his front door and asks him to watch her dog, Wilfred.
Soon Wilfred is sitting on Ryan's sofa, bong in hand, arguing with Ryan about whether Wilfred can really smell Ryan's dirty underwear.
Next week's episode finds Wilfred complaining about "racist" laws (prompted by a "no dogs on the beach" sign) as Ryan jumps to conclusions, thanks to Wilfred, about a secret Jenna may be hiding.
It seems like the show will basically be a weekly dose of two-steps-forward-one-step-back for Ryan with Wilfred as his teacher/tormentor. "Wilfred" certainly has moments of high (and low) comedy but it's also hard to imagine the premise won't get stale pretty fast.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.