As one of the few original scripted series to air on A&E, Breakout Kings became the poster child for abandoned pilots that turned it around. The series also managed to garner enough of an audience that the cable network has confirmed it will return next year for season 2.
For the past few years, A&E has been primarily subsisting on the ‘real life drama’ of its reality series like The First 48 Hours, Intervention and Hoarders. The channel briefly tested the scripted series waters in 2008 with the Benjamin Bratt, Grace Park drama The Cleaner, but the series ended after just two seasons. Recently, however, along with the Florida cop drama The Glades (currently in its second season), the network has finally found some success with not-so-real-life dramas – and in the case of Breakout Kings, has managed to earn A&E solid ratings.
The show regularly posted ratings around 2.8 million viewers – which is a record for an original drama on the network.
Becoming the breakout (no pun intended) ratings winner on the cable network speaks volumes for the show’s ability to attract viewers – especially since Breakout Kings was once sitting not-so-proudly atop the rejected pilots pile at another network. FOX originally ordered the pilot back in 2010 – and despite being well thought of for its tight script and direction from Gavin Hood (Rendition, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), the network passed – deciding instead to stick with returning shows Lie to Me and Human Target, and bring on the new drama Lone Star. It is worth noting that FOX later cancelled all three series.
Kings, however, would make the rounds at various other networks and cable channels before landing at A&E. The network had been looking for an accompaniment to The Glades that would pair well with the procedural stylings the network has recently become known for (A&E is also the home for past episodes of Criminal Minds).
The show concerns two US Marshals Laz Alonso (Southland, Avatar) and Domenick Lombardozzi (The Wire, Miami Vice) who enlist the help of three former fugitives (and current inmates) played by Malcolm Goodwin (American Gangster), Jimmi Simpson (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Date Night) and Serinda Swan (Tron: Legacy, Hawaii Five-0) to track down prison escapees.
Like The Glades, Breakout Kings is a pretty stock one-and-done type of program – similar in style to the incredibly popular shows in the CBS line-up such as NCIS, CSI and Criminal Minds. What they do have going for them are very likable actors that help carry the story with small moments of character development sprinkled throughout the otherwise formulaic procedures.
While The Glades has Aussie actor Matt Passmore and Kiele Sanchez (Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe), Breakout Kings’ two standouts are by far Lombardozzi’s disgraced US Marshal, Ray Zancanelli, and Jimmi Simpson’s former behaviorist with a gambling problem, Dr. Lloyd Lowery.
A&E was developing the Wyoming cop drama Longmire starring Battlestar Galactica alum Katee Sackhoff and Lou Diamond Philips, and Big Mike starring Greg Grunberg (Heroes, Alias), but for now it looks like Breakout Kings and The Glades will have to be the sole original offerings on the cable network.
Look for Breakout Kings to return to A&E in 2012.