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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Breaking In breaks back into the airwaves

FOX's Breaking In, or breaking_in, as the title is sometimes written as, seemed canceled at the end of last year, but received a last minute reprieve. Fans who were elated at the news have had to wait a long time but new episodes. But that wait is over this week, as the second season premieres with "The Contra Club."

A new secretary begins work at Contra Security. Her name is Veronica (Megan Mullally, Will & Grace, Chrildrens Hospital, Parks & Recreation), and she is annoying, creepy, and a mess. But before the staff can begin pranking her, Oz (Christian Slater) orders them not to. Getting suspicious, the employees dig a little and discover that Veronica works for a company who Oz is trying to sell Contra to. When the deal falls through, the team breaks into Veronica's employer, and fixes it. Except, now they have to work for Veronica, who isn't pleased with their shenanigans.

"The Contra Club" is very much a transition episode, so it's hard to make a judgment call about whether the return of Breaking In is successful or not. Much of this episode centers on the "mystery" of Veronica's character, which is, sadly, not a mystery at all, because of numerous previews and press releases that spoil the twist. In this, FOX kills the suspense of the premiere, and the things that should be enjoyable about the episode are ruined. This is a marketing misstep, not a creative team failure.

Breaking In thrives on the interaction between Oz's team as they pull off jobs. Due to the story structure of "The Contra Club," the job of the week is short, and doesn't allow a lot of reveling in what makes the show good. Add to this the loss of Josh (Trevor Moore), and things don't quite add up to a great example of the series. Worse yet, Melanie will only appear in some of the episodes because Odette Annable is now starring in House, and Breaking In basically drops any romantic story between her and Cameron (Bret Harrison). So that's two out of the four team members MIA most weeks, and a big plot point gone. And Dutch (Michael Rosenbaum), who isn't in every episode of season one, but is fantastic when he is present, has also been dropped. One can assume that Dutch is no longer necessary because Cameron isn't going after Melanie, and Veronica is now the antagonist, though only time will tell if she will be a good fit replacement.

Luckily, Oz and Cameron's relationship, the other major element of the series, remains solid. Cash (Alphonso McAuley) also continues in his plum comedic role. So some things that are proven positives are still present.

There is a wild card that "The Contra Club" doesn't address. The other new main character is Molly (Erin Richards, the UK's Being Human), Veronica's long-suffering minion. She gets scarce screen time in the premiere, and almost nothing about her is revealed, except that she is sorely mistreated, and allergic to cats. How she will fit into the office chemistry is still a mystery.

When a series is pulled back from death like this, networks like to retool to expand the appeal. Unfortunately, in this case, Breaking In had a great formula already, and just needed time and promotion to help it, not changes made to the plot. This new presentation may be better, or it could end up being worse.

So was "The Contra Club" a great episode? Again, hard to tell with the marketing screw up. However, it does get the characters and story set up for what will surely be a make-it-or-break-it sophomore run. Ratings are up a bit for the show, though not as high as normal for the timeslot it is filling, so it will just depend on if an audience can be built as to whether Breaking In will get a third season.

Watch Breaking In Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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