For reasons no one can quite decipher, the legal soap “Suits,” which aired on USA from 2011-2019, has become the show of the summer. While it was popular enough when it aired, I’ve read more “Suits” articles in the last few weeks than during the show’s entire run.
The show is a hit on Netflix, but if you are on your “Suits” journey right now, note that the ninth and final season is in fact not on Netflix — though it is on Peacock and Amazon.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Wow, if only there were a spinoff to ‘Suits,’ surely everyone would want in on that.” Well, there is a spinoff to “Suits,” called “Pearson,” which follows Gina Torres’s character, Jessica Pearson, on her next legal endeavor. But in a perfect snapshot of the inane and hostile world of streaming, “Pearson” is not streaming on any platform. Make it make sense!
But we come here not to gripe but to savor. I think “Suits” is a ton of fun for a while and then peters out big time; exactly where this decline begins is in the eye of the beholder, but for me Season 3 is on shaky ground and Season 4 starts a marked decline.
If you feel you’ve gotten what you need out of “Suits” and want something else that maintains the bracing abundance of corporate air conditioning, here are some follow-ups.
I want something … better.
‘The Good Wife’
Where to watch: Freevee and Paramount+.
“The Good Wife” does a lot of what “Suits” does, only smarter and more adult: There is constant and glorious sexual tension among all characters, everyone is chic and smart, and much of the legal maneuvering happens in the office and not just the courtroom. (Both shows also vastly overestimate the intrigue of the partners playing musical chairs, of who will start their own firm, of whose name is on the blah blah — I do not care.)
Also like “Suits,” “The Good Wife” has a spinoff that follows the female partner of the big firm (Christine Baranski) on her new adventure, though “The Good Fight” is richer than “Pearson.”
“Wife” has a lot more to say than “Suits” does, and it’s more overtly political and a bit darker. But ye gods, the smoldering stares, the standing-too-close-in-the-office-library moments, the delayed gratification of will-they-won’t-theys — if that’s what you crave, there’s more than enough of that here, too.
I want something more outrageous.
Where to watch: Hulu.
If you like the horny loyalty that binds all the characters at Pearson Hardman, you’ll love the murderous devotion all the employees of Olivia Pope & Associates display.
The officewear is even snazzier on “Scandal,” and the stakes are a lot higher: The show, starring Kerry Washington, is set at a Washington D.C. crisis firm, and many of the crises involve the president. “Scandal” has a ton of torture and violence, and in that way might be less soothing than “Suits,” but it is also bantery and juicy, and secrets abound. The shows share affection for sumptuous wine goblets, reverence for one’s mentors and velvety dress-downs that perhaps start with a powerful person telling an underling, “I like you …,” before unleashing viciousness.
“Scandal” and “Suits” were contemporaries, and I remember at the time reveling in how much more story “Scandal” was willing to burn through, how fast its metabolism was in comparison to the foot-dragging that eventually drove me crazy on “Suits.” Each show ran out of steam in its own ways, so stick with a “watch it until you get tired of it; know that there is no late-game resurgence” approach. (Season 1 starts slow, so consider just starting with Season 2.)
I want something goofier.
Where to watch: Amazon and Peacock.
“Psych” is among the USA brethren of “Suits,” and it shares a “cute, cocky white guy does a convincing social fraud” as its backbone. On “Suits,” it’s Mike (Patrick J. Adams) pretending to be a licensed lawyer when he’s actually just an autodidact; on “Psych,” it’s Shawn (James Roday Rodriguez) pretending to be a psychic to help the police solve crimes when he’s actually just a keen observer.
“Psych” is less glam than “Suits” but more poppy and bright, and there are 120 episodes plus three movies, so there’s a similar “I’ll never run out of these!” Zen.
One of the appeals of “Suits” is that it punches above its weight class — smarter and zippier than chuga-chuga lawyer shows. “Psych” is similar. Plenty of shows followed the “Monk” and “House” formula, but not many are as funny as “Psych,” or as creative. “Psych” has a whole “Twin Peaks” spoof episode!
I like when a man yells, ‘Donna!’
‘The West Wing’
Where to watch: Max.
“Suits” is quintessential diet Sorkin; some of its banter especially echoes “The West Wing” and “The American President.” More concretely, “West Wing” and “Suits” both have central duos of a vaguely obnoxious boss (Gabriel Macht in “Suits,” Bradley Whitford in “West Wing”) and his painfully devoted assistant named Donna (Sarah Rafferty, Janel Moloney), whom he protects and reveres but also sometimes scolds.
Both shows also love Ivy League credentials, though “West Wing” likes fancy schooling in a more general sense — the president (Martin Sheen) is a Notre Dame alum, for example — while everyone on “Suits” has a tiresome and laughable obsession with Harvard and Harvard only.