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Breaking In - The Complete Series

Sony Pictures Choice Collection // Unrated // November 6, 2012
List Price: $38.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted February 3, 2013 | E-mail the Author
The Show:
Debuting in April of 2011, Breaking In was a sitcom staring Christian Slater as the eccentric owner of a security firm that specializes in breaking into their clients companies to highlight weaknesses in their systems.  As a mid-season replacement, there were only 7 episodes that first year, which earned the show... a cancellation.  Yep, it was axed.  It was a pretty good show that was on Fox, so naturally they had to cut it.  Then three months later, apparently coming to their senses, the network brought the show back from the dead for a 13-episode season.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of changes made in the show and in that second year the show was a shadow of its former self.  Now thanks to Sony's Choice Collection, fans can own the whole series, both the good and the not-so-good.
Cameron Price (Bret Harrison) is living the dream:  he has a full scholarship to a prestigious university, a great dorm room, and he makes money on the side by selling professor's passwords so that failing students can boost their GPA.  The only trouble is that it's all a scam.  He hacked into the school's computers to give himself the scholarship, as he's been doing for the past several years. 
That all comes to a screeching halt when he comes home one day and discovers Ferris "Oz" Oswald Osbourne (Christian Slater) in his room.  Oz in on to Cameron's scheme.  He's the owner of Contra Security, a firm that tests the safety measures of companies by breaking into them.  The university hires Contra to examine their computer system, and what did they find?  Cameron Price. 
Oz doesn't want to throw Cameron under a bus though... just the opposite, he wants to hire him.  Faced with the choice of repaying the nearly half a million dollars that he's cheated the university out of (and probably going to jail) verses taking a job, he decides to join Contra Security as their resident hacker.
The other members of Contra Security are mainly ex-crooks who are going straight.  They include Cash Sparks (Alphonso McAuley), an electronics whiz and unrepentant fanboy, Melanie (Odette Annable) as the resident hottie and lock pick expert, and Josh Armstrong (Trevor Moore) psychiatrist and master of disguise.  The whole show is run by the rich and very eccentric Oz, who drives a Maserati and flies to Beijing when he gets a hankering for Chinese food.  Cash and Cameron become friends while Josh takes an instant dislike to the hacker.  Cam falls for Melanie, and since she looks a lot like Megan Fox, who can blame him, but she has a boyfriend, Dutch (Michael Rosenbaum or Smallville fame), who is handsome, exciting, and dumb as a box of rocks. 
The show is heavily influenced by Leverage, another show with crooks making good by scamming and stealing, but Breaking In is more of a sitcom than action show.  The actual heist is a very small part of the episode, usually being pulled in a couple of minutes and often without a hitch.  That's because this is only a half hour show, so they cut out a lot of the actual 'breaking in' to make sure there's room for the jokes.
But the show is funny.  While it would have been a stronger show if it was a hour long and they could beef up the actual caper, the comedy works well.  Cameron is a fish out of water trying to woo Melanie who grew up grifting and picking locks while keeping up with the other extreme personalities who inhabit the firm, and that's where a lot of the humor comes from.  I especially liked Dutch and his very thoughtful and over-the-top presents that he'd give to Melanie.  How can Cam compete with a guy who hand crafts his-and-her Muppets of himself and his girlfriend?  What's worse is that she even enjoys when he ruins the moment by making his puppet hump hers.
Though the show is hilarious most of the time, there is a fine line between 'funny' and 'really stupid' and they cross that some times.  For example, when the group is locked in a building without any means of escape, Cash tries to build a time machine.  Those moments are easy to overlook though since the rest of the show is so enjoyable.
And then comes season two.
It's apparent that in order to get a second the show had to agree to some significant changes.  All of which harmed the show.  In the first episode of season two we discover that Dutch is no longer around, having been arrested for selling clean urine on the Internet.  Josh is gone too, but he doesn't even get a mention, he's just not there. 
As if getting rid of two of the best characters weren't enough, they add a very stupid plot and a couple of unappealing new people.  It turns out that Oz in really broke, so he sells Contra Security to a large corporation.  He stays on, but he has a boss now, Ronnie (Megan Mullally).  Where Oz is super smart, obsessively manipulative and sneaky, and always had plans within plans, Ronnie is just a strange woman.  Though she's high up in a multinational company, she doesn't seem to have a brain in her head.  While doing Tai Chi one morning she starts acting like a mime and yelling "help, help, I've become trapped in a glass box."  When you have to resort to mime jokes, you know you're on the wrong track.  The other new characters is Ronnie's assistant, Molly Marie Hughes (Erin Richards) who is a brain who went to collage at 14 and is apparently content being the whipping boy for her sadistic boss.
The final blow comes when Melanie leaves the firm a couple of episodes into season two.  Molly become Cameron's new love interest, but it just doesn't work nearly as well.
This second season still had some good laughs, but it really takes a hit in quality.  The plots aren't as interesting and the battles between Oz and Ronnie come across as repetitive and stupid more than anything else.  While I'm not sorry I watched the second season, the whole time I was thinking how much better it would have been if they had just left the show the way it was.
The DVD:

The complete series arrives on two DVD-Rs that come in a single-width keepcase.
The DD 5.1 soundtrack is nice.  Being a recent show the audio is clean and clear and there aren't any defects.  The soundstage wasn't used as much as it could have been, but the show sounds fine without a lot of panning and subwoofer activity.
The anamorphic 1.78:1 image looks very good. The level of detail was fine and the colors were strong.  Lines are tight and there isn't any compression artifacts worth noting.
Final Thoughts:
This could have been a great show.  The first season showed a lot of possibilities and would have certainly improved had the creators been given free reign.  As it is, the second season saw a lot of changes, and none of them worked.  The retooling decreased the quality of the show.  While it was still watchable, it wasn't nearly as funny or engaging.  Averaging the two seasons out, I'd still recommend this release on the strength of the first year's run.
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