Happy Anniversary ‘Suits’: What the Cable Drama’s Streaming Resurgence Says About TV Today (Guest Column)

Critics called the premise “ludicrous,” “idiotic” and “ill-conceived.” With that start, the team of us that launched “Suits” on USA Network never expected the show to become a global phenomenon.

When the series debuted on June 23, 2011, we were nervous about its prospects. A series about a fake lawyer from the network that just brought you Dule Hill in a series about a fake psychic. Seriously?

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So how did Suits, in its “third life” (after nine seasons on USA, reruns first ran on Amazon Prime Video before going to Netflix and Peacock) become one of the most-binged series despite the array of options available to viewers. More importantly, what can we learn from its late-stage popularity?

First, the resurgence is a testament to the work by creator and showrunner Aaron Korsh, the large ensemble of great actors and the entire production team.

Second, its recent popularity can partly be attributed to the unrelenting power of Netflix’s platform and algorithm – which served up the series in a way that made it “must-binge TV.” How could you turn away from the scene in the pilot where Gabriel Macht’s powerful law firm partner Harvey Specter meets Patrick J. Adams’ cunning Mike Ross?

“You give me this…”, says Mike, “and I will work as hard as it takes to school those Harvard douches and become the best lawyer you have ever seen.” It’s a riveting scene, and the one that convinced us to greenlight the show.

There’s also another reason: “Suits” is easy! It’s easy on the eyes with good looking people in high-end environments. Easy on the mind, with plotlines that aren’t too complicated to follow while simultaneously scrolling social media. Easy-to-root-for characters.

In the current television landscape filled with viewer landmines including gratuitous violence, increasingly graphic sex and plot-twists that demand a juris doctorate in storytelling, “Suits” is a welcome breath of fresh air with its simple charms.

However, easy charm and AI-powered algorithms don’t tell the whole story. Audiences are making a deeper connection with “Suits.”

In a first of its kind global study on entertainment and spirituality, a Harris X poll found that viewers increasingly want positive stories that center on family, friendships, inspiration, and redemption. This isn’t surprising given the current climate that bombards us daily with negativity and conflict.

“Suits,” at its core, is rich with the themes that audiences are craving, such as using our natural talent to do “the right thing.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 01:  (L-R) Chris McCumber, Co-President USA Network, actor Patrick J. Adams and Jeff Wachtel, Co-President, USA Network, arrive at the NBC Universal TCA 2011 Press Tour All-Star Party at the SLS Hotel on August 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
USA Network president Chris McCumber, “Suits” star Patrick J. Adams and USA executive Jeff Wachtel in August 2011 (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Mike’s superpower is his photographic memory. While he uses his gift under false pretenses (and ultimately goes to jail for it), his North Star remains deploying his power to help those in need.

Harvey is the tough, cocky, “win-at-all costs” closer, yet he finds his softer side by aspiring to be just like Mike. He too wants to use his power for good, and to find the love and family that was always missing in his life.

In a society that often feels unmoored, where basic values like family, friendship, heroism, and integrity are increasingly sidelined, “Suits” offers more than a little hope. Hope that despite our flaws and mistakes, we can all be redeemed somehow.

The friendship among the characters, their unwavering loyalty to each other, and their commitment to doing the right thing resonates deeply with audiences looking for inspiration and connection.

“Suits” proves that TV doesn’t need to push the edge of the envelope to engage viewers. It simply needs to tap into the core human needs that we all need in one form or another: love, happiness, family and fulfillment. “Suits” helps provide that in a small way for its millions of next-generation fans. We’re glad we took that gamble 13 years ago.

It’s easier said than done, but here’s to many more like it.

Chris McCumber is the former president of USA Network and Blumhouse Television.

(Pictured top: “Suits” stars Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht)

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