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A&E's Breakout Kings doesn't raise the bars

Cons 'n' cops coalesce, co-exist in Breakout Kings. A&E photo

Premiering: Sunday, March 6th at 9 p.m. (central) on A&E
Starring: Laz Alonzo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Jimmi Simpson, Malcolm Goodwin, Brooke Nevin
Produced by: Matt Olmstead, Nick Santora

NBC's fugitive-catching Chase didn't catch on. A&E's Breakout Kings tries a somewhat different tack, teaming U.S. Marshals with snippy cell dwellers under the proviso that it "takes a con to catch a con."

In reality it doesn't. But perhaps two co-creators/producers of Fox's Prison Break don't know any better -- or have any really new ideas. So in this gambit, a killer convict escapes from behind bars and then is tracked by two badge-wearers and three temporarily released crooks. After ample sparring and wise-cracking, they of course get their man. In this case it's a sadistic, taunting bank robber named Tillman (guest star Jason Cerbone).

The marshals are by-the-book Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonzo) and a surly, bald, renegade Vic Mackey type named Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi). Ray recruits three convicts that he previously salted away, but who impressed him with their elusiveness. The one who gets most of the good lines is Dr. Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson), a onetime child prodigy who ran afoul of the law after succumbing to a heavy-duty gambling problem.

Also enlisted are former "gang banger" Shea Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin) and con artist Philomena "Philly" Rotchliffer (Nicole Steinwedell), a former Miss Idaho 2001 who lets it be known that she was taunted in school as "Feel my wiener crotch-sniffer." Don't get too aroused, though. Philly is being written out after Sunday's premiere episode. The replacement part is Serinda Swan, who emoted as "Siren #2" in Tron: Legacy. Now she gets to be "sexy expert tracker" Erica Reed, whose dad was a bounty hunter.

Breakout Kings also has a resident computer whiz/researcher named Julianne Sims (Brooke Nevin), who lets her fingers do the walking in much the same way that Penny Garcia does on CBS' Criminal Minds and its new spin-off, Suspect Behavior.

The opener has an amusing line or two from the basically chicken-hearted Lowery, a comic con who relieves the tedium of Duchamp and Zancanelli clashing with one another over protocol. As in, "When I tell you to stand the hell down, you stand down." Which of course doesn't sit too well. Snore.

The tradeoff here is time off for good behavior each time a con completes an assignment without trying to escape. A&E apparently believes it's in it for the long haul with this series, because convict Shea Daniels returns to his cell to pencil in a piddling one-month reduction in his sentence. At that rate he'll be good to go by the time Justin Bieber is eligible for Social Security. But it probably beats landing on a Monopoly board's "Go Directly to Jail -- Do Not Collect $200" square.

Breakout Kings mainly succeeds in showing how far A&E must go to match the quality of original basic cable series on AMC, FX, and sometimes, TNT. There's nothing particularly striking or compelling here. But at least the escapee of the week will meet his fate at the end of each episode. On Prison Break, aren't some of them still on the run?