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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Breakout Kings - The Complete First Season'
(Jimmi Simpson, Laz Alonso, Domenick Lombardozzi, Malcolm Goodwin, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2012 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: A new generation of criminals are routinely thinking up ways of breaking out of Prison. To catch these dangerous criminals, US Marshal Charlie Duchamp (formerly of the Marshal's CPA, a desk job due to a congenital heart defect) resurrects an idea put in place by disgraced former Marshal Ray Zancanelli, using cons adept at escape to catch other cons.

DVD Verdicts: The brilliant 'Breakout Kings' is set in the same continuity as 'Prison Break,' in that each episode stands alone, but has the common thread of orange clothing - well, in this case, prison blues! Hey, it even goes so far as to feature an episode in which T-Bag (Robert Knepper) escapes from Fox River to exact revenge on people who assaulted his ailing mother! My goodness, Knepper is a FANTASTIC actor!

So basically, US Marshal Duchamp resurrects an idea put in place by the disgraced former Marshal Zancanelli - one in which the theory is use a con to catch a con. They bring in Shea Daniels, a former gang leader and smuggler (who is always referred to as a Gangbanger, which he hates), Lloyd Lowery a former child prodigy and criminal behaviorist and (after the Pilot which brought us Philly), Erica Reed an expert tracker who learned everything she knows from her late Bounty Hunter father.

On the phones and computers is Julianne Simms a former student at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center who excelled - until she was asked to quit due to multiple psychological disorders.

In the Pilot we also get to meet two other cons who were chosen for this project - the aforementioned Philly (a con woman) and Gunderson (an expert tracker), but they were sent back to Prison after attempting escapes. This Pilot was shown on Fox, but was not picked up after so it went to A&E instead. We quickly get to know the cast, their crimes, and feel the secrets in the underbelly too. Plus, their reward each time for catching a criminal escapee is to get a month off their prison sentences.

In 'Collected,' a man about to be executed escapes, in 'The Bag Man' the aforementioned Robert Knepper stars as T-Bag, who has to break out to avenge wrong-doings to his ailing mother. In 'Out of The Mouths of Babes,' a convicted pedophile disguises himself as a TV crew member on a prison film set, escapes and sets about proving himself innocent. In 'Queen Of Hearts,' a female inmate escapes and hooks up with all her pen pal lovers, and Lloyd is under pressure to fine $800 in prison gambling debts.

In 'Like Father, Like Son,' an anti-government activist makes a deadly escape inside a court house and sets about sticking it to the government - in some very explosive ways! In 'Fun With Chemistry,' a young prisoner escapes with his girlfriend and they go on a Bonnie and Clyde-type killing spree. In 'Steaks,' an overweight prisoner is poisoned and his huge coffin used as a kind of Trojan Horse to escape. In return for catching them, the crew have on offer a steak meal!

In 'One For The Money,' a charismatic jewel thief escapes prison to stage a big diamond heist, and Shea gets sneaky in his quest for love! In 'Paid In Full,' a big time contract killer escapes prison and sets out to gun down everyone associated with the rape of a young girl. In 'Off The Beaten Path,' a violent schizophrenic escapes whilst out on a day trip to a Medieval jousting place, and kidnaps a young kids TV show host. Gunderson is back as an expert tracker, but not even used! In 'There Are Rules,' an 18 wheeler smashes through a prison wall, and aids the escape of five convicts. With a new boss breathing down his neck, Charlie has to round up the convicts quickly - with a team of cons that the new guy isn't happy backing! In the season finale, 'Where In The World is Carmen Vega?,' a ruthless cartel drug Queen escapes when attending the funeral of her son, but whilst on the run it seems a lot of the in-house info the guys have is being leaked to her ... but by whom?! Played in brilliantly-sexy, albeit weirdly Jolie-sibling style, Lauren Vélez (aka Lt. Maria LaGuerta from 'Dexter') is great as Vega. The trouble is, her capture and the subsequent band of (bad) merry men round up is very quick and anti-climatic, sadly.

In conclusion, 'Breakout Kings' is a great show, no doubt about it, and all three cons are wonderful in their own right - Jimmi Simpson as Lloyd is the same role as Reed undertaken in Criminal Minds, Malcolm Goodwin as Shea is cool, calm and collected, with answers for all questions, and the stunningly beautiful Serinda Swan as Erica, well, watch her and find the time not to be enchanted. Domenick Lombardozzi as the disgraced cop with a heart is a lesser version of Michael Chiklis's character in 'The Shield,' and finally their headmaster is the compassionate Laz Alonso.

BUT, all that said, quite how all these convicts break out sooooo easily and sooooo often is beyond me, and detracts from the wealth of the crew tracking them. This a Full Screen Presentation (1:78) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

2 Commentary Tracks
Deleted Scenes
Good Cons, Bad Cons
Ball pen Sessions
T-Bag: Dealt A Bad Hand