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Suits/Netflix

Why has ‘Suits’ blown up so much on Netflix?

It’s breaking Nielsen records and has fans young and old watching.

 

Michelle Jaworski

Streaming

Netflix has seen its fair share of hit TV shows emerge and return over the past few weeks, with The Witcher, Never Have I Ever, Heartstopper, and The Lincoln Lawyer among them. But it’s far from Netflix’s biggest show of the summer. That honor goes to, of all things, a long-running legal drama that hasn’t aired a new episode in four years: Suits.

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Originally running on USA Network, Suits followed several employees at a law firm in New York City after Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) was hired as an attorney despite not having a law degree, of which almost all of his colleagues are unaware. The series ran for 134 episodes across nine seasons, ending in 2019; Pearson, a short-lived spinoff centered on Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), also ran on USA for one season.

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Suits was a hit when it aired on basic cable (it initially debuted in 2011 with over 4.6 million viewers); it has a 65 rating on Metacritic, indicating “generally favorable reviews.” But even that hasn’t compared to the seemingly meteoric rise in popularity Suits has experienced over the past several weeks, ever since the first eight seasons arrived on Netflix on June 17; season 9 is on Prime Video, which hosted Suits’ entire run before the other eight seasons went to Netflix. The entire series also streams on Peacock, something it made a point to mention as more people tuned in to watch the show. (Peacock and USA Network share a parent company, NBCUniversal.)

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It’s not the first time Suits has been available to stream on Netflix; the streamer picked up the rights to the show in the U.K. after its initial distributor dropped the show and released weekly episodes starting in 2017. And it wasn’t as if Suits was an unknown entity before this summer: According to Prince Harry’s memoir Spare, he found out that Prince William and Kate Middleton were “regular—nay, religious—viewers of Suits” when he first told them he was dating Meghan Markle, who starred as paralegal Rachel Zane.

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In the weeks since Suits hopped over to Netflix, it’s topped the Nielsen charts and broken several viewing records; it garnered 3.7 billion viewing minutes, according to a recent report. It’s spent four nonconsecutive weeks on Netflix’s Top 10, which charts Netflix’s self-reported viewership numbers and includes hours viewed (in the millions) and number of views (total time spent watching a show or movie divided by the running time). As of press time, Suits is at no. 4 on Netflix’s daily U.S. TV charts. Netflix is even trying to ride the waves of Suits’ newfound popularity by posting SEO-friendly recaps of every season on Tudum.

“Know what a good show on Netflix is?” @schiggy posted in late July, just one example of the recommendation tweets floating around the internet. “Suits. Thank me later.”

Suits has been on Netflix international for a while now but people are drawn to the show because it is a pretty darn good show,” Zanye Erin, who first heard of Suits through Markle and her humanitarian work, told the Daily Dot via direct message. “The plot is unique, the dialogue is witty and the cast chemistry is off charts.” In her circles, Suits was well-known long before it hit Netflix in her market around four years ago.

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According to executive producer Gene Klein, he’s heard from a mix of people rewatching the series and those discovering it for the first time since Suits got the Netflix bump. And naturally, given the show’s recent resurgence, he’s already been asked to comment on the possibility of a reboot after the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes conclude.

“I’d be surprised if we could thread that needle for a reunion, but I’d also be delighted if that happened because [when] you do a show for that long, everybody becomes such a good friend,” Klein told TVLine.

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It’s filling a major gap in Netflix’s catalog

If you asked what shows someone watched on Netflix a few years ago, they might’ve sooner said older shows that Netflix licensed from other networks like Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, or The Office—all of which were among the streamer’s top shows—rather than a Netflix original; as of 2023, only Grey’s is still streaming on Netflix while Friends went to Max and The Office to Peacock.

And while Netflix has obtained and lost the streaming rights to several long-running shows since then, Suits fits the footprint those shows left behind. It’s not quite a procedural, but a blend of weekly cases, overarching plots, the feel of a workplace sitcom, and several seasons-long character arcs; the biggest cast shakeup occurred when Adams, Markle, and Torres all left after season 7 (Adams would eventually return for season 9).

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As a show, Suits is a fairly low-level investment. Some plot aspects loom large, like the question of who knows that Mike doesn’t have a law degree despite practicing law and the cutthroat work environment of Pearson Hardman (the law firm at the center of the series whose name changes several times over nine seasons).

But you don’t have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Suits to understand what’s happening. It’s a workplace drama that can operate like a hangout show, and with more than 100 episodes to watch, people can easily get invested in the characters’ journeys or the romances, of which Suits had two: Mike and Rachel, and the more drawn-out slow-burn between lawyer Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty), a legal secretary who eventually rises to become the firm’s COO.

“My teenage daughter is watching it and absolutely loves it, and is willing to consider a law degree on the less than 5% chance that what they show is real,” Erin said. “They don’t make them like Suits anymore.”

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And, for anyone who might’ve caught some of the many, many Suits marathons that aired on USA during its cable heyday (often paired with another USA drama, Burn Notice), there’s also a nostalgic aspect to basic cable marathons, fitting right in with the kind of movies that usually trend on Netflix.

It’s a classic ‘second screen’ show

Perhaps one of the biggest factors working for Suits’ favor is that there’s so much of it, especially compared to the ever-expanding graveyard of well-liked but short-lived shows on Netflix.

When six and eight-episode series are now the norm on streaming platforms like Netflix, Suits’ episode count ranges anywhere from 10 episodes (ninth season) to 12 (season 1) to 16 (seasons 2-8) stands out. It might not have run as long as Friends (236 episodes), The Office (201 episodes), or Grey’s Anatomy (420 episodes as of May 2023), but 134 is still a healthy number—and far more than any Netflix original. (Grace and Frankie, which had 94 episodes across seven seasons, comes the closest.)

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So it’s easy to put on Suits and let it go for a few hours at a time, even if you’re only half-paying attention to it while scrolling through your phone. It’s a classic of Netflix, which doesn’t necessarily care if what you’re watching is good or makes sense as long as you keep watching.

That’s not to say Suits doesn’t have fans heavily invested in the plot and characters. But the second-screen nature of Suits doesn’t hurt it on Netflix: By the time you look up, you’ve gotten through half a season and didn’t even have to go back to double-check on some detail.

It’s easily memeable

A show is only as good as its meme potential, and Suits has that in spades.

Even if Suits isn’t as much of a procedural legal drama as the Law & Order universe, there’s a comforting factor to how little seems to change. Enough so that people can make up their own dialogue to depict what every episode of Suits sounds like.

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@ashmoneyflow another day in the office at pearson hardman spector litt zane! #suits #netflix #harveyspecter #jessicapearson ♬ original sound – ashley
@ohmygodbole literally what is a subpoena #suits #harveyspecter #mikeross #rachelzane #netflix ♬ Suits – Greenback Boogie – Main Theme – Geek Music
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Or, as some people depicted in other TikToks, the more they watch, the more they start to dress and sound like the lawyers at Pearson Hardman.

@krianbearney Me watching Suits #suits #suitsnetflix #harveyspecter #netflix #comedy #funnytiktoks #lol #lmao #😂🤣 ♬ Suits – Greenback Boogie – Main Theme – Geek Music

It might not accurately depict lawyers, but that doesn’t mean those who work in the legal profession aren’t also watching. And don’t forget the Good Doctor-esque appeal of recording your screen and reacting to some wild dialogue taken out of context.

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The bonus of Netflix cross-promotion (and Suits‘ biggest alum)

Netflix thrives on people staying on the platform to watch more of what it puts out, and Suits can both be the draw or the leadup to something more.

The obvious pull right now is to direct Suits fans to The Lincoln Lawyer, its legal drama that had a two-part season drop in July and August 2023. It remains the most popular show on Netflix and has spent five weeks in Netflix’s Top 10 (season 1 is at no. 6), ticking off many of the same boxes as Suits. Or, if you finished The Lincoln Lawyer, why not chase it with another legal show that might hold you over for several days or weeks?

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But you can go in another direction. Markle is Suits’ most famous alum, partly thanks to her relationship and marriage to Prince Harry. If you watched all of Suits and found Markle to be compelling, it might be as good a time as any to direct viewers to tune into Markle’s other big project on Netflix: Harry & Meghan, the six-part docuseries she made with Prince Harry that delves into many of the headlines and controversy around their departure from the Royal Family. Or if you somehow only just got around to watching Harry and Meghan’s Netflix docuseries, it’s as good a time as any to check out Markle’s most famous role. (According to Erin, some people have seen watching the series as a way to support Markle.)

No matter which direction Netflix hopes you go in, Suits will likely be the gift that keeps on giving.

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