How the canceled legal drama "Suits" was resurrected to become a favorite summer show

Viewership of the procedural starring former star Meghan Markle has exploded over the summer

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published August 30, 2023 8:14PM (EDT)

Suits (NBC Universal)
Suits (NBC Universal)

The internet is hyper-fixating on one show and one show only right now, and it's the unlikely underdog "Suits." Surprisingly, "Suits" is having a moment right now. No, seriously the humble USA Network legal drama that was canceled in 2019, but also spawned a literal American Duchess aka the ever-gracious Meghan Markle, has been holding steady in the Netflix Top 10 Charts for the last two months since it debuted in June on the streaming platform. Nielsen has even reported that the series has hit over 3 billion viewing minutes so far in one week. 

The legal drama focuses on one of New York City's best corporate attorneys Harvey Spector (Gabriel Machet) bringing in a whipsmart, college dropout Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) into the corporate law world. Think of it as Harvey and Mike's Adventures plus their hot girl love interests, receptionist Donna (Sarah Rafferty) and paralegal Rachel (Markle). So why does this seemingly unremarkable 2010s procedural have such an impact now?

Here are a few reasons why "Suits" is drawing in an enthusiastic new and, according to NBC Universal, a younger audience compared to the series' original run:

The streaming effect
After its cancellation from USA Network in 2019, "Suits" was on Amazon's streamer Prime Video until eight of its nine seasons were  acquired by Netflix to begin streaming in June. However, for those interested in finishing the series, right now they'll have to subscribe to an additional service since all nine seasons are available on NBC Universal's platform Peacock (both Peacock and USA Network are owned by NBCU). Since then, everyone you know has started "Suits." Even my law school hopeful roommate started streaming the show this summer to understand what it would be like to finally be a lawyer after all the grueling studying, test-taking and petty high school drama was over. For the week of June 26-July 2, "Suits" received 3.14 billion minutes watched, as newer shows like Netflix's "The Witcher" and Hulu's "The Bear."
There is a bit of controversy over the show's renewed interest on Netflix though. Recently, a former "Suits" writer wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times detailing that she's only made $259.71 in streaming residuals from her single episode during the last earned last quarter. Creator Aaron Korsh said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that "an episode of 'Suits''is worth approximately $70,000 in residuals so far, as best as I can figure out, and that number is nowhere near, in my estimation, finished growing." The lack of residuals for streaming is one issue that sparked the Writers Guild of America strike. (Salon's unionized employees are represented by the WGA East.)
Viral on TikTok
Even before Netflix created a rabid "Suits" resurgence, a scene from the pilot episode went viral on TikTok. A ridiculous scene between Harvey interviewing Mike for a job at his law firm despite Mike, lying and not having a law degree became popular on the app. Let me paint a picture for you: Mike, one of two of our protagonists is a grifter and a bike messenger with a perfectly timed and opportune photographic memory. He runs a longstanding scam where he takes the LSAT for people for the right price. Think fake German socialite Anna Delvey or the Tinder Swindler but less chic. When he realizes his grandma's medical bills are piling up, Mike then allows his drug dealer friend to convince him to be a mule. I promise it's as entertaining as it sounds.
When Mike shows up at the hotel where the drugs were supposed to be dropped off at, he realizes it is a setup, and police swarm the place. He begins running from the cops like he's a character in "Pulp Fiction." So in television magic form, Mike just suddenly ends up on the same floor where Harvey is doing interviews for new law associates for the firm. He steps into the interview under the name of someone else and frankly tells Harvey he's here on a drug deal with pounds of weed in his briefcase and the police are after him. Harvey's amused by Mike's realness, and Mike tells Harvey he should be hired because he's actually passed the bar before and has a photographic memory, gasp. In another utterly camp scene, Mike tells Harvey to start reading from one of his law books, and when he does, Mike finishes his sentence from memory because he's a super kid genius with a big brain. Because white privilege works in the most mysterious yet obvious ways, Mike gets the job — despite getting kicked out of college for cheating and selling exams and most importantly, not being a lawyer at all.
Renewed interest in former star Meghan Markle
We can't forget that Meghan Markle's career as an actress really started on "Suits" (after starring in some Hallmark rom-coms). Markle plays the hot, smart paralegal Rachel, whom Mike has a mega crush on. Throughout the show you see Rachel evolve from love interest to powerhouse lawyer, acting as a sounding board to some of the morally gray decisions most of the corporate lawyers in her sphere make. She is ambitious, brutally outspoken but ultimately one of the stand-out characters in the drama. Markle had to leave the show after the seventh season due to her upcoming nuptials to the Prince Harry in 2018.
In Harry's memoir "Spare," he revealed that when he told his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Duchess Kate Middleton that he had been dating Markle, he "was baffled until Willy and Kate explained that they were regular—nay, religious—viewers of 'Suits.'" See even the royals were big fans of Rachel, well that is until Markle was forbidden by the royal family to say "poppycock" in an episode of the show. Series creator Aaron Korsh, said that he "presumes because they didn't want people cutting things together of her saying 'c**k.'" Regardless of the ongoing controversy that surrounds Markle — let's make clear it's all controversy that she did not cause — she is one of the few constantly talked about cultural figures who became a literal Duchess with international influence.
Ships galore

While "Suits" storylines lean heavily into the illegalities and ethical and moral dilemmas of slimy corporate lawyers, there's a lot, I mean, a lot of shipping. Mike and Harvey's mentor/mentee relationship has a lot of slash shippers (i.e. shippers for same-sex relationships) in a chokehold for their banter and homoerotic undertones. When I was a teen on Tumblr, for years I would see gifs and fanfiction dedicated to the pairing. They're not the only headcanon queer relationship people shipped. Harvey's receptionist and future firm COO, Donna was heavily shipped with Rachel. They had a very similar best friends-to-lovers type of tension. But most importantly, the endgame ships were Donna and Harvey, who had a series-long slow burn arc. Another prominent relationship is Rachel and Mike. They too went through their trials and tribulations – namely Mike lying about being a lawyer and being thrown in jail for it – but they also have a supportive, beautiful relationship that viewers love. And now, new viewers are learning to love shipping these characters all over again.


By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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Gabriel Machet Meghan Markle Netflix Patrick J. Adams Peacock Suits Tv Usa Network