Suits, review: so why did the BBC buy this show? Meghan’s eye-popping performance is one clue...

Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane in series five of Suits
"The casting notes for Rachel's character presumably consisted of two words: 'smart' and 'hot'" - Shane Mahood/NBCU/USA Network

Of all the things the BBC could be doing with your money, it is spending it on the decade-old US legal drama Suits. The cast features Gabriel Macht, Gina Torres, Patrick J Adams… oh, and an actress called Meghan Markle. You may have heard of her.

Suits is already available in the UK on Netflix, where it was the most streamed show of 2023, and yet here it is this week on iPlayer and BBC One and BBC Three. This is public service television, servicing the public with 24-hour access to the Duchess of Sussex’s acting career.

I have watched the first two series of Suits, by which I mean I watched the first two episodes and then fast-forwarded through the next 26 to get to the Meghan bits. These take up about 10 minutes of each episode, and involve her wearing outfits so figure-hugging that I found myself wondering where I could purchase such seamless underwear. Luckily, the issue is addressed in episode nine when she explains: “I’m not wearing any underwear.” I’m sure this line is included only as helpful sartorial advice for female viewers.

Suits is set in New York law firm Pearson Hardman – New York being played here by Toronto – and Meghan is Rachel Zane, a whip-smart paralegal who could be one of the best lawyers in town if she could only stop flunking exams. She is the one likeable character in the show. The two leads are Harvey Specter (Macht), a smug senior partner wearing Michael Douglas’s hairdo from Wall Street, and Mike Ross (Adams), a baby-faced college dropout with a photographic memory. To use the parlance of this show, they’re both douchebags, although I think we’re supposed to find them charming.

Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane and Patrick J Adams as Michael Ross in series five of Suits
Bedfellows: Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane and Patrick J Adams as Michael Ross - Shane Mahood/NBCU/USA Network

The double-length pilot is breezily entertaining, with Mike accidentally gatecrashing a Pearson Hardman recruitment day while trying to evade the police during a botched drug deal. It’s implausible but fun. Within seconds Mike has confessed to being a) not a qualified lawyer, b) in possession of a briefcase full of marijuana, and these strike Harvey as the perfect credentials to become his new associate. It helps that Mike can recite every line from a legal textbook in a smart alec sort of way.

I wish it carried on in this vein but, like all procedurals, Suits must fill its episodes with cases, and these are dull. No matter: skip to the Meghan bits! Most of them seem to be based around the fact that she’s beautiful. Here is Rachel introducing herself to Mike. Rachel: “Hi, I’m Rachel Zane. I’ll be giving you your orientation.” Mike: “Wow, you’re pretty.” Rachel tells him off for ogling her, then sashays out of the office in a pencil skirt that Jessica Rabbit would have rejected for being too sexy. The casting notes for Rachel’s character presumably consisted of two words: “smart” and “hot”.

Really, Rachel deserves better than Mike, who looks about 14 years old, but the script dooms her to fall in love with him. Their relationship lasts for seven series, at which point Meghan found her prince and quit the show. In his memoir, Harry joked that he required electric shock therapy after googling his bride-to-be and finding a scene in which she and a castmate were “mauling each other in some sort of office or conference room. I didn’t need to see such things”. In which case I hope he has never seen the end of series two, which culminates in a positively acrobatic sex scene in a filing cupboard.

It’s not just them – almost every conversation in Suits is flirtatious and freighted with sex. Everyone is attractive. Even when Mike goes to the tailor, there’s a frisson with the woman taking his inside leg measurement. There’s something very dated about it. But perhaps that’s one of the reasons for the show’s popularity. Suits is easy-going, middle-of-the-road television that feels like it’s from a less complicated era. It has never troubled the Emmys or the Golden Globes, but neither have most of the programmes that people actually watch.

All nine series of Suits are available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer