EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE REVIEW! Lone Star (FOX – Monday, 9:00 P.M. Series Premiere September 20, 2010)

TV-Tastic is proud to bring you an exclusive first look preview review of the new Monday night series on FOX, Lone Star.

ROBERT/BOB ALLEN (James Wolk) is a charismatic and brilliant schemer who has meticulously constructed two lives in two different parts of the state. He’s juggling two identities and two women in two very different worlds – all under one mountain of lies.

As “Bob,” he lives in Houston and is married to CAT (Adrianne Palicki), the beautiful daughter of CLINT THATCHER (Jon Voight), the patriarch of an ultra-wealthy Texas oil family. More than 400 miles away in the suburban west Texas town of Midland, he’s “Robert,” living a second life with his sweet, naive girlfriend, LINDSAY HOLLOWAY (Eloise Mumford). There he plays the perfect boyfriend while secretly bilking local investors of their savings. While in Houston, he’s a devoted husband, charming Cat and her family to cement his position in the rich family business he aims to clean out.

Bob has lived both lives successfully for years without arousing any suspicions..so far. While one brother-in-law, DREW THATCHER (Bryce Johnson), admires Bob, while his other brother-in-law, TRAMMELL THATCHER (Mark Deklin), is growing suspicious of his motives, and along with his wife, BLAKE (guest star Rosa Blasi), threatens to expose Bob. In this world of cons, everyone has ulterior motives. ALEX (guest star Andie MacDowell), a sharp, sexy, sophisticated East Coast transplant has her eye on only one prize: Clint. Eager to stake her claim, she will do and say anything to get what she wants.

With the cons closing in on him, Bob begins to fear his secret lives may unravel as he becomes divided by his love for two women; his loyalty to his father and mentor, JOHN (David Keith); and his respect for his father-in-law, Clint. Now as he tries to hold his two lives together, while fending off angry investors and the growing suspicions of those around him, Bob puts it all on the line hoping he can beat the odds, leave the schemes behind and keep two separate relationships afloat. – FOX

8 out of 10

One of the disadvantages of being an independent review blog is that the networks don’t send advance copies of the first three episodes of new shows to us like they do the mainstream entertainment media.  The upside is that I’m under no contractual agreement to withhold a review of a show within a certain period of time before that show has premiered, which brings us to the first ever in-depth review of Lone Star (one other guy did a review but it was like three sentences).  If you’re wondering how I was able to get my hands on a copy of the pilot,  I will refer you to this:

That’s me and the little man, Harrison playing in the Embassy Suites in San Diego a few weeks ago when the whole family went to San Diego Zoo, Sea World and Wild Animal Park.  Harrison is obsessed with remote controls (gee, I wonder where he gets that from) and shortly after that scene he was playing with the remote in the room and he inadvertently turned on the Hotel’s in-room video service.  Well, lo and behold if they didn’t have the pilot episode of Lone Star available for FREE!  Needless to say, it was a professional imperative that I watch it so I could let all the good folks out there know ahead of time if it’s worth their time.  So let the games begin.

Dallas, Part Deux?

First, let me preface this by saying that when I first heard about Lone Star while preparing the forthcoming Fall Preview (coming soon), let’s just say that I was beyond skeptical.  The descriptions I saw on various entertainment sites were bland and really made it sound like to was a 2010 version of Dallas using key-phrases such as “Texas,” “oil” and “soap opera.”  I can’t imagine at all why someone would come to the conclusion that this show is Dallas: The Next Generation.  Speaking of which:

(^^^You’re welcome, by the way.)

After watching the pilot, though,  I can say that I was not only pleasantly surprised, but also a little annoyed at the marketing for this show amongst the various media outlets and even by FOX itself.  Yes, it’s in Texas, yes it revolves around a family oil company and yes it’s definitely a soap, but there is so much more to this show than this, and unfortunately, it may be its downfall.

I want to apologize for the incredibly long synopsis from the Official Lone Star Page but there really was no way to avoid it.  I tried to figure out how I could pare it down and realized that the show has so much going on it that I really couldn’t.  Sorry… blame FOX.

Bob

As complicated as that synopsis is, it needs to be corrected.  As noted, Bob is a con-man living two separate lives, with two different women.  But which one is the real Bob?  Well, the answer is both and neither because Bob also has two other alter-egos as well: the man he is when he’s with his father and is actually “himself” and the man he is when he’s actually trying to combine the two lives.  The fact is that Bob is struggling to find out what his true identity is, even in the pilot and it’s obvious that this will be a main theme throughout the series.  Do you see what I mean about this show being complicated?  And that’s just our protagonist.

What I like about this story is Bob, himself.  I’m not sure if I’m into the identity struggle and I can definitely do without the “con-man-with-a-heart-of-gold” persona which seems to be contrived exclusively because the writers aren’t brave enough to have a protagonist be a true anti-hero or a villain.  This is a very weak decision on the writers part in my opinion (well, it may have been a producer’s decision) because it tells me that they don’t have enough faith in the character or the actor, and I don’t understand why.

I like stories about con-men and so does everyone, whether they admit it or not.  Con-men are fun.  They’re clever and they have a swagger and a bravado they keeps audiences coming back.  They’re like spies who are crooks.  If I want to see a transformation from a swine to a knight, I sure as heck don’t want to see it in the pilot.  If the producers need advice on how to develop the growth of a con-man, I would simply refer them to this guy:

From what I’ve seen so far, the producers are unnecessarily playing it safe with Bob.  The character is well-written enough and James Wolk is talented enough to pull-off the “villain-who-we-hate-to-love” without really breaking much of a sweat.  Also, if anyone thinks that writing a villain as protagonist doesn’t work I will simply refer you to this guy:

… who shot a fellow cop in the face during the pilot episode of The Shield and that wasn’t even the worst of his misdeeds over the next six seasons and then there’s of course, this guy:

.. and we all know what he does for the sake of fun and sadism.

The point is that the right actor playing the right character can pull off the villain-protagonist and it’s often quite refreshing when they do, and in this case, ours doesn’t even kill anyone.

The other problem with this “heart-of-gold” scenario as that it doesn’t make any sense.  In the opening scene of the pilot we are immediately made aware that Bob’s father, John (played brilliantly by David Keith) has been a con-man his whole life and has been teaching Bob how to do it since he was at least 10 years-old, if not younger.  That being said, all Bob has ever known is “The Con” and all of a sudden, when he’s on the verge of the biggest score of his life he suddenly finds religion and wants to not only play it straight with his father-in-law’s oil company but also wants to find a way to get all of those people in Midland their money back that he took from them in a Ponzi Scheme?  Sure.  It’s very hard to swallow to say the least.

The Playas

The biggest complaint I have about Lone Star is that the plot outside of Bob’s con is very contrived and very clichéd and to be quite honest, so are some of the characters and a lot of it is lazy and does hearken back to Dallas.  You’ve got your surly patriarch Jock Ewing-type, Clint Thatcher (even the names are clichéd, for God’s sake) played by Jon Voight (who you can never go wrong with) and Trammell Thatcher (Mark Delkin) the ambitious, scheming son who’s mad that Dad gave the outsider (Bob) the task of turning the family business around and is looking to undermine the new guy and finally,  Drew Thatcher (Bryce Johnson), the under-achieving younger brother that no one takes seriously except for the outsider (Bob) and who is desperately seeking approval from both his father and his older, more accomplished brother.  Any of this sound familiar?  Of course it does because we’ve seen this clichéd family trifecta in 100’s of other films and TV shows over the last 50 years.

Still, although you’re tempted to roll your eyes, the performances carry what is really a simplistic, although compelling subplot.  Speaking of performances, thank God for David Keith and Jon Voight.  If James Wolk is the engine of this ship, then Keith and Voight are the anchors.  Keith’s character is brilliantly written and David Keith was born to play him and yes, I know I criticized the Clint Thatcher character, but Jon Voight saves the character from falling off into the abyss.  Honestly, without these two pros in this show it would be an absolute mess, despite the performance of James Wolk.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t mention Bob’s two love interests, Cat Thatcher (Adrianne Palicki) and Lindsay Holloway (Eloise Mumford) as they are obviously integral parts of this saga.  The reason is simple (and unfortunate): they aren’t really worth mentioning.  I’m not sure if it’s the characters or the actors or a combination of both but whatever it is, neither one of them comes off as very interesting or sympathetic.  I’m inclined to believe that it’s the writing because what it seems like is going on here is that the writers spent an awful lot of time concocting this very complicated story and two really complicated characters in the father and son team of John and Bob, but they simply ignored any kind of real development for the rest of the supporting characters in the hopes that the casting would be strong enough to, shall we say, make chicken salad out of chicken spit.  This is effective for the other male characters, but it is not effective with the two female leads.

Final Thoughts

Despite its weaknesses, the pilot of Lone Star is enjoyable and I would recommend it.  The main story, though complex, is very compelling, the protagonist and his father are incredibly well-written despite the other characters being rather clichéd and simplistic, and the performances by the supporting cast is excellent for the most part.  I do expect that the writers will see how weak the female leads are and will improve the way they are written in the future.

My three major concerns for this show are issues are as follows:

The first is the time slot and the network.  This show is the replacement for 24 which just ended after 8 seasons.  This is the last show in the world I would have ever expected to replace 24.  If there was a show that I would have thought would have gone in the Monday night at 9:00 p.m. slot on FOX,  it would have been either Human Target or Fringe.  Both are excellent action shows that could easily carry 24’s torch in that slot and to be completely honest, I think this show would be better suited for CBS or ABC.  They would seem to have the demographic for it more than FOX.

My second concern is the complexity of this story.  I’m sorry, but today’s audiences have pretty short attention-spans and I’m afraid this show may be a little too cerebral for this generation of TV viewers.  It’s not a knock on today’s audiences, it’s just a fact.  Complex dramas have been on the decline in popularity for the last several years  because audiences simply have too much going on with their 300 channels of cable and of course the Internet.  A show like this takes dedication and there aren’t that many people willing to dedicate to a serial storyline with a continuous arc anymore.  I’m frankly amazed that Lost lasted six seasons and I’m not surprised at all that FlashForward only lasted one (as much as I loved that show).

Finally, the real question I have is, “How long can this show last?”  Really, I mean, the show centers around this one con they are running.  I’m sorry but I don’t want to see this one con play out for seven seasons and by the same token, if the con plays itself out by the end of the first season, what happens next season… yet, another con?  How long can you keep that up? In this regard the show reminds me of Prison Break where we all said at the end of season one, “Well, they’re out.  Now what?” and of course the answer for the three seasons that followed was the most convoluted and bizarre twists in a plotline in television history.  Now, I liked all 4 seasons of Prison Break, but that was getting nuts at the end and I was glad when they finally put the show out if its misery and I don’t want to see that again with another series… especially one on FOX.

So, I’m going to give this show 6 weeks without any expectation of it surviving the Thanksgiving season cuts.  This way I won’t be disappointed if another good show is cancelled which unfortunately, as good as this show is, I do expect to happen.

Watch full episodes of Lone Star, here.


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About The Anti-Nerdist

Originally from Rochester, New York and has lived in Las Vegas, Nevada since 2003. Aside from being a huge fan of movies and television, he's a huge fan of Sci-Fi and in particular, Star Trek.
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4 Responses to EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE REVIEW! Lone Star (FOX – Monday, 9:00 P.M. Series Premiere September 20, 2010)

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