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Review: The Grinder 1x1 (US: Fox)

Posted on September 30, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Rob Lowe and Fred Savage in Fox's The Grinder

In the US: Tuesdays, 8.30/7.30c, Fox

Stewart Sanderson (Fred Savage) has a problem. He's an attorney without pizazz. He knows law as well as any attorney, but he's got no gumption and can't deliver arguments without using cue cards.

Stewart's brother Dean Sanderson Jr (Rob Lowe) has a problem. A hugely famous actor from his days playing an attorney on The Grinder, he has charisma and fire but doesn't know what to do with his life now his TV show is over.

Can you see where this is going?

Yep, it's Pulaski and The World of Eddie Weary, except this time with attorneys, with Lowe and Savage joining forces to become one combined good attorney. As with those old UK shows, much of the humour relies on the show within a show, The Grinder, which sends up US dramatic conventions, giving us all the standard dramatic beats and excesses but played for laughs. It also sends up actors, with Lowe mocking himself and others by playing Dean as a self-centred brain donor who thinks that playing an attorney on TV makes him almost as good as the real thing.

Unfortunately, it's not exactly rapier-sharp in its wit here. In fact, the in-show The Grinder is quite poor, not mocking anything in particular beyond an idea of legal shows from the 1980s, rather than anything more recent. At times, it looks more like an old Perry Mason, in fact.

But where the real The Grinder actually is funny is everything else. It's quite fun when Lowe uses his 'legal skills' to negotiate increased popularity for his nephew at school. It does well when real life starts acting like a TV show, with Lowe learning a Very Important Lesson from some charged dialogue at a bar. It's also good when Savage tries to act like he's in a TV show and fails and when guest star Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) says more or less anything, but particularly when he challenges Lowe's antics in court.

In fact, despite all expectations, it's not either that central hook or Lowe and Savage you should be watching the show for but everything else. True, given how much airtime is devoted to Lowe, Savage and The Grinder, that's not much by the end of the episode, but there are at least some funny moments in there.

It's not exactly a huge recommendation from me, since I spent most of the episode wishing it was a whole lot funnier, but The Grinder doesn't fall completely flat on its face in this first outing. Give it a try, but don't have huge expectations.

Related entries

  • October 15, 2015: Third-episode verdict: The Grinder (US: Fox)
    A review of the first three episodes of Fox's The Grinder
  • October 12, 2015: What have you been watching? Including The Martian, Arrow, The Flash and Continuum
    A review of the TV, films and theatre I saw in the week ending Monday 12 October 2015
  • October 3, 2015: What have you been watching? Including You, Me and the Apocalypse, Limitless, The Muppets, Scream Queens, Doctor Who and Y Gwyll
    A review of the TV, films and theatre I saw in the week ending Friday 2 October 2015
  • January 8, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Beowulf, Rebellion, 100 Code, Endeavour and American Crime
    It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them....

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