Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

“Lone Star” Premiere Review

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 20, 2010

Thank you, Lone Star. I now have a new must-watch show for this season.

I read a lot of hype before tonight’s premiere, but I resisted falling for it. The common reason other critics praised Lone Star was because FOX sought out a “cable show” for network TV. They wanted to give full creative license (minus swears and nudity) to bring that style of television excellence to one of the main networks. They were shooting for Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Damages, The Shield.

After one episode, I won’t say they hit a grand slam. But how about a 3-run homer?

This didn’t feel like a normal FOX show. Or any other network show. Actually, in terms of style and direction, it came close to Lost. But only in that respect. For cable shows, I thought it felt like Breaking Bad. Not as breathtaking cinematography, not as compelling dialogue or writing. But pretty close.

Wolk

The plot is pretty simple. Bob Allen (James Wolk) is a con man. He has a girlfriend in one town and a wife in another. With the girlfriend, he lives modestly, getting people to buy shares in oil wells. With the wife, he works his way into her father’s company. Typical bad guy starring in a TV drama, right?

Not this time. Bob Allen’s not a Vic Mackey. He’s no JR Ewing. He’s far from Tony Soprano. Allen actually cares. He’s not really a bad guy. Sure, he’s done some bad things, but we learn in this pilot that it hurts him to hurt others. He wants to go straight. But his con man father won’t let him (there’s something more there…why couldn’t his father do it on his own?). But over the course of the episode, Allen starts to chart his own course. He’s going to make it work (clearly, it won’t). He’ll become legit. That’s easier said than done, though, with his father (David Keith), father-in-law (Jon Voight…unrecognizable with a Texan accent) and brother-in-law (Mark Deklin).

But here’s what you have to understand, if you’re still not convinced. These concepts are nothing revolutionary. But the acting and writing is fantastic. In 42 minutes, I truly feel like I know Allen’s motivations. I know how his mind and heart work. And I want to root for him. Where so many other shows fail to develop their characters, Lone Star knocks it out of the park. Whether it’s the scene at the diner with his dad. Or on the balcony, having a panic attack after lying his way through another jam. Or his inability to look his girlfriend’s parents in the face when they’re thanking him for all the money he’s made them (he hasn’t).

Giannoulias

But…maybe he’s conning me. Maybe he’s really a jerk. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate twist? I’ll keep watching to find out. And you should too.

Grade: A

Oh…and I can’t stop looking at Wolk and thinking he looks just like Democratic Illinois Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias. It’s spooky. Also makes me trust Bob Allen a little less.

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3 Responses to ““Lone Star” Premiere Review”

  1. Mr. Feeny said

    I forgot to mention how tough Lone Star’s timeslot is. “Dancing with the Stars,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “The Event.” That’s murderous.

    Allow me to rant for what will not be the last time. “Two and a Half Men” is the most overrated show on television. It’s not funny. It’s cheap, uncreative, dull humor. 14 million people should not be watching it, while only 4 million watch “Lone Star.” People should also stop watching “The Event.” I didn’t hate “The Event,” but I’d rather save “Lone Star.”

  2. Marlo Stanfield said

    A very strong pilot. I would say it definitely has the potential to be great. And, of course, I’m partial to the locale.

    James Wolk is perfectly cast. A practically unknown, charismatic actor that hits the mark as a con man. I haven’t seen a person play that role so convincingly in my entire life.

    I’m not crazy about the dad character. Did the writers really need to have him stealing his son’s pancakes with ominous music in the background? C’mon. Still, a small notch against an otherwise great show. Great premise, great setting, and great background music. (“Heartbeats” always gets me)

    Of all the things to watch Monday night in this time slot, including Monday Night Football, this takes the cake. After years of having nothing to watch between Sunday and Wednesday, now on Mondays I have Lone Star and Hawaii Five-O.

    Well, as long as those two shows last.

    Grade: A

  3. CJ Cregg said

    I’m totally in agreement with both of you. The first 15 minutes or so I was thinking that you guys were wrong and that you had totally overrated this show. But I guess after that, I started to fall in love with Bob and feel for him.

    I agree, Marlo, that at times, the story advancing narrative with the father is a bit heavy handed. Dad just showing up, stealing pancakes, explaining a lot of stuff… it felt weird and wrong. But that’s a small thing against a good show.

    I’m so sad that they canceled this, as I totally would have continued watching it. For now, I guess I’ll go watch episode 2 and be sad.

    Grade: A

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