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.
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).
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.
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.