Sunday, September 26, 2010

Underrated TV (To Watch Tonight) #15: Lone Star


So I watched a lot of pilots last week. Only two were flat-out bad (Undercovers and Blue Bloods), but most were just good enough that it was frustrating they weren’t better (Boardwalk Empire, The Event, Running Wilde, The Whole Truth, Better With You). There was, however, one great hour of television. Unfortunately, it got such poor ratings that it may be cancelled after tonight. So I thought I would try for once to recommend a show in time to help save it. The creator has an impassioned blog post begging people to watch it tonight and give them the bump they need to survive. I encourage you all to watch the pilot online and check out the second episode live tonight.

Series: Lone Star
Years: Last week and this week and hopefully more weeks
Creator: Kyle Killen, who wrote the pilot
Stars: James Wolk, Adrianne Palicki, Eloise Mumford, Jon Voigt, David Keith

The Concept (a.k.a. Sample Episode a.k.a. Only Episode So Far): Raised by his father to be a conman selling fake oil fields, Wolk turns out to be too soft-hearted for the job: he keeps falling in love with the marks of his cons. He marries two of them in two different towns. In order to save both marriages, he extends one con so that he can pay off the marks from the previous swindle, who were about to get burned.

How it Came to be Underrated: This premiered last week up against two pieces of “event television”: “Dancing With the Stars” and a new megabudget show actually called “The Event.” It got slaughtered.

Why It’s Great:

  1. Wolk is like a young George Clooney crossed with… well, okay, not crossed with anything: he’s just a young George Clooney. Now just imagine that the con man from Ocean’s Eleven had the crisis of conscience from Michael Clayton. Wolk’s got the quality you need to make this show work: he’s seductive.
  2. I was always impressed with the craft of “Friday Night Lights” but I just couldn’t bring myself to care about football. This show borrows some of the people and places and a lot of the naturalism from that show, but in service of a story that is closer in spirit to There Will Be Blood, which is more my speed.
  3. This show got a lot of promotion but the marketing was awful. Here’s the ad:

    This ad says: “Come watch a show about a smarmy cad and the women he tricks into bed.” You would never guess how sympathetic, tragic and compelling the character is (or how sympathetic his wives are, for that matter). The key missing fact is these were intended to be fake quickie marriages but now he is quixotically trying to make real. People loved Sawyer on “Lost”. They should make it clear that this is the same sort of character.
  4. I’m happy to join in the campaign to try to save the show, but I secretly hope to pull a “Southland”: I hope that Fox drops it but it gets enough clout to get picked up by Fox’s artier sister network FX, where this would be a much better fit.

How Available Is It?: The pilot is viewable right now on Fox’s website. The second episode airs tonight in the U.S. at 9/8 central.

But Don’t Take My Word For It: Watch the pilot here.

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