The Grinder Season 1 (DVD)

Grinded to a halt. Last year, Fox put out a pair of promising half-hour, laugh-track-free sitcoms: John Stamos’s Grandfathered and this, Rob Lowe’s foray into headlining his own show. For a while Grandfathered and The Grinder got regular play in the Johnson household. But then…slowly but surely…we tuned out. The problem? Both were built entirely on a single gag that couldn’t sustain an entire series. For the Stamos show it was “lifetime-bachelor-50-something-refuses-to-grow-up;” and for The Grinder, well…let’s start from the beginning. Rob Lowe is Dean Sanderson, a famous TV actor who was known for his hot-shot lawyer character “The Grinder” on The Grinder (the fake show, not this series). Done with the superficial Hollywood game, he returns to his hometown to take up with his real lawyer brother Stewart (Fred Savage). Smitten with quaint, small-town life, Dean convinces Stewart to let him stick around, working as some kind of bizarre consultant to offer spice to the straight-laced law practice. And like that we’re off and running–to an eventual cancellation. Which is a shame, because this show has a good heart and at time s can be laugh-out-loud-funny. Rob Lowe’s ultra-slick, blissfully-self-unaware Dean is one of the more charismatic and likeable creations we’ve seen on network TV in some time. Fred Savage’s Stewart has his moments, but he’s essentially reduced to straight man duties with a sporadic helping of full-blown-neuroses. So charming leads, funny jokes and William Devane–what’s the problem then? It’s the temporary nature of the gag. Every plot rests on the juxtaposition of Dean’s earnest ceaselessness bailing out a trial (or some permutation of this conceit). There are wrinkles, and role switches, and romances and even a slam-bang recurring bit from Timothy Olyphant–but in the end there just isn’t enough to keep the train moving. We eventually lost interest and it was obvious we weren’t the only ones.  So The Grinder bids us farewell and we tip our hat–you had some potential, but in the end, you just couldn’t grind your way to a season 2 order. THE VERDICT No Guilty. Also, not on the air anymore.  

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