Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show is written by Andrew Mogel (Allen Gregory), Jarrad Paul (Allen Gregory), and Nicholas Stoller (The Carmichael Show), who executive produce with star Rob Lowe and Jake Kasdan (New Girl). Kasdan directed the pilot.
The Cast & How You Know Them: The Grinder stars Rob Lowe (Parks and Rec), Fred Savage (The Wonder Years), Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), William Devane (24), Natalie Morales (Trophy Wife), Hana Hayes (The Last of Us), and Connor Kalopsis (Days of Our Lives).
The Premise: An actor who played a lawyer in a wildly popular TV drama moves back to his hometown and tries to get involved in his family’s actual law firm.
What Works: I was very skeptical of this premise (more on that below) but wound up enjoying the episode quite a bit. Rob Lowe is mostly doing his Rob Lowe thing here, but he’s very good at it, and the supporting cast is strong. The pilot played pretty cleverly with ideas of celebrity and fandom and the way we conflate actors and characters. It’s very self-aware, in a way that works, so far — in an early scene, the supporting characters talk about their angst about being supporting characters, and it’s pretty great. The pilot made me care about multiple characters already, and I’m definitely eager to see where this one goes.
What Doesn’t: This premise requires a lot of suspension of disbelief — I will not be recommending this to my lawyer friends, and even I was yelling “That’s not how anything works!” at various points. And to some extent, your feelings toward this will depend on whether you enjoy Rob Lowe’s schtick, which I generally do. The tension between the brothers will get old quickly, so I hope the sources of conflict branch out. I’m a bit worried about how the “not really a lawyer” gimmick will play out, but at least everyone knows he’s not a lawyer, so my Suits-related flashbacks are probably unnecessary.
Our Favorite Line: “Can I pitch something?” “I can’t imagine that would be helpful.”
You Might Like This if you like Rob Lowe, really, or at least you probably won’t like this if you don’t like him. The complicated adult sibling relationship aspects reminded me of Ben and Kate, with which this shares an EP.
(Photo courtesy of FOX.)