The best thing about FOX's new series Rake is Greg Kinnear. And the worst thing about Rake is Greg Kinnear. The legal drama/comedy made its debut last night and we're hoping that FOX gives it a few weeks to find its footing because a more mature, settled Rake might be interesting. The characters and approach in the "Serial Killer" screener we saw, we're sorry to say, aren't.
The series is an Americanized version of an Australian hit by the same name. Kinnear plays Keegan "Key" Deane, a gambling, alcoholic, womanizing criminal defense lawyer. There's a great supporting cast around him that includes John Ortiz as Keegan's longtime best friend, Miranda Otto as his ex-wife who's also a therapist and Tara Summers as his secretary.
In a behind-the-scenes interview, Kinnear describes Keegan as "lucky as he is unlucky and as smart as he is stupid." He also says the character 'has some destructive behavior that's fun to watch."
And there's the rub -- stupid, destructive characters actually aren't fun to watch.
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In the "Serial Killer" episode, Keegan is tasked with representing a man who confessed to several murders and has been sentenced to 1,000 years in prison. He's also dragging around a dead tuna he's trying to sell to a sushi restaurant.
One of the supporting actors, David Harbour who stars as David Potter (and who Keegan calls Harry Potter - yuck, yuck, yep, great joke) says that the show is "Downton Abbey meets Sex & the City meets Law & Order. " On the surface that might be a good assessment, except Kinnear's Keegan doesn't seem to be having any fun. The women in Sex & the City loved having sex and dishing about it later at brunch. The cops and lawyers in Law & Order love catching the criminals and winning cases. Keegan isn't excited about anything he's doing. Not about picking up a beautiful woman at a seemingly fab LA party, not about spending all night playing cards while said beautiful woman sleeps on the sofa waiting for him, not about bringing down the chief of police after uncovering a corruption scandal. He doesn't seem to enjoy any of it, so the audience doesn't enjoy watching him while he does it.
There are some bright moments. When we see Keegan visiting a young woman in what seems to be a swank apartment, we can't tell if she's his girlfriend or his daughter. When we realize she's a $500-an-hour prostitute that Keegan regularly engages, we're hopeful that more of Rake won't be what it seems to be. When we meet Keegan's teenaged son, we quickly see he's picking up his father's bad habits and Keegan seems to have a moment of clarity and refuses to cover up for one of the boy's lies, but it's only a moment. In the next sentence he tells his son, "Don't ask me to do that again."
We like Kinnear, and if anybody can pull off being a lovable mess, it's him. So far, all we've seen is the mess; we're missing the lovable part. Hopefully, upcoming episodes will have a quick course correction and we'll see Kinnear at least having a good time while he bounces from one disaster to another and occasionally helps his legal clients.