The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

Lone Star: “Pilot”

Posted by therebelprince on September 25, 2010

I was going to wait a few episodes to review Lonestar, but apparently the show may not have that much time up its sleeve, so I thought I’d get in now and  ask, why didn’t you watch the pilot?

Lonestar is definitely the best new show of the season, at least on merit of pilot alone. Going in to it with no knowledge beyond the network plot description, this show was endlessly more complicated, and more genuine, than I’d expected. The soundbite premise of “con artist juggles two wives in Texas” struck me as being a bit trite, and more likely to appeal to the Big Love set. But watching it: wow. Just wow.

(Meanwhile, can I pause here and point out that putting this up against Dancing with the Stars and The Event probably wasn’t the best suggestion? But even so, clearly taste must be a part of it – 8 million people tuned in for Chase. I mean, perhaps if it was on you might not get up to change the channel, but were there actually people eager to watch that? And that’s leaving aside the fact that 14 million tuned in for Two and a Half Men, and 12 million couldn’t wait to see William Shatner sleepwalk his way through Shit My Dad Says.)

Anyway, James Wolk is very good as Bob Allen, who grew up living on the run with a con artist father (David Keith) and finally, in his late 20s, is coming to realise that all their scheming – which has become so complex as to entangle him with a wife and a career – has robbed him of an identity. Equally standout performances are given from Adrienne Palicki as said wife, and Jon Voight as her father, a Texas oil tycoon. (Maybe the reason I like this show is my unabashed love of Dallas?) There aren’t any false notes amongst the cast, but the rest aren’t given too much to do here, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Bob seems to be genuinely in love with his wife, and cherishes the idea of having a job, a life and an identity. Similarly, while I don’t think his love for his girlfriend Lindsay  (Eloise Mumford) runs quite so deep, it’s clear that he is finally beginning to suffer pangs of guilt after having duped her family and friends into his father’s scheme.

The thing that worried me was my concern about formula. Airing as it does after House – a show whose hilarious attempts to change formula include replacing three cast members with three identical cast members, and replacing a drug addiction with an alcohol addiction – I wondered if we’d basically be in a Weeds scenario, where his two lives are constantly in jeopardy from an ever-tightening set of screws. Instead, the series focuses on character, allowing for plenty of loose ends to spring up, any of which could be Bob’s future downfall.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Already, there are perhaps two many close calls for a series that has quite literally just started. In montage, we’re shown plenty of examples of Bob being effortlessly charming and fake with people he has just met. Yet on every occasion when he is directly asked questions by people he knows, he stumbles. More to the point, Cat’s brother Tram (Mark Deklin) already seems suspicious not just that Bob is out to usurp his heirdom, but that he’s not even who he says he is. It’s easy for shows like this to get stuck in a holding pattern, and I’d hate to see that happen here.

But… probably not cause for concern right now. Suffice it to say that this pilot is gold. In attempting to untangle himself from the whole mess, Bob gets himself in further by taking on a major development deal for Thatcher’s company in the hopes of repaying the town of Midland. And unfortunately, he has failed to realise that his father doesn’t quite share his sentiment. In their final scene together, at a pancake house, it is clear that no amount of money will convince John to let his son off the hook.

What is Bob’s endgame? I can’t even guess. He wants to settle down, sure, which would imply that he’ll choose Cat. But – as he states at the end of the episode – he also wants Lindsay. And then there’s that very surprising final scene, just to completely devastate the gameboard which we were only starting to wrap our head around. Is Bob getting in further over his head to tie up loose ends? Or has his childhood left him more scarred than we thought?He’s a fascinating protagonist because he really does believe the dreams he’s made for himself: at the end of the day, Bob is as in love with the prospect of a quiet, uneventful barbecue in Midland, or a cocktail party in Houston, as he is with the women he shares them with.

I’m looking forward to episode two, and really hope that a miracle occurs. We’ve been burned before, of course, and the story of my life could be told in the 13-episode TV shows whose final hours aired at obscure hours or on DVD only. Wouldn’t it be nice if this weren’t the case?

Diverse observations:

* Nice to see Nazneen Contractor playing an older guest role here; I believed her as a young woman on 24.

* James Wolk is perfectly cast here. Bob is supposed to be a chameleon, and Wolk – who is 25 – seems oddly ageless. He has a boyish smile, but when he’s serious, the guy could be 40. (In a good way, James, I promise).

* The only real fear for this show, from my perspective, is the role of the women. The fact that every major business player is a man irks me a little bit, although maybe that’s just the way things are in Texas? I have no idea. Really, I just don’t want to see the women reduced to weekly discovery of lipstick marks on Bob’s collar, and then end-of-season meltdowns.

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