Review: ‘Lone Star’

Sunday, September 19 by

I know “Lone Star” is Fox’s big push for the fall and a lot of critics like it already, but I wasn’t into it. It may just be personal taste, but I just don’t care about con artists and oil companies in Texas. Maybe that’s your thing, but here’s what I didn’t like about it.

First of all, there are so many turns in the first episode that you can’t really get a handle on what you’re watching. Maybe three surprises an episode is exciting, but it doesn’t give you any time to get involved before it pulls the rug out from under you. Not that the twists are unpredictable.

More after the jump…

It starts off with John Allen (David Keith) teaching his little boy to run away from the people he swindled, so that’s messed up. Then it jumps to Bob Allen (James Wolk) all grown up n Midland, TX, packing for a business trip with his loving girlfriend Lindsay (Eloise Mumford.) They do a good job establishing a loving relationship with basic dialogue, enough to convey what they have to in the first minutes of a show.

Then Bob goes around selling shares in his mineral company to innocent townfolk. It’s pretty clear he’s a snake oil salesman. If his business is so complicated that he has to explain it with a carefully worded pitch, that’s not a business you should be involved with. Sound businesses don’t have to sell you on investing in them. I say this as an objective viewer. In real life, I knew the subprime mortgage scams were a bad idea but I still let them talk me into an interest only loan on a house I couldn’t afford. So no big shocker that Bob’s a scam artist.

Then Bob goes to Dallas, to another house, where he greets his wife, Cat Thatcher (Adrianne Palicki). Ooooh, big twist. He’s got two ladies. That’s not a spoiler because it’s all over the marketing. He’s got two lives. They even have similar romantic schticks with each other. It still diverts you in the first act of the show, which is fine but it doesn’t get solid yet.

The married life involves Bob with an oil business run by Cat’s dad, Clint (Jon Voight), for whom he brothers Drew (Bryce Johnson) and Trammell (Mark Deklin) also work. Drew (Bryce Johnson) has his own big plans for a hangover cure too, so everybody’s got an angle! Can you believe how entangled all these characters are? I know they have to set all the characters and plot up in the pilot, but by this point, just after the title screen, it’s asking me to get attached to people who seem like scam artists to begin with. I haven’t gotten attached to anybody and I’m starting to decide not to record a season pass.

Bob’s been learning the family business so he can run away with the money. However, when it all comes crashing down and John tells him to run, Bob decides to stick it out in both lives. Twist number three, he’s going to play both sides. That threatens John because it’s not his plan, and it certainly puts his son at risk for either side to figure him out. It also presupposes both lives are interesting enough that we’ll want to watch Bob balance them. That’s where it loses me.

Bob reveals his master plan at the end of the episode, but I’m not rooting for him to succeed. It’s going to be tough for him to pull it off, but difficulty alone isn’t what makes drama. I guess what’s at stake are the nice people Bob’s involved in both scams, but that’s not enough. Yeah, good people get hurt by bad guys. What else have you got?

As for the con artists, Wolk is a likeable guy but the cons seem so obvious. The dialogue is insincere or maybe I just know too many con movies, but these aren’t Oceans 11 or even Paper Moon level shenanigans. It’s not even as exciting as Sawyer’s long con on “Lost.”

So maybe I need another episode to see what this show’s going to be week in, week out. Maybe all the setup in the pilot spread me too thin. For now, “Lone Star” has an uphill battle to fight with me. It’s going to be one of those shows where Bob almost gets found out but he says something just convincing enough to keep it going another episode. He’s going to have to work a lot harder to persuade me to invest.
 

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