Lone Star (2010)

As the week plows on, I’ve trying out as many of the new shows of the fall TV season as I can get through. Everything I’ve made fun of in the Twitter feed (on the side), I’ve watched. Most of the new crop of shows haven’t really caught my attention enough to pull my eyeballs away from the more established shows I’ve been watching.
Except one, Lone Star. Of course, the one show I like got really crappy ratings. It’s already on death watch, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

And if you go to the Fox site or iTunes, you can catch the first episode for free.

Lone Star works because the lead is at once both charismatic and empathic, even though he’s nothing but a Texas version of Bernie Madoff. Newcomer James Wolk plays Bob, the son of a con man who’s surpassed the tricks of his dad (The very well cast David Keith) and in the midst of two separate long term cons which has netted himself two different lives with two different women. So, it’s a con man show. However, the twist is that Bob wants to go straight, but is so deep in both cons that to go straight he’ll have to con more.
The look of the film is that of an indie film like Up in the Air, it’s all show and little tell. Every other pilot this week, even that big, dumb mystery show The Event, the characters explained too much, not giving the audience too much credit in figuring stuff out. All the set-up is there in Lone Star, but it’s not showy and works more with the characters. And each of the characters, except maybe Bob’s newer girlfriend are shady enough and smart enough that Bob’s going straight won’t be easy. Also, it’s kind of hard to tell where this show will go. Like Lost in it’s prime, there’s enough different kinds of shows embedded in the pilot that each week could have a different tone. One week it could easily be a highly plotted soap, the next a mystery, the next a romance, the next a drama and of course, the big con.

This con man’s life is as it is, so we deal with the present and move forward. Some of the tropes of the con man genre are there, the different identities, the slippery escapes from simple questions and my least favorite, the dad who drags his kid into his criminal life. (Thanks, Paper Moon) That said, I like the dad/son relationship because it’s the most honest in the show and, unlike most movies of this genre, his dad does seem to love him.

I’m a fan of shows that talk about the nature of the American identity (Mad Men is the current reigning champ), we live in a country where re-inventing yourself is encouraged, where how we present ourselves to the world is more important that who we are inside. Our hero Bob has a problem in that he’s tired of presenting himself as the easygoing smooth charmer and actually wants to live the life he’s only been pretending. I think the trick of the show will be showing that in order to be what we want to be, we have pretend to be other roles for short-term gain. The role of boy friend, co-worker, friend and on and on.

Of course, I could be wrong about any deeper aspirations in the show. If so, that’s okay, there’s still a decent soap in Lone Star. Kinda like the vibe of Big Love, if Bill was a grifter, a soap about the costs of keeping a secret.

Anyway, check it out.

(Also, the third episode of Terriers was a winner and clinched the show into my full rotation. I love shows about anti-heroes.)

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