A quick review of last night’s “Lone Star” – and some talk about the show’s future (or lack thereof) – coming up just as soon as I study the operating manual for my phone…
So you probably know by now that the pilot episode was one of the big ratings catastrophes of Premiere Week. By virtually any measure – total viewers, demographics, retention of its lead-in, performance against timeslot competition like “The Event” and the CBS comedies – it was a disaster, to the point where many people in the business were surprised FOX even bothered to air this second episode. The show’s creator, Kyle Killen, has been dilligently working on Twitter and his own blog to get people to tune in for the second episode, hoping that even if the overall numbers are still terrible, if they could defy the usual pattern for new shows and go up rather than down for the second episode, FOX might be impressed enough to show patience. I admire the enthusiasm, but fear that the starting number is just too low to be worth the bother. The absolute best anyone can hope for is (as Fienberg suggested in one of last week’s podcasts) for FOX’s Friday lineup to also be a disaster (“The Good Guys” already was last week), and for FOX to decide to move “Lone Star” there (maybe swapping it with “Human Target”) so that Killen and company can wrap up their story within 9 or 10 episodes. And even that feels like a pipe dream, to be honest, though we’ll know more when the fast national ratings come in a few hours.
All of my praise leading into the show’s debut had the caveat that I wasn’t sure there was a long-term future for this concept, and so several readers have asked me why I seem so put out by the show’s quick demise. To that, I’d say there’s a difference between not knowing if the show has enough story to make it to season two versus not knowing if the show has enough story to make it to month two. I like this world, I like these actors and the tone of the show, and I thought “One in Every Family” did a good enough job of keeping all the plates spinning that I wish the show could stick around longer than it’s almost certainly going to.
Obviously, there’s the concern that Bob’s lives could come crashing down at any moment. An old mark recognizes him at the airport. His new mother-in-law points out how strange it is that he has absolutely no friends or family to invite to the second wedding. His new sister-in-law finds his cell phone from his Houston life. His wind farm scheme is dependent on his drunk screw-up brother-in-law. And that plan depends hugely on his dad, who’s not pleased with either his unglamorous desk or with the idea that Bob’s cover identity includes a father who abandoned him.
But the episode did a good job of filling in some of the blanks of why Bob is the way he is, why he wants a real life so desperately that he’s actually trying to have two, and how this might somehow work if he can keep his two worlds from colliding and keep his father from going through with the con he’s planning at the episode’s end.
A number of you last week suggested that the show bombed because few people, particularly in this economy, wanted to watch a show about a con man bilking people out of their life savings, and whose big problem is which gorgeous wife he wants to keep. And seeing one of his old victims and learning that Cat has a daughter whom Bob can potentially let down certainly didn’t help on that score. But the show’s aesthetic, as Killen talked about back at press tour, was always more of a cable one, and I appreciate that the show hasn’t run away from the cost of what Bob has done and is doing, even as it’s telling you why you should feel sympathy for him. That kind of moral complexity maybe doesn’t work on a broadcast network that expects a mass-appeal audience, but it’s kept the show interesting for me.
Will we back here in a week to discuss episode three? I tend to doubt it, but then, I’m still kinda shocked we got an episode two, when FOX could have easily plugged in a “House” repeat until they figured out a bridging strategy between now and when “Ride-along” debuts in January. So you never know.
What did everybody else think?