Tonight’s ‘Grinder’ may have been the end of the show. But what if it wasn’t?

alan-sepinwall
Senior Television Writer
05.10.16 20 Comments

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A review of tonight's season (and I hope not series) finale of The Grinder coming up just as soon as you want me to read cue cards…

Way back at the start of the series, when The Grinder was still figuring out what kind of show it wanted to be, and how much it was willing to embrace the Hollywood satire aspect of itself, Kumail Nanjiani guest-starred in the pilot as Stewart's opposing counsel in the eviction case. On the one hand, Nanjiani's exasperated reactions to Dean's Grinder antics were the funniest part of the whole pilot. On the other, it may have been a trouble sign that the first episode's highlight came from a guest star with a regular job on another show.

The Grinder has come a long way since then, and so has Nanjiani's Leonard Velance, who's revealed in the finale to be the bitter mastermind behind the entire case against Dean Sr. The show Nanjiani returned to is much funnier, more confident, and unapologetically meta, but Nanjiani upped his game in turn by doing a pretty dead-on Mitchard Grinder impression throughout the trial, which he had in the bag until Stewart realized that Velance was representing the wrong identical twin.

That twist – which I probably should have seen coming, because otherwise why would the show cast only one of the Lucas brothers? – was both ludicrous and the exact kind of thing that the show-within-the-show would have used, and given how much of the series turned out to be about TV logic taking over the lives of Stewart and Debbie's family, of course the day had to be saved via something dumb and absurd. (See also no one being much concerned about Stewart's six-month suspension, other than as an impediment to him helping Dean in court.)

Along the way, “Full Circle” was The Grinder at its self-aware best, from Dean wanting to take the case away from Claire despite his desire to see “a diverse woman have a shot in the workplace,” to the final scene being entirely about the question of whether the show's premise was sustainable.

“Now we know: this works. This has legs. For as long as we want it to!” Dean insisted, to forlorn and skeptical responses from the rest of the family – or perhaps from Rob Lowe's co-stars, who know what the ratings look like. The business is the business. The audience is the audience.

But what if it wasn't?

We live in a topsy-turvy age where would-be Dean Sandersons at the networks are looking for any excuse  to keep a show around, regardless of the numbers. I hope The Grinder being one of the funniest shows on TV is enough to ensure its continued existence. I'm not ready for the Grinder to rest for good.

What did everybody else think? Do you feel there's enough material here – say, for an arc about the sophomore slump – to creatively justify another season?
 

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Alan Sepinwall has been writing about television since the mid-'90s. He's the author of "The Revolution Was Televised," about the rise of TV's new golden age, and co-author of "TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time."

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