Lone Star, “Pilot” (1.01) and “One in Every Family” (1.02)

The Lone Star main titles, with Bob Allen (Jimmy Wolk) crossing an airport, suitcase in hand.

Lone Star‘s story is familiar, but still sad: hands-down the season’s best-reviewed pilot, it premiered to train-wreck ratings and was pulled after only two episodes. Unless the other four episodes that were produced are released somehow, these are the only episodes of the promising show we’ll ever see. So, what did I think? A review of the pilot, written by Kyle Killen and directed by Marc Webb, and the second episode, written by Kyle Killen and directed by Peter Horton, after the jump…

I can see why this was the wrong show at the wrong time, and that’s too bad. Maybe in a time of financial collapse, viewers found it hard to care about a man who wanted to stop stealing because he was, ultimately, a thief when figures like that are a particularly soft spot at the moment. Anyone who actually watched the pilot, however,  might have found something to enjoy within this story. Sure, Bob (Jimmy Wolk) and his dad (Jon Voight) have a long history of hurting people for their own personal gain, but the story here isn’t that: it’s Bob looking to redeem himself, make himself ‘real’ that’s the story, and its a compelling one at that. The problem wasn’t that people tuned in and left: it was that nobody showed up to the party in the first place.

Well, for those of us who watched it… I liked it.

Not as much as the critics did, though there’s only so much you can do within two episodes. I enjoyed the cast and appreciated how the dynamic was well-built so early on. Jimmy Wolk is a very appealing lead, which is the key to the show: when you’re genuinely nice (and often, no matter his lies, he is) and attractive, people won’t want to look for holes in your story. That’s how he slips into people’s lives so easily.

And the show lets us see pretty early on that he wants out, leading to a great scene where Bob confronts his father over, not abandoning him, but pushing him into a life where all he knows is how to con and hurt people. Pulling him out of houses that he set on fire, as Bob puts it. The father/son relationship really is the spine of these two episodes, as their differing feelings towards the game put them at odds and building to the end of 1.02, where Bob’s father outright begins to play against him,

The show’s got a good sense of how to use small elements to build a character: Bob’s dad’s aversion to the desk at Thatcher and inability to fake being within the company, and Bob being pitched on an affair at his hotel and turning it down, knowing he wants to be faithful to his two women in two separate lives. If the show falls anywhere, it’s in the characterisation of some of the ladies: Cat (Adrianne Palicki) has some great moments, like her claws coming out at the fancy party and saving her younger brother’s hide after his DUI, but she and Lindsay (Eloise Mumford) don’t feel as well-constructed as, say, Bob’s dad and Bob himself. That’s a problem when we’re being asked to believe that our lead is so head-over-heels in love with both of them that he’ll break away from a life of con, even when you consider that he wants an exit anyway.

The show is strong when we’re getting a chance to see the tricks these two have built up over the years. The foreclosure trick, with Bob’s dad selling ‘first and last’ rent to a series of hopeful tenants, had the desired effect of showing off how good at this he is while reminding us that these things have victims. Plenty of them, in fact, none of whom deserved to be screwed out of thousands of dollar because they were a bit overexcited and gave their money up a bit too easily. It’s also a bit fun to watch Bob’s plans play out, especially once we know his ultimate goal is to return the money to the people of Midland and built a real life.

The first episode introduces things, and the second complicates them nicely by adding Lindsay’s troublesome sister to the mix. I think the character would have been much stronger if we had an idea of what she, and the show meant, by “one in every family” – that is, if we got a sense of why her presence led to the collapse of so many great family memories. Was it her curiosity and inability to let sleeping dogs lie? Or was it some other quality that will turn out to Bob’s downfall? Saldy, we might never know.

A well-built character drama that, despite its collapse, did a few things: it properly launched Jimmy Wolk and showrunner Kyle Killen in television, which I appreciate for future seasons. It gave Adrianne Palicki r a chance to show off that she’s not just Tyra Collette, which as a fan of hers, I was happy about. And it seems like most of them have bounced back: Kyle Killen has another buzzed-about pilot this season, and the central three here (Wolk, Paloicki and Eloise Mumford), have all landed pilots this coming season as well.  I’d like to see those remaining four episodes, though. Here’s hoping those get released, even if in a cheap one-disc DVD.

2 Responses to “Lone Star, “Pilot” (1.01) and “One in Every Family” (1.02)”
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  1. […] I’ve been active at The Signal, or at least as much as I can be during a crunch. My most recent work: my latest How I Met Your Mother review goes into why the show’s been suffering this year, even with a return to their old style; I recently began my Community reviews with a 1900 wd. look at why season 2 has been different from season one; I reviewed new Canadian series Endgame with an outlook that was positive, but cautious; and I took a look at the pilots of a few cancelled shows, like The Beautiful Life: TBL and Lone Star. […]

  2. […] What Actually Happened: I was way off here, and completely misread the zeitgeist. Didn’t make it 3 episodes. Sad, as I rather liked the two episodes that did air. […]

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