Fall TV: ‘The Grinder’ is a lot of fun

We’re now eight days into the new fall season and the hectic scramble has settled down a bit. Writing a sibling rivalry show is simpler and a little reductive, but human relationships, especially ones with a family, are much more complicated than that.


It’s amusing, it’s warm and a deceptively good lead-in to the other new Fox comedy, “The Grinder“, which has nothing to do either with a type of sandwich or a gay hookup app. Lowe has it better, so we’ll start with him.

John Stamos is Jimmy and Josh Peck is his son, Gerald, in… So where does one go to declare that joy? Comedy ensues.

Concerned about how Jimmy will handle all this is his restaurant family, assistant manager Annelise (Kelly Jenrette, Audrey) and chef Ravi (Ravi Patel, Super Fun Night).

Speaking of familiar figures in TV comedy, ABC’s The Muppets was off in its second week, with a 2.0 rating, down from its 2.8 debut.

You’ve seen the setup before, more or less. That’s exactly what I tried to do, and it feels authentic because it kind of is.

While most of the headlines will focus on Lowe’s presence as a former ’80s star staying busy in 2015 (and it couples nicely with John Stamos headlining Fox’s other new comedy, the inept Grandfathered), can we please, please, please recognize what Fred Savage is doing here? Their expressions are encouraging and jubilant, except for his brother, Stewart (Fred Savage), who sees his big bro’s high-flying, fake-lawyer TV career as a sort of slap in the face for the decades-worth of real work he put into becoming a somewhat bumbling, neuroses-fueled lawyer himself (and, wouldn’t ya know, their dad owns the family business). He’s used to being the most suave, handsome and single person in the room.

The conceit of the show is that Stewart, though a real lawyer, lacks the confidence to be a great one – he is dependent on note cards, mumbles his way through arguments and, when the going gets tough, he stops – and that Dean, whose divorce from his TV character is causing him a few existential distress (“Right now I’m just driving on the highway of What the Hell Is My Life, looking for an offramp”, he says with typical drama), has the stuff to be one, though his knowledge of the law consists entirely of things picked up from TV scripts.

Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) plays Stewart’s wife, Debbie, and William Devane (24: Live Another Day) is Dean Sr., head of the law firm.

Another lawyer at the firm, Claire, (Natalie Morales of “Parks and Recreation“), is unimpressed by Dean’s fame or his desire to join the bar (so you know, sparks will fly between the two).

The bottom line: These are minor objections.

While speaking to Mogul and Paul makes it sound like the table read is a total love fest, there has been at least one piece of key turnover atop the writers room: “The Grinder” swapped showrunners from Greg Malins to Ben Wexler last month.

The makers of “Code Black” had Marcia Gay Harden in their cast.


That changed when “Code Black” star Maggie Grace was released and Harden was offered the chance to take over in the vortex of the weekly medical tornado. We all expected what we got from Lowe, but for me the real surprise was Savage as the flustered straight man. Savage, who has stayed in Hollywood as a sought-after comedy director following his breakout as an actor on The Wonder Years, will be the unsung hero of The Grinder, as this show wouldn’t work without him.

'The Muppets' Falls, 'Limitless' Holds In Week 2 While Fox Comedies Open So-So