Likewise, “THE GRINDER” continues the handsome-actor nostalgia, showcasing Rob Lowe’s good looks and comedic timing with a new twist on the family comedy genre.
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?
In the premiere, Jimmy has to juggle watching the kid (a task that falls largely to his harried staff) while managing things in order to give his son a night out.
The flaws notwithstanding – and despite the summer departure of producer Greg Malins – “The Grinder” feels like it has more potential than “Grandfathered“, which is yet another series (“About a Boy” being a recent example) about a grown-up Peter Pan forced to deal with the better angels in his nature thanks to exposure to a child.
In the best scene in the pilot, Lowe taps into his charming (and smarter than he seems) idiot persona and gets Stewart to admit that his time playing The Grinder makes him more qualified to practice law than any average person on the street.
You’ve seen the setup before, more or less. And he sees me as somebody who’s grounded, who has roots, is loved, has a family, which is something he’s never had and something that he really wants. Oh, and by the way, Gerald has a baby. Naturally, a guy who tweezes out single gray hairs has trouble even saying the word “grandfather“. It doesn’t artificially harden Jimmy’s heart just to melt it. Are you excited to see these TV icons back on TV starring in their own shows? But Jimmy will learn a few valuable lessons from his insta-family as well. The show tosses in amusing cameos. In those moments where the bubble starts to burst, Stewart does what he can to keep the illusion going for Dean’s benefit. Sinatra agreed, stopped by the table, and Rickles cut him dead with that punch line.
Rickles shows up later at the restaurant to join Deion Sanders and Lil Wayne. But he’s not the only cameo. And, in another cameo, Bob Saget is seated at another table.
The cast is ideal in every way. The mom, Vanessa (Christina Milian), isn’t ready for domestic life and certainly doesn’t think Gerald, whose work situation is unsettled, is either.
That in itself is a good enough premise for a Fox comedy, but The Grinder adds two more key factors: 1. The ABC comedy block, which faced Fox’s 8-9 PM comedy block for the first time, is still running well ahead of last year’s combo of the short-lived Selfie and Manhattan Love Story. “That’s a really delicate balance that they’ve pulled off in the writing and that hopefully I’ve pulled off in the portrayal”.
And then there’s their father, Dean Sanderson, Sr. (William Devane), sister-in-law Debbie (Mary Elizabeth Ellis from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia“), his niece and nephew. His brother Stewart is played by Fred Savage, the erstwhile Kevin Arnold. He’s immediately resentful and wary on a number of fronts when Dean comes back to town. Playing a Chevy Chase-style straight-laced amusing man is something he excels at, but for those of us who are his contemporaries, Lowe’s transformation has been fun to watch.