The Grinder: A Bittersweet Grind (Review)


The Rob Lowe, Fred Savage comedy, The Grinder continues to entertain. A Bittersweet Grind proves that FOX got it right by adding this to their Tuesday night lineup.  Guest star Christina Applegate (Married with Children, Up All Night) plays an old flame of Dean Sanderson (she took his virginity on prom night pre-The Grinder TV show) and Applegate’s Gail Budnick lights Dean’s fire…for a short time.

The episode has Dean bemoaning the fact that all the women he has sex with want to do so while  his old eight year TV show plays. His relationships are all based on one-night stands with fans who want to fantasize about making love to his character on the show.

Of course, the path of love being  based on the old character that Dean played on television does not set well.  Stewart decides to set up his big brother with his old prom date and peace reigns supreme at the Sanderson home and at the law firm for a short time as Dean gets caught up in what seems to be the perfect romance.

Back at the Sanderson home, Ethan wants to date and when Stewart and Debbie give him the okay, Lizzie gets a little upset as she is not allowed to date…Although it does seem that this ban applies only to Zadak.

When Dean meets his old high school flame, Gail insists she knows nothing of his old show The Grinder, and reads books for entertainment.  The two former lovebirds hit it off brilliantly and Dean even takes to Gail’s son.

Everything falls apart at a meal given by Budnick and Dean for his brother and sister-in-law.  Getting caught up in the moment Gail quotes a line from “The Grinder” and Dean is crushed to learn she has lied.  While his sweetheart is upset that the relationship is through, she talks Dean into having sex while watching his old show.

Rob Lowe is brilliant as the ex-television star who believes that playing a lawyer on TV makes him qualified to work at the family firm. Savage, as his little brother, who really is a lawyer, exudes an air of frustrated love for his older sibling while trying to control fits of major frustration and annoyance.

The cast of this FOX comedy all deliver.  Tuesday’s episode, A Bittersweet Grind shows just how adept each member of the cast are at timing and pacing. Mary Elizabeth Ellis is perfect as Savage’s wife and her comedic skills are beyond reproach. Equally impressive are the two actors who portray the Sanderson kids.

Hana Hayes and Conor Kalopsis both kill it as the Sanderson children Lizzie and Ethan.  This episode did feature less of William Devane, who plays Dean’s and Stewart’s father, Dean Senior.

The storylines of The Grinder may revolve around a “one joke” premise, but each episode steps away from repeating the gag too often. In A Bittersweet Grind, Dean, the TV star “lawyer” is looking for love and wants to feel relevant, hence his acting like a dad to Gail’s grown son.

By the end of the episode, after the relationship has gone south, Stewart and Dean discuss Ethan’s inappropriate date with Brie and the men realize that the boy is more like Dean than Stewart. Dean volunteers to talk to Ethan and Stewart agrees, much to his brother’s delight.

This is a funny show. The comedy works and the laughs are generated without a laugh-track or studio audience.  The performers are all actors working in a comic situational show where the humor lies in the storyline versus a series of “gags.”

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX and this is well written, and well executed comedy.  One point of contention is the lack of identification of the actress in the scene from “the show” where Dean Sanderson’s character “the grinder” declares his love. She looks a lot like Linda Cardellini, any suggestions or thoughts on who the performer is would be appreciated.



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