The Grinder: A Bittersweet Grind (Review)

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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.

 

 

The Grinder: FOX Comedy Perfection Equals Rob Lowe & Fred Savage

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FOX have come up with comedy perfection with The Grinder, proving that Rob Lowe and Fred Savage equal pairing gold. Added to this sublime double act is a cast that can be considered the “creme de la creme” of the acting world. William Devane, Mary Elizabeth Ellis (the actress who proves that beauty need not be a drawback when doing a comic role) and Natalie Morales all head up the adult members of the cast. 

The Grinder also has some excellent “minor” actors in guise of Hana Hayes and Connor Kalopsis.  Show runners Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul give us a family of lawyers, one of whom “plays” a lawyer on a once popular television show The Grinder

The Sanderson family, Dean Sr. (Devane) and son’s Stewart (Savage) and Dean (Lowe) all get together when Dean the actor steps away from the limelight to reassess his life and what he plans to do next. His father and brother work together at the family law firm and Dean Jr. decides to join the firm.

The actor also moves into his kid brother’s house along with wife Debbie (Ellis) and the two kids; Lizzie (Hayes) and Ethan (Kalopsis).  Lowe is every inch the charismatic character he played on television.  Full of confidence and a never say die attitude, the elder Sanderson brother has a league of fans who believe his every legal utterance. Despite the fact that he has only acted like a lawyer vs really practicing law.

Little brother Stewart, who is a real lawyer, lacks confidence (refusing to appear in court without index cards) and struggles to speak in the dock.  The two men are almost polar opposites and Stewart has issues with his famous big brother that  he has to work out while trying to be supportive with Dean’s life changing decisions.

Devane is brilliant as the head of the family law firm who is tickled to death that his two “boys” are now part of his legal business.  Lowe, as Dean jr., creates havoc at home and at work but he is also helping his little brother to overcome some personal obstacles.

The comedy pairing of the these two veteran performers works perfectly. Savage as Stewart is brilliant. In one of the first three episodes, he realizes that in real life he has become “Pincus” an actor in Dean’s show who is the whiney nay-sayer and attempts to change himself to a more positive person.

The Grinder, also the name of Lowe’s character’s show, is watched each evening by the family, except for the last episode where they watched Ray Donovan, a superbly funny bit where someone erased the recorded episode.  Thus far, Dean (Lowe) has managed to boost the family business and win a couple of “un-winnable” cases.

With only a few television comedies “making the grade” this year, it is a relief to see FOX with comedic perfection with their pairing of Fred Savage and Rob Lowe. Savage has been acting since the age of nine and Lowe proved he could do television comedy easily with his role in The West Wing (1999 – 2006).  Both of these performers have a wonderful chemistry when they are on screen together, as do the rest of the cast.

Devane, who has been performing since 1967 is also a past master at comedy. This first class pedigree of performers prove that good writing and a stellar cast equals a show that delivers. The Grinder also has no need of a live studio audience to pump out laughs.  The whole show creates comedy that feels almost effortless with no sense of urgency from anyone.

Apart from the familial comedy gags, The Grinder also uses the theme of actors as “experts” based upon the roles they play. A perfect example given by Dean  is his argument, to little brother Stewart (the real lawyer) that Noah Wyle (who played Dr. John Carter in 254 episodes of ER) would be the perfect person to deal with a heart attack.

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX and potential viewers are warned, you could become addicted to this series after just one episode.

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