The Grinder: The Olyphant in the Room (Recap & Review)

The Grinder makes a triumphant return after a mid-season break with its first episode of 2016 in The Olyphant in the Room.

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The Grinder makes a triumphant return after a mid-season break with its  first episode of 2016 in The Olyphant in the Room.  After the standard opening where Stew does not get yet another plot line behind a Grinder episode, the real lawyer reveals that a reporter will be doing an article about him and the family law firm he runs.

After his kids express amazement that the reporter will not be writing about Dean,  the former “Grinder” star finds Timothy Olyphant kissing Claire in his, Dean’s, parking spot at the law firm.  It also transpires that his TV replacement is staying with the object of Dean’s devotion at the weekends.

As with other episodes, Dean uses the premise of the clip shown at the start of the episode, to “help” Stewart on his latest case.  Stew begins trying to bring the focus back on real law versus the type that Dean practices.  Of course the ulterior motive behind Dean’s offer of help, is to pry Claire away from the new “Grinder” Olyphant.

The reporter, Neal (Rob Yang) follows Stew (Fred Savage) everywhere but writes mainly, it seems, about Dean (Rob Lowe). Debbie learns that Neal is actually writing a “smear” piece about the famous brother. Stewart then tries to practice some damage control to protect his somewhat delusional sibling.

Dean, in keeping with his lack of real focus, decides that Olyphant is the one throwing bricks through SUV windshields at Boise dealerships. He plans to stake out the only dealership not hit by the brick thrower and asks Claire to participate in order to keep her away from Olyphant. (Getting Claire away from Timothy is the real reason behind Dean suspecting his replacement as the brick thrower.)

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Dean going all “Grinder” on Timothy Olyphant…

As part of his master plan, Dean pulls in a favor from Jimmy Kimmel  (who plays himself, as does Olyphant) and while on the ABC talkshow, Dean asks Jimmy if Timothy has ever been a guest. When Kimmel replies no, Claire proves that she does not just let the air out of Dean Sanderson by digging at Olyphant when he protests about the Kimmel remark.

Meanwhile, the “delusional” side of Dean is made apparent when he “calls out” the Boise brick throwing vandal on national television.  Claire takes Timothy on the “stakeout” with her, foiling Dean’s plan. Stewart tells Neal he knows what the reporter is really doing and after standing up for his brother, he instructs the Neal to write what he wants and to get out of the SUV.

By the end of the episode, Stewart is made to look very good and Dean made to look completely delusional.  Olyphant is shown to be just as “ungrounded” as Sanderson, but that the actor will not be leaving anytime soon.

Sidenote: Jimmy Kimmel has been busy lately. With his (very funny) cameo upcoming on ABC’s The Real O’Neals and now playing himself yet again on FOX’s The Grinder, Kimmel is delightfully spreading his wings and becoming even more of a household name. 

It bears mentioning that Timothy Olyphant is very adept at;  a) comedy and b) making fun of his image and profession. As a “long term” guest star, or late addition to the main cast, Olyphant is keeping his presence alive on television  after the end of Justified (Another FOX production).

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Olyphant “grinding” it in…

Sadly, there was little of the two “kids” on show this week with Hana Hayes and Konnor Kalopsis (who play Stew and Debbie’s offspring Lizzie and Ethan) only there to promote their hero worship of Uncle Dean. (Although Lizzie does seem a little less enamored of the famous former TV lawyer…)  Mary Elizabeth Ellis as wife Debbie is used as a major plot device, she finds out about Neal’s nefarious plans to smear Dean, and William Devane maintains his usual level of  presence. 

As the season progresses, all  of the ensemble cast have settled into their roles with ease.   Apart from the Sanderson family, the law firm’s members have hit their stride as well.  Natalie Morales, as Claire, is brilliant as the “down to earth” lawyer who, despite being attracted to, and having a fling with, Timothy Olyphant is not above shoving a pin in his ego as well.

Steve Little, as Todd, has established that his character is the sycophantic hero-worshipping dullard who may mean well, but does not have the capability to do so.

FOX have a truly funny sitcom in The Grinder, along with the perfect double act with Savage and Lowe as the “Brothers Sanderson.” In fact the entire cast fit their parts like  well tailored  gloves and all help to bring the laughs to an appreciative audience.

Thus far, FOX have greenlit a “back nine” set of episodes to round out the first season of The Grinder. Pulling in around 2.2 million [sic] viewers for each episode the show may not be a shoe-in for a second season, but if there is any justice in TV land, it will be back after this one ends.

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Stew and Debbie, the perfect couple…

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune and and enjoy the fun.

 

The Grinder: Giving Thanks, Getting Justice (Review)

The parallel storyline on The Grinder: Giving Thanks, Getting Justice is brilliant mix of disillusion, betrayal and at least one surprising revelation

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The parallel storyline on The Grinder: Giving Thanks, Getting Justice is brilliant mix of disillusion, betrayal and at least one surprising revelation. As the Sanderson family prepare to ignore Thanksgiving, something initiated by Stewart (Fred Savage), Dean (Rob Lowe) is reliving the one year anniversary of events that led to his leaving  “The Grinder.”

At the Sanderson house, Stewart has a secret reason for not celebrating the holiday and Dean invites the former legal partner of their father’s; Joseph T. Yao who Stew caught “In flagrant delicato” with their mother in Dean’s bedroom five years previously.

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Rock star lives….

This episode has a dearth of guest stars:  Clyde Kusatsu  as Yao, Timothy Olyphant, as himself and Arielle Kebbel as “The Grinder” paralegal Avery who Dean has TV sex with on his old show. The excellent Seinfeld actor Jason Alexander gives a star turn as the director/show runner who shafts Dean on the issue of shirtless versus not shirtless, which prompts Dean to leave the show.

The plot lines were funny, of course. The two brother’s dealing with infidelity, and the whole reality of their parents’ “rock star” sex lives, which included Yao was hysterical.  Olyphant’s cameo, as himself, giving advice to Lowe’s character about dignity and taking control was the highlight of the show. The punchline, of the gag (Justified?) almost stole the thunder from the rest of the episode and its gags.

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Jason Alexander, King of Smarmy and Rob Lowe…

In terms of guest stars, this FOX sitcom has pulled in some great names. In this episode alone the gorgeous and uber talented Kebbel steps in as, the  “familiar female star” for “The Grinder.” In an earlier episode, this cameo was taken by Linda Cardellini.  Alexander, who plays show creator and director Cliff  Bemis, tricks Dean into using the “Mitch shirtless” scenes, does his usual expert turn as the master of smarmy. A previous guest spot was filled by Christina Applegate.

As usual, Dean Jr. manages to stack up the familial situation with stress but, in the end, also helps his little brother to get his dignity back. Before the end credits roll,  the episode delivers  a “double punchline”  that has both men upset by the news that their father knew about their mother’s apparent ongoing sexual dalliance with Yao.

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The confrontation

It also has Dean realizing that the advice Olyphant gave him was a set up when a trailer shows Timothy will be playing Mitch Grinder’s brother Rake an a replacement show to Dean’s. The advert ends with a shirtless Olyphant saying “The Big Easy just got hard.”

The writing on this show continues to deliver the laughs.  On a sidenote; it is impressive the number of words that rhyme with Yao… While the viewing figures may not be very high, FOX  will surely bring back the series for at least one encore, aka second season.

This week’s episode also proved that as Stewart’s wife, Mary Elizabeth Ellis can deliver with a minimum of muss and fuss. The revelatory scene where Dean forces Stew to tell him about their mother and Yao  has Ellis stealing the scene with one line. 

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune in and get ready to laugh…a lot.

The Grinder: Buckingham Malice (Review)

The Grinder: Buckingham Malice has Dean running a stop sign, deciding to turn his back on “using” his celebrity status to get special treatment.

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The Grinder: Buckingham Malice has Dean running a stop sign, deciding to turn his back on  “using” his celebrity status to get special treatment and brother Stewart, and Debbie,  having issues with colleagues and car repairmen.  This episode featured power plays and people taking advantage of other people’s lack of assertiveness.

Dean (Rob Lowe) is shamed by Stewart (Fred Savage) into giving up freebies because he was “The Grinder” on television. This results in Dean getting a ticket for running a stop sign. He then fights to have the ticket thrown out which results in a domino effect which further affects his brother Stewart later.

Stewart and Debbie (Mary Elisabeth Ellis) want to leave for a weekend sex date and Stewart’s car is still in the shop. Stewart tricks Dean into using his celebrity to get the car fixed in time, after Claire (Natalie Morales) suggests it.  The ruse works and Farouk the mechanic/shop owner promises to fix the car by the next day free of charge. 

Deb’s new assistant thinks she has her boss over a barrel since Debbie has fired three previous assistants.  Dean is upset that Stewart tricked him into using his celebrity status to get the car fixed. Farouk is in hospital with a burst appendix and his assistant is not aware of the “no charge” promise.

The gag of the episode was the “tricked like a dog into going to the vet.” This is how Morales’ character suggests it and Dean recognizes this when Stewart uses him to get the car done.

When Dean and Stewart collect the car, they drive off without paying and the police are called. The same officer  that Dean humiliated in court stops the two brothers and carts them  off to jail. After Stewart works out how to be released early, using Dean’s celebrity again, he stops by Debbie’s office.  Deb then fires her assistant when she learns that the woman never relayed Stewart’s message that he was in jail.

Like the rest of The Grinder first season episodes the jokes work well and the actors all play it dead serious. The formula works and Ellis manages to kill it every single time she is on screen. Morales has stepped into her role as new member of the legal team (who is totally not impressed with Dean’s status as “The Grinder”) and the storyline this week was different enough to be entertaining.

Most of the series, thus far, has been about Dean’s attempt to practice law, or be a functioning member of the legal family business. While the celebrity status of the character has been a factor, at least this episode varied the spin.

Lowe may be playing a single note for his character but he hits it well and never fails to make the viewer believe that his “TV” lawyer is less than real. In terms of the verse, the viewer buys this actor’s inability to think in any terms other than his celebrity as a fictional character or in his belief that he is the character, to a degree.

Savage continues to play the beleaguered little brother who is successful in a different way than his famous sibling and everyone hits the right tone for this comedy to work every single week.

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX and is a show that delivers inoffensive comedy that can be enjoyed by all.  While not entirely rated for General audiences, the show comes close, with a low PG rating.  Even the “sex weekend” gag was played for embarrassed giggles versus lascivious laughter. Tune in a catch this funny offering, relax and get into The Grinder.

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.