The series that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has been paired with for the last few week is one of the more bizarre and quirky shows on television, but it’s not quite as enjoyable. “The Grinder” does deserve credit, though, for being one of the first series in a long time, to be set in Idaho. It has some very creative impulses, but nearly halfway through its first season, it has yet to manage to pull it all together.
The series is about two brothers Dean and Stewart. Dean (Rob Lowe, expertly parodying his star status) has resurfaced in Idaho, after eight years in the lead role on the legal drama The Grinder, a series where he played an attorney who solved crimes, probably in the same way that series on CBS have been doing crime dramas. Dean is immensely popular, but seems to be undergoing the idea that because he played an attorney for eight years, he can work as an actual attorney. The fact that law in real and civil matters isn’t anything like law on TV doesn’t seem to stop anybody at the firm his younger brother Stewart is the main partner (Fred Savage, equally inspired).
Stewart is incredibly irritated by the fact that Dean seems to live in his own world of how the law works, and even more irritated that his family and colleagues at the firm all seem to have embraced him. His wife seems to be willing to tolerate her brother, but is becoming increasingly upset that Dean has decided to move into their house. Stewart is equally irritated that his father (William Devane) seems to be willing to let his son just do all this, and that everybody in the town seems to embrace him – except his associate, Carol, who Dean thinks is in love with her, and who really isn’t.
There are some inspired bits of comedy here, often more interesting when the show tries to interject bits from Dean’s real life – including the spinoff ‘Grinder: New Orelans’, featuring Timothy Olyphant playing himself (also delightful). And the series goes to great length to show bits from the original Grinder, which are delightfully satiric. What makes the real show harder to bear is the belief that anybody in the real legal world would allow this to happen. The fact that Dean more often than not is wrong with his theories just makes it harder to believe, even for a satire. The show is well acted, and has some very engaging bits, but more often than not you feel like Stewart, in wondering how the world thinks Dean is the better person, despite the fact he’s all about himself.
“The Grinder” may eventually find its muse, but it’s hard to be fully engaged by a series that seems more full of itself, and only occasionally funny (hysterical though it may be when it is.)
My score: 2.75 stars.