Lone Star - 101 - Pilot
I was really disappointed by this. To be fair to the show that has to do with reading good reviews beforehand but this was still a major disappointment.
So Bob Allen is a con man. He has fallen in love with two women and doesn't want to continue conning people, he wants something real. He also wants to keep both women.
Now that might sound promising if Bob were like say Sawyer from Lost. As in a charismatic ass hole with self loathing issues. Then you could see him being the kind of conflicted central character like Tony Soprano or Nucky (Boardwalk Empire) or Walt (Breaking Bad) or Dexter or Don Draper (Mad Men). Then maybe you could imagine finding sympathy and intrigue in a guy who is essentially lying to two women because he wants to have his cake and eat it.
But that is not what Bob looks or acts like. Bob, played by James Wolk looks to me like a college graduate from a nice family who loves dogs and long walks on the beach. I may know nothing about con men but I still find Wolk as unconvincing a choice as possible. Even if you can ignore his white bread looks the writing is not remotely adequate to cover the kind of territory it would need to to make this convincing.
Bob has conned everyone connected to the two women he loves. He has got Lindsay's parents amongst many others to invest in an imaginary oil drilling scheme while convincing Cat's father Clint (Jon Voight) to promote him into his company. A con man capable of such heartless behavior would need to have an incredibly flexible or well defined sense of morality. How does Bob play his guilt over his crimes? He avoids eye contact, looks guilty and makes an excuse to leave the scene when things get awkward at the family barbecue. This is a man who lies to people's faces, creating warm connections while fully aware that he is stealing their money. Yet suddenly he acts like he just forgot someone's birthday and feels sad about it? It's inadequate and shallow.
The psychological demons Bob is dealing with come from his father who set him on the con man path. Again the characterisation is so thin and the idea that his life of crime can be blamed on his Dad is ludicrous. You deceived all those people Bob, grow a pair! I get the feeling the show is going to somehow turn a life of extortion into a morality play about pushy parents which is a very stupid idea.
To get off Bob for a second the show was full of blatant emotional manipulation which I didn't enjoy. Now I know all TV shows attempt to manipulate viewer's emotions, but the lack of subtlety here was astounding at times. The two most egregious incidents were Bob encouraging the building of a wind farm (yay, he's choosing sustainable energy over fossil fuels, what a guy!) and the father-son conversation he observes at the gas station (that relationship is just like the one he has with his Dad. What a poor life Bob must have had dealing with such pressures). At several other points the story just felt too obvious, the emotions so basic and oversimplified.
The idea that Bob is going to try and right all his wrongs for the sake of love is pretty sickening. By the end of the pilot I just wanted to see this unconvincing bigamist caught and exposed. I will keep watching but just to check that I'm not crazy and that the show is as dumb as I think it is.
Lone Star - 102 - One in Every Family
FOX has pulled the plug on Lone Star already so we will never know if the writing could have gone somewhere interesting.
Episode two didn't convince me that the show would ever rise above any other contrived drama show. Bob is still playing his part as if he is a good guy and I don't think he would have been able to balance being likeable with the burden of guilt he should have for his past.
His new wife tells him how she hates him being away and how it feels a bit like drowning when he's not around. So his solution is to organize a big wedding where he will swear fidelity and to forsake all others for her. He doesn't seem to realize the impossibility of keeping two wives happy and when we discover that Cat has a daughter too his behavior seems even more outrageous.
Once again I rolled my eyes at the attempts to turn stealing people's money into some kind of father-son morality play. Bob argues to his Dad that the real thrill of conning people was being able to give each other a high five afterwards for what they had accomplished. His Dad actually went on to see the truth in this when he scammed a few people on his own. Yeah! Go Bob! It's great to see someone put the family values back into the world of ruining people's lives.
Later on John actually yells at his son for telling Cat's family that his father had abandoned him. It sounds pretty hurtful doesn't it? To discover that your son had told people that you were no longer in his life. Oh wait a minute, but wasn't Bob fabricating his life for them? That's right, he only married Cat as part of a con to get access to the family oil wealth. So inventing a story to explain why you had no family to introduce them to makes a lot of sense. It was a pretty dumb piece of writing.
In between my sarcasm there was the odd good moment. Lindsay and her family became understandably suspicious about Bob's shadowy past and potential pitfalls would doubtless have been built up in Midland over the season. Also Bob runs into one of his former marks who is furious over stolen money and assaults him in the airport. Again it was good to see the consequences of his life of crime and remind everyone of how precarious his situation actually is.
I think the show would have failed even if ten million had tuned in to see the pilot. I think people would have grown tired of Bob screwing around and having the nerve to preach morality to others. I guess we'll never know though.