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THE TV COLUMN

Rake producers hope for House-like success

By Michael Storey

This article was published January 23, 2014 at 2:56 a.m.

Greg Kinnear portrays a highly flawed lawyer when Rake premieres at 8 p.m. today on Fox.

Have you been yearning for another Dr. Gregory House to love/hate since House left the air in 2012?

Hugh Laurie made that character exceedingly memorable over eight seasons. I don’t think Greg Kinnear will get that long.

Kinnear makes his debut as TV’s latest damaged antihero when Rake premieres at 8 p.m. today on Fox, immediately following American Idol.

Fox publicity is trying gamely to draw comparisons between House and Rake. There’s work to be done.

The 50-year-old Kinnear plays middle-aged criminal defense lawyer Keegan Deane. His life is a mess. Deane is a mess. The entire show is painfully messy.

In fact, the original pilot was such a downer that it was pulled back for tweaking and will now air several weeks into the season. I never saw that version, but I’m told Deane was as unsavory as in the Australian original of the same name. It evidently didn’t register with focus groups or the producers concerned about audience identification with the character.

In TV, you’d better get it right from the start. The fickle audience has many other options.

The new pilot you’ll see tonight is about an exceedingly flawed womanizing lawyer with no filter who is so deeply in debt that he gets beaten up routinely by his bookie’s goon.

Deane also hires his favorite prostitute (Bojana Novakovic) to be his mistress, is six months behind in his alimony payments, and sponges free therapy sessions off his ex-wife Maddy, played by the delightful Miranda Otto (Eowyn in the last two The Lord of the Rings films).

“He’s a kind of Peter Pan character,” Otto says. “He refuses to grow up.”

“He’s as unlucky as he is lucky, and smart as he is stupid,” Kinnear adds. “He, unfortunately, has some self-destructive behavior that I think is fun to watch. But there’s also, strangely, a little hope in the show, too.

“And that was another thing that appealed to me. The people that populate this show are great springboards to see where he’s at on his odyssey at any given time.”

The supporting cast is solid. In addition to Novakovic and Otto, it includes John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, Luck), who plays Ben Leon, Deane’s harried best friend since law school.

Leon is married to Scarlet (Necar Zadegan, 24), another old friend and an assistant district attorney for Los Angeles. She frequently faces Deane in the courtroom.

Tara Summers (Ringer, Damages) does yeoman duty as Deane’s no-nonsense assistant Leanne Zander.

Ian Colletti plays Deane’s hormonal son Finn (who seems to be following in his father’s footsteps).

It’s going to take a few episodes to cozy up to this character. The second pilot didn’t make me rush to my DVR to set up the season recording function. But I like Kinnear and have for 20 years, ever since he hosted NBC’s Later With Greg Kinnear.

He was nominated for an Oscar for As Good as It Gets, and turned in memorable performances in a number of films, including Sabrina, You’ve Got Mail, Nurse Betty and Little Miss Sunshine.

The producers say they hope Rake is a good mix of comedy and drama. Here’s hoping Kinnear gets the chance to have an audience warm up to him. Otherwise, this will be a short-lived experiment.

FYI: Tonight’s episode is rated TV-14 (D, L, V, S) for salty dialogue, adult language, violence and sexual situations.

Goodbye, Lima. Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly says that the second half of Season 5 of Glee will be set exclusively in New York when the series returns from hiatus on Feb. 25.

In addition, some of the McKinley High students will graduate and not make the transition to the sixth and final season, also to be set in New York.

Ripper up in air. BBC America (not to be confused with The BBC) will debut Season 2 of Ripper Street at 8 p.m. Feb. 22, but it may be the beginning of the end.

The BBC canceled Ripper Street after Season 2 finished up in the UK last month. Unless BBC America can find a new producing partner, that’ll be the end for the period detective drama.

Showtime dates. Here are the spring premiere dates for the premium channel.

April 13 - Season 6 of Nurse Jackie debuts at 8 p.m., followed by the seventh and final season of Californication at 8:30, and the new documentary series on climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, at 9.

May 11 - Penny Dreadful, a new psychological thriller starring Eva Green and Josh Hartnett, premieres at 9 p.m.

End in sight. Justified, currently airing Season 5 on FX, will return in 2015 for a sixth (and final) season. The decision to go out on top was made by series executive producer Graham Yost and star Timothy Olyphant.

Justified, one of the best dramas on television, airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 30 on 01/23/2014

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