THE SHOW "Rake"
WHEN |WHERE Premieres Thursday night at 9 on Fox/5
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Keegan Deane (Greg Kinnear in his first TV series) is a defense attorney of the court-appointed variety, who is struggling to pay his debts (of the gambling variety). Scrambling to avoid a fate thatdeadbeats of this sort occasionally meet, he needs to make some quick cash, while his college pal, with whom he lives, Ben (John Ortiz), and his wife, Scarlet (Necar Zadegan), are losing patience. In tonight's pilot, a fish -- a bluefin tuna to be exact -- assumes a central role. The Fox series is based on an Australian series of the same name.
MY SAY Fans of crime novelist Michael Connolly will see a reflection of his Mickey Haller in Keegan -- but it's a distant one. Less self-destructive and indisputably smarter, Haller at least sees a way out of the jams of his own making. Keegan doesn't, which -- in the pilot -- is a minor annoyance if not an abiding flaw.
Why bother to care for a character who can't even begin to care for himself? In his ongoing act of self-immolation, Keegan, with every decision he makes, pushes himself back a yard or two in the game of life. Like any well-drawn narcissist -- and Keegan is nothing if not well-drawn -- he has grandiose visions of a payday that will never come, of a score just beyond reach. But the show title promises exactly what you will get -- a rake, a libertine, a bit of a grifter, and perhaps most of all, a loser.
Why bother? The reason seems compelling enough: Kinnear, who channels facets we've seen before, like David in "Sabrina" or the dad in "Little Miss Sunshine" or the cad in "Someone Like You ...," and maybe one or two we haven't. As an actor, he plays the Lovable Rascal surprisingly well, offering just enough humanity, and enough likability, to merit a second look. The pilot has some sharp lines -- Sam Raimi ("Spider-Man 3") directed, by the way -- which at least indicate this Fox newcomer merits a second one, too.
BOTTOM LINE Kinnear is solid, but his Keegan is a work in progress -- both as human being and TV character.