Rake Series Premiere Review: One Man Show

Rake S01E01: "Serial Killer"


It's always interesting when one of the TV season's most high-profile projects debuts later on the calendar. It feels like Rake has been in Fox's hopper for a long time, but that's mostly a byproduct of all the big names (Greg Kinnear, Peter Tolan, and Sam Raimi) attached. It was one of the most talked about projects during pilot season last year, only for Fox to save the series for midseason and an American Idol lead-in. Fox is definitely hoping that this one takes off like The Following did last January, and the network would probably even settle for it faring as well as Sleepy Hollow did in the fall. So even though I have some qualms with what I saw in "Serial Killer," I think Fox's call to hold Rake until now will pay off. This is going to be a nice little hit.


Well, let me modify that statement for a second. Greg Kinnear is not as big a star as Kevin Bacon is, but he's a recognizable face and more importantly, Rake is already giving him all sorts of middle-of-the-road fun material to work with. This opening episode—which was not the originally produced pilot—was fully powered by Kinnear's charming presence and his ability to tailor that charm to a variety of dramatic or comedic circumstances. His Keegan Deane is the kind of television character we're all used to seeing (and arguably a little tired of): a self-destructive cad who manages to bowl over his friends, family, and work associates to the point where they're almost fed up, but he's just brilliant and caring enough to keep them tethered to him. Although Fox's version of Rake is adapted from an acclaimed Australian show of the same name (and written by the same dude, Peter Duncan), "Serial Killer" presented us with a slew of relatively predictable and obvious moments. The highlight of the episode was Kinnear's execution of the character and his ability to make Deane both annoying and sympathetic. So, if people like Kinnear (which I think they do) and appreciate his work here (which I think I will), Rake will be around for a bit.


As a starting point, "Serial Killer" mostly successfully established Keegan as someone who's worth following on a week-to-week basis. The decision to focus on his dysfunctional personal life and how it bleeds into his work was a smart one. It gave Kinnear a lot of different shades to play, but also emphasized just how deep under water Keegan is. Maybe the show laid it on a little too thick with his relationship with a hooker, but I'm willing to see where that goes. Most of all, the episode never took itself too seriously, which is a big plus with shows like this. The transition between "Oh, he's such a loveable dirtbag!" and "Okay, now this is REAL" can be jarring, even on great versions of this kind of show like House, but "Serial Killer" clearly recognized Keegan's screw-ups and didn't try to teach him anything. Though I'm not sure how that will play out to keep the show sustainable in the long run, it worked well enough in this first episode.


But while I think Kinnear did a really good job of bringing Deane to life, "Serial Killer" was also so reliant on him that there was barely air in the room for other cast members and characters. Miranda Otto , John Ortiz, Necar Zadegan , and Tara Summers have all been good to very good in other shows and movies, and here, they don't even have the opportunity to act. Well, unless you count the scowling and eye-rolling they did as their characters responded to Deane's often frustrating and sometimes ridiculous behavior. Otto's brief presence as Keegan's ex-wife Maddy gave the episode a brief jolt in the arm, but it was oh so brief. At least Maddy seemed to be willing to call Keegan on his behavior, which is something that was generally lacking with everyone else. I understand that this is the show; Keegan is going to misbehave, tick people off, and eventually do a few things to win back the hearts of his friends and family. But those characters will need to develop pretty substantially in the next few weeks so that Rake can find other stories to tell—or at least a few variations of the primary story. 


The one performer who seemed able to pull attention away from Kinnear was Peter Stormare, who played the titular serial killer. If the first episode is any indication, Rake is not going to be too concerned with delivering Good Wife-level legal maneuvering each week, but the give-and-take between Stormare's Jack Tarrant and Keegan had a playful comedic rhythm. Forcing Keagan to deal with a client who could be both the manipulator and the manipulatee was a nice strategy to develop the character's professional acumen. It's fine that Keegan is eventually going to ruin every aspect of his life, but we also need to know that he's at least decent at his job from time to time. It appears the show's episode order is already screwy (this one was technically 102, but we'll never see 101, and next week brings 104), but I hope Stormare and Tarrant return sooner rather than later. He's a welcome presence and a sign that the show can, in fact, bring other characters to life.

Rake has some work to do to be a must-watch, particularly as far as its supporting characters go, but this episode proved that a lot of Kinnear charm can go a long way.



FROM THE FISH COOLER

– All the press materials for Rake mentions the IRS coming after Keegan as well, but I don't remember seeing any inkling of that here. I'm guessing that it was cut in the transition to the new "pilot," and we'll see in the coming weeks. 

– Keegan has a son (played by Ian Colletti), and their relationship is about as boring as you might expect. 

– Sam Raimi directed this episode, but there wasn't anything especially GREAT about it visually. Get those checks though, Sam!


What'd you guys think of Rake's first episode? Will you keep watching?


Comments (60)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Feb 14, 2014
4 episode in and I am still loving it. Risking backlash from Blacklist fans, I am loving it now more than Blacklist.
Reply
Flag
Jan 26, 2014
I'd suggest that the main character needs to get beat up every 5 minutes or so, that would make the show a pleasure to watch. This guy acts like the people Walter White took care of admirably in Breaking Bad. The entire 20 minutes I could stand was only hoping he'd get slapped around again.
What could possibly be endearing about this guy? At least House saw challenges and rose to them. The comparison to House is an insult to that show.
Reply
Flag
Jan 26, 2014
I love laywer shows! With a passion!
And it looks like we have another winner here. I'm gonna look foward to this show and Kinnear's excellence every single week!
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 26, 2014
One and done for me, too. I like Greg Kinnear, but don't like the character. His behavior and all the things that kept happening to him were both ridiculous. I loved his assistant, but there's nothing redeeming about Rake that would keep me watching past this one.
2
Reply
Flag
Jan 25, 2014
In short, I'm still undecided about this. I was interested in some aspects and bored to tears in others, checking to see how much time was left in the episode. I enjoyed Greg Kinnear's performance for a guy whose personal life is a total mess but seems to be a competent lawyer. And, as always, Peter Stormare was fun to watch.

I'll give the show one more episode or two but right now I'm lukewarm.
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
Oh, Cory, Cory, Cory... as I write this to you while taking of burn of this sweet hybrid, I can only shake my head at how much we disagree.

I was with you, a glass of scotch, neat, in my hands, commiserating the fall of a once promising show called Dexter, wailing with the truth of each review! But this show... besides Stormare and Kinnear, was full of caricatures, from its characters to its situations.

By the time the gangster crashed their family dinner night (also, he just left his $15K stinking up some cop's car and now without money and clearly in danger, he goes to eat with his buddy and laugh with their kids? WHAAAT?), openly threatens him and is clearly intent to take his life if not his money, then decides to STAY FOR DINNER? The show didn't Burn Notice me enough to say "Hey, we're unrealistically goofy at times" and have me believe it. Anyway, by that time I was playing Candy Crush Saga. I HATE Candy Crush Saga! It never ends!

Also, the prostitute scene was a film school thesis reject. It was painful to watch. That is all. I'm sorry for getting intense, but Berry White does strange things to you.
More+
Reply
Flag
Jan 25, 2014
The fish was actually not worth $15K anymore, it was knocked down to $3K so he probably figured why not just keep it and cook it instead.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014

to quote 1D: "and we slept one hour to the worst show ever" sorry Cory I usually agree with your reviews but that's all I gotta say 'bout this snooze fest!! peace everyone
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
Sleepy Hallow was great, can't wait for next season.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
Cory, thank you for this review. I was not aware of this show at all. But I like a lot Greg Kinnear, who is by the way a great charming actor. See MATADOR, or LITTLE MISS SHUNSHINE to mention some good movies he appears. So I am going to give this a try with an open positive attitude ;)
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
As far as I'm concerned, I couldn't agree less with this review, this "pilot" was one of the most boring thing I've ever seen on tv & I watch TONS of tv shows, this show's the ultimate snooze fest, I barely made it to the ending credits, I strongly recommend you to walk the other way & go for a walk with friends if you've one hour to spare ^^
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
Let´s´wait and see what other people say first. As for the park, I live in a place where is now all cover with snow, about 10 degrees C bellow zero, so park is not so easy that right now, but a walk in the fresh snow it is ;)
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
Enjoy the snow for me since in France there ain't that much snow atm, but I'm not complaining cuz I hate driving on snowy roads!
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I was honestly disappointed. It was too comical which I guess was suppose to be the point. I was expecting an actual lawyer show with interesting cases, but it just another show about a man with a messed up life. And not even a character that I feel sorry for. How the case was figured out with the patterns in writing wasn't interesting or smart. House's diagnoses were made to seem brilliant. Keegan is not a House/Sherlock character. Far from it.
4
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
Greg Kinnear nailed it. I hope this show makes it.
3
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
Go watch the Australian original, it is AWESOME
4
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
It wasn't too bad. I can see myself watching it for most of the first season before getting bored of it. Shows that aren't particularly dramatic or particularly funny tend to fizz out on me, so this will likely follow that. But for now, it was kinda enjoyable. I like Kinnear enough that I like the Keegan character.

The one thing that kinda bugged me is that the supporting cast felt a little forced around the Keegan character. He stays at the home of his two friends from college, one of whom happens to be the ADA he'll often face-off against; his other seemingly close friend is his bookie's thug who he'll often get beaten up by; while probably not an actual client of hers, he'll likely often get some therapy lessons from his psychiatrist ex-wife; his son is showing signs of being similar to him; and his love interest happens to be a prostitute. Ehhh. Maybe it shouldn't be that big a problem considering a lot of shows tend to do this, but I guess stuffing it all in one premiere episode made it seem worse than it is to me.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I have seen and followed trough the end the Aussie version. Richard Roxburgh the Aussie actor was really terrific in his role. Greg Kinnear is a good actor, he played some nice roles. I think for USA standards he will be good enough. Personaly I alway prefer the originals! We will see?!
2
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
It lost me after the first trial. Seriously? Is the judge just gonna let the douche stand their and make randomly unfounded accusations against someone? I would like to know why the judge overruled the objection because that seemed like an extremely valid objection.... Couldnt take the show seriously after that.
5
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
First things first. Never compare this to House ever again. House was a likeable mad scientist, this guy is just a middle of the road self-absorbed douche.

You might have guessed it already. I didn't like this one bit. The guy is absolutely unlikeable, which makes it really hard to watch. Why would we as viewers want to invest time watching the escapades of someone who makes us want to punch our tv.



10
Reply
Flag
Jan 26, 2014
One thousand thumbs up to this comment sir!
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
If I never see another lawyer show again it will be too soon. Why is it reality shows can find success with different careers (welders, pageant contestants, duck call makers) but every drama that isn't genre is either about a lawyer or a cop?
4
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I really liked the original but this version has become too homogenized.
I quit about 25 minutes in.
I realise it is a popular contemporary concept that all criminal lawyers are greedy assholes that don't give two ticks about justice, but the character in the original Rake did. It was his one redeeming quality.
He was smart but not a great lawyer because his private life got in the way of his preparation, but he tried really hard for his clients - always. A client who was potentially innocent was the only thing which kept him going. He would try laying off the booze & staying away from the card tables.

Without that feature to balance his character this show is going to struggle to present the less salubrious qualities of their main character.
Instead of an interesting study of how the extremes of human behaviour can exist side by side in one person, thanks to our ability to hold two wildly conflicting points of view simultaneously, we get the usual watered down not very nice, but not too bad character so common in mainstream US TV drama.

We already see that in the way he relates to Mickie the whore. Mickie is presented in this as a one dimensional character when she was much more in the original. As much as she tried to hide it she valued her relationship with the rake.

So I doubt I will be watching any more of this - I would rather watch reruns of the original.
More+
4
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I predict story problems because *SPOILERS* Here we are supposed to have an opportunistic, money-grabbing protagonist, and yet, at the end, when City Hall and the LAPD crushes his car and leaves him a hand-written note in retaliation for exposing corruption, he does nothing but leave a fish-head in someone's car. This goes against the entire character established throughout the episode. There should be a lawsuit, a publicity stunt--just something. This level of inconsistent characterization just makes me weary of where the rest of the season will head, as I can see them pulling the same type of moves to create faux-drama.
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I enjoyed it. comparing it to house for any reason other than heavy tone is silly though. house was far less inclined towards humor as a coping mechanism than key is. and while serial killers may compare on some level to the dark nature that the diseases house utilized, the serious nature has so far been pretty much entirely shrugged off. no real heart string tugging as far as I could tell unless it just fell flat and was missed.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I thought it was comedic but Gregg did carry the weight of the show. I thought the Secretary and his ex-wife had the most potential of all of the peripheral characters. The ex-wife because she calls it like it is, the secretary because she is in a position, if the character is developed properly to do the same.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
My interest in this show begins and ends with Denis O'Hare's guest spot appearance. Flipped thru the first ep, didn't see anything noteworthy.
3
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
And just like Almost Human, some genius at Fox thinks they are smarter than the people that create, write , and produce the show - and are airing it out of order. You think enough out of showrunners to give them a lot of money to make show - then don't trust the production order?? Why do I feel like it's one guy in a cubicle who's the Jack Ryan of episode number analysis deciding the most lucrative order to air episodes???? (As an intern, they probably assigned him Firefly to see how brilliant he was). Arrrrrrrrgh!!!!!

Ok show. A few laughs. Love Kinnear. That's all I got.
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
how do you know it's being aired out of order after just one episode? and on the almost human front, I think they made the right call. It upset me as well but having seen all of the episodes they've aired I understand it. the episodes have almost constantly gone downhill since the beginning.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I didn't say all were aired out of order - this one was. Which means another one will be unless we never see the pilot. My anger is over Fox's track record of doing this.

And I couldn't disagree more with you about AH. I have increasingly enjoyed it. I covered it in my photo recap: http://www.tv.com/shows/almost-human/community/ this last ep was 2 in production order and was a direct extension of the pilot. While until this one, it wasn't too noticeable - I found it unnecessary and a slap in the face to the folks that map this out. (see Firefly, Dollhouse, etc...)
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
"how do you know it's being aired out of order after just one episode?"

I assume it's because the following was stated in this review your commenting on:

"It appears the show's episode order is already screwy (this one was technically 102, but we'll never see 101, and next week brings 104)."
Reply
Flag
Jan 25, 2014
I knew that was a possibility. I just had little interest in the review, I came more to comment on the insistence of comparing rake to house.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I wasn't a fan of the original. Can't imagine Greg Kinnear being in a better version of anything given his track record.
2
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
I liked it, so will check out episode 2. Just hope ratings are good, so sick of watching a new show and have it sink right out of the gate.
Reply
Flag
Jan 24, 2014
did not like it - one and done for me
8
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook