The (alas, probably) short con
I should really write about Boardwalk Empire, which by all accounts is amazing, and has already been renewed for a second season based on its very strong opening ratings. That review will come soon, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll be writing about again in the future, as it seems to be the second coming of The Sopranos, The Wire, and Jersey Shore all rolled into one. But before I get there, I feel compelled to write about FOX’s new show Lone Star, if only because it looks like there may not be many opportunities to do so in the future. Because Lone Star is really quite good – it’s certainly the best new show on network television this fall (yeah, I’m looking at you, Outlaw) – and apparently, no one at all watched it last night. So just on the off chance that someone reading this watches Lone Star next week, and somehow is also chosen as a Nielsen viewer, I fell like it’s necessary to make sure this gets out while it still can: Lone Star is good, and deserves longer than it will likely get.
The premise is not unfamiliar, but is new enough to the stable of well-known television plotlines that the show feels fresh. It’s a con man set-up, where Bob travels around Texas selling shares of an imaginary oil well and touting an equally imaginary new method of harvesting natural gas, and cannily managing to skip town the moment before people figure out his scam. The underlying idea is that while Bob is a talented, successful con man, he also wants to start living on the right side of the law, except he’s unwilling to give up either of the long term cons he’s currently running. Bob’s unwillingness comes not from his reluctance to abandon the get-rich schemes of each con, but because he’s in a relationship with two different women and gets to be two very different kinds of men. In Midland, Texas, he has a lovely girlfriend, a comfortable, relaxed suburban home, and a group of friends who love him. In Houston, he has a rich, attractive wife whose oil-magnate father wants to push Bob up the corporate ladder. Confronted with the necessity of picking one life or the other, Bob chooses both.
The pilot episode of Lone Star ends with this crucial decision, ensuring Bob’s continued commitment to both cons despite his grief over tricking honest people out of their money. It’s a slick, well-made episode of television. James Wolk is great as Bob, and manages to look and act a lot like Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler, which could only be a positive thing. In an actual FNL connection, his wife is played by Adrienne Palicki, whose was amazing as Tyra Collette. Some of the pilot’s musical cues were a little overstated, but it’s easy enough to forgive in an otherwise enjoyable hour.
My hope was that Lone Star would have a chance to prove it could pull off the much harder part of its premise – carrying out a con man story over a long narrative, and figuring out how to keep its protagonist appealing while forcing him to continue lying to his loved ones. I have no idea what this plot line would look like eight episodes from now, much less a season from now, but I would love to find out. Maybe if we all pull a Tinkerbell and clap our hands if we believe in Nielsen, Lone Star will stick around for a while.