A surprisingly hilarious show marking the return to television of two incredibly strong actors – Rob Lowe and Fred Savage.
In the Grinder Rob Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, a super-star actor who just finished a long stint as a super-lawyer known as “the Grinder.” Rob Lowe’s comedy chops go all the way to Wayne’s World and in Tommy Boy, with this intentional straight-man character with impeccable comedic timing. But for the most part he has played dramatic roles that included the West Wing, Brothers and Sisters, and Dr. Vegas. More recently Lowe played state auditor Chris Traeger for five seasons on the very funny and much loved Parks and Rec.
As Dean’s brother, playing Stewart Sanderson, is the lovable Fred Savage, who has spent most of his time behind the camera as a sitcom director. Most famously known for his role as Kevin Arnold in the Wonder Years, Fred Savage was also in a short lived sitcom called Working, and even shorter-lived Crumbs and occasionally doing voice work in various projects like Kim Possible, Family Guy and most recently on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman.
Together Lowe and Savage are a comedic dynamic duo. With William Devane as their affable lawyer father, Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Stewart’s wife, and Hana Hayes and Connor Kalopsis as Stewart’s children rounding out the immediate family and cast. And the casting is superb – Mary Ellis and Kevin Arnold… I mean Fred Savage have a genuine relationship that is funny and enjoyable to watch on screen.
The crux of the show is Dean Sanderson joins the family law firm as a wanna-be/soon-to-be/actor-turned-real-life lawyer and Stewart, a real life “I went to law school” lawyer, having to deal with the celebrity, bravado and flashiness of his older brother. Dean wants to Grind, Stewart wants to be respectful of the law.
The script was fairly well written, but included some strange choices like having the daughter hook up with six high school football players. Dean Sanderson even commits a B&E (Breaking and Enter) to help win the case – which would never happen in the real world. Mind you having an actor stand in as a lawyer in a real case is very illegal, but just suspend your disbelief for that one issue and you will be very busy laughing. Some small changes that might not know is that Claire, Stewarts assistant wass completely cut from the pilot, but we can see might become a love interest of Dean’s at some point. Watch out for Todd (Steve Little) who is amazing in every small moment he has on screen.
The final product takes the script and pumps it up on comedy steroids. The rewrites and changes clean any sort of odd choices right up. Lizzie, the daughter (originally called Rebecca), was described in the script as chubby and slutty and making out with six guys, changes to a lovely and funny Lizzie who has a boyfriend in the one football player. The case they are working on – the eviction of the Ramirez family is more real. Dean for one doesn’t commit a crime (thank god! It seems a bit too ridiculous) but instead “finds the evidence in the garbage” which from watching any cop procedural is fair game. If you pay close attention, the show is executive produced by Nicholas Stoller (The Carmichael Show, The Muppets) a strong comedy writer with a good sense of both written and physical humor. It could be that the Mogel/Paul script received some solid notes to help bring the script to the next level.
In closing, our dear esteemed jury, is that The Grinder is this season’s hottest new comedy. Rob Lowe and Fred Savage together make two very funny reasons to watch the show, and the evidence of that is set in the pilot.
*During the podcast Alex, while speaking about Kumail Nanjani (who played the defendant’s lawyer) erroneously mentioned a part of his stand up as something done in India. Kumail Nanjani is from Kirachi, Pakistan.
Script vs Screen Grade:
Jason: Script B+ / Screen A
Alex: Script B+ / Screen A+
Sound test – we talk about Key and Peele’s Outkast Sketch
Kumail Nanjani Stand up
Nick Stoller and Jason Segal wrote The Muppets
Who is Harry Crumb with John Candy
New show runner for The Grinder – Deadline.
Greg Malins exits as show runner – Deadline.