Pilot Review: Lone Star

Bob is a second generation con artist, his dad brought him up that way and he’s very good at it. Currently he’s running a pyramid scheme and a long con on a big oil family. The problem is that he wants to go legitimate. The bigger problem is that he wants to keep both lives. And his wife. And his girlfriend.

This is a very well put together pilot. It’s a pretty complicated plot with a lot of characters, several putting on different faces to different people. But the writers actually pull it off with a lot of style and charm. It didn’t feel rushed, but at the same time there weren’t glaringly obvious “don’t worry about this, we’ll explain it in a few episodes time” moments. It was extremely elegantly written, showing skill and talent that is generally lacking from a lot of pilots on the circuit.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’m not sure all the elegant writing in the world can save this show from the extremely troubling concept at its heart. Bob is extremely likeable, but it’s pointed out very early on that as a con-man that’s his job, he gets people to trust him so that he can deceive them and profit from them. There are plenty of shows past and present starring con-men, but they’re generally lovable rogues pulling Robin Hood scams. While there’s unlikely to be a lot of sympathy for a Texan oil tycoon being ripped off, the fact that Bob does so by ingratiating himself with the family to such an extent that he’s married the daughter is utterly distasteful. Even worse the other scam is taking money from people who cannot really afford to lose it, and again he’s been manipulating the affections of a woman to win the trust of her family and neighbours.

The character is like a child. The implication is that he’s been a conman because his dad made him do it. At 25 or so he’s finally grown a pair, stood up to his father and ‘resigned’ from the life. But he doesn’t want to give anything up, he wants to keep playing with all his toys. He’s not had a great epiphany and realised that what he’s doing is wrong, he’s just realised that he wants the women more than he wants the cash. His change of attitude may on the surface seem altruistic, but at the end of the day, he’s still lying and manipulating so that he can have what he wants.

Maybe if this show were on HBO, more gritty and dramatic I’d be more inclined to watch it. But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with this story presented as entertainment. Bob isn’t a hero, he’s a selfish child who wants everything and hasn’t grown up enough to think through how it will end. There really are only two ways this can go – no one finds out, he lives his two lives and two perfectly sweet women are lied to by the one they trust the most; or they find out and everyone loses. I just don’t think I can bring myself to watch a show that’s presented as a sort of lavish soap opera with bright shiny colours and yet is so utterly devoid of hope.

Reviews:
TV Squad “There’s no doubt that the pilot for ‘Lone Star,’ the story of a young con man in Texas in love with two women, is a strong and well-crafted hour. But ‘Lone Star’s’ first instalment inevitably invites questions: Should it have been the first half of a two-hour movie? Can the stories at its core sustain a full season of television?”

CliqueClack “Most stories, at least most good stories, have a hero and a villain. In the case of Lone Star, there are no heroes, several villains, and a whole mess of victims. The show is going to have to overcome the fact that there is no one to root for, as the main character is one I seriously doubt audiences will connect with.”

Links: Official site, imdb, tv.com, wikipedia

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  1. September 3rd, 2011
    Trackback from : Narrative Devices
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