Four out of Five
There are no objections in the case for “The Grinder,” a guiltless comedy about brotherly lawyers.
Dean (Rob Lowe) is in the middle of a huge life change. A popular TV show in which he stars as a tough-as-nails lawyer has just ended. With nowhere to go, he turns to his brother Stewart (Fred Savage), who is a real-life lawyer. Then Dean gets a brilliant idea. He decides to join the family practice. After all, he played a lawyer on TV, how hard can it be?
Part of what makes “The Grinder” work so well is the dichotomy of Dean and Stewart.
Dean is an actor who maintains his melodramatic flair even for everyday conversations around the dinner table. He has good — often misguided — intentions that often get him into trouble with Stewart. In the courtroom, he doesn’t have the know-how but he definitely knows how to say it.
Stewart is exactly the opposite: level-headed, realistic and more likely to make the tough decisions than the ones that will make people happy. But in the courtroom, unlike Dean, he relies on his note cards. He doesn’t know how to speak, but at least he knows what the words mean.
Watching these opposites interact — Stewart stumbling over his cards while Dean throws around words like “objection,” raising the eyebrows of the other lawyers — is where the comedy comes from. Dean makes bogus suggestions to Stewart, who reacts sarcastically, and then Dean takes Stewart seriously and does them. No one bats an eye when Dean says he’s going to be a lawyer, while Stewart is shocked that people are taking him seriously.
The laughs continue as Dean can’t differentiate between real lawyering and practicing law on TV. He uses his catchphrase “Grinder rests” to close out every case, and “But what if it wasn’t?” as the basis for his defense. The show even goes a little meta in the second episode, when they talk about why second episodes of TV shows are so hard to pull off.
But with Lowe and Savage playing their roles to perfection, there’s no doubt this show will keep entertaining. Lowe as Dean is likable — if not all that intelligent — in a way that comes off funny rather than annoying. Savage excels as the wound-up brother with hilarious facial expressions and tone of voice. Their chemistry together comes off as two brothers awkwardly trying to work together, Stewart more so than Dean.
For Idahoans there is an extra incentive to watch as the show is set in Boise. OK, maybe it’s not obvious and not mentioned that much, but Idaho has to take what it can get.
The case for “The Grinder” is closed. Excellent acting, wonderful characters and abundant laughter prove beyond any doubt that this is one worth watching, ask any witness.