The premise of LONE STAR seems interesting yet limiting at the same time. Interesting because of how it amplifies the idea of a con man running a long con and escalates it all the way to faking his entire life. Twice over. And limiting because…where does one go with this high-concept in the future?
When I first heard about this concept, it sounded to me like an extended version of that horrible sitcom cliché, the dummy who accidentally makes two dates for Saturday night and decides to take both women to the same restaurant and try to juggle them. Hilarity is sure to ensue.
Well… not so much.
The story opened with little Bobby and his con-artist dad, John fleeing an angry mark. It didn’t exactly work out well for dad. Jump ahead 20 years, to Bobby (now played by newcomer Josh Wolk) is making a more graceful — if no more honest — exit. He’s packing to leave his girlfriend, Lindsay (Eloise Mumford), to go on a “business trip.” But what he’s really doing is changing identities on the road, becoming “Robert,” and going home to a wife, Cat (Adrianne Palicki), whose daddy is Clint, an oil baron. Patriarch Clint is played by Oscar winner Jon Voigt (Coming Home), who muses, “If you want to make something that lasts, you have to make it with your own two hands.” That old-fashioned, salt-of-the-earth philosophy is kind of ironic coming from him, since his company is in financial trouble. Now, give him credit, he wants to fix it the old-fashioned way, through hard work. But he makes the mistake of offering a senior management job to Robert/Bobby.
Bobby/Robert, it turns out, is working a new scam with his dad (Keith David). Sure, he’s thinking about going straight, but only thinking. Cat is the mark; his doorway into the multinational corporation. Once on the inside, he and John will clean it out. But Bob and John have plenty of crooked irons in the fire, and one of his investors gets wind that the oil wells are bogus. Recognizing trouble, John insisted that Bob pull up stakes and leave town. But Bob was determined to stay, hoping he could transform his scam into real happiness. “This is a house of cards, okay? You don’t get to live in it” John scolded him. And Bob wanted to make a change. He wanted out of his “family business” of conning people in order to get into Clint’s “family business” of oil. Bur John had no intention of losing his partner – especially after Bob took it upon himself to offer to pay off the mark who got wise! Bob figured if he could make good, his dad would let him go: “I’ll get you the money; just don’t make me do this anymore.” But veteran con John doubted he could pull it off: “You’re gonna steal from your real job to pay back a debt from your imaginary one?”
The best scene of the hour came when Bob was in a convenience market and noticed a father taking advantage of his son — who works there — to load up on “freebies.” Bob paid for what the father took. “I know what it’s like,” Bob told the clerk, by way of explanation.
So that’s the set-up: A con man who basically runs more than one scam at a time, while trying to lead
a normal life two normal lives. Do the-powers-that-be really think they can get five seasons out of this? While the plot may be suspect, and the narrative pace hobbled by lots (and lots) of talk, the casting is agreeable enough. Newbie Wolk has charm, but I don’t know if he has the magnetic charisma to sell me on his show. And the novelty factor will wear off of Voight (unless he can deliver Angelina Jolie…?) I just cannot picture Bob/Robert trying to fool Cat in… say, a theoretical 17th episode of a third season. It seems to me TPTB are going to burn off all the obvious plots by the end of the first season. Assuming this one goes 22 episodes, we can expect to see the wives face-to-face by the season finale. But then what? I get the feeling that TPTB will be trying to fool the audience with smoke and mirrors. People who believe they can have it all – they’re the ones who end up with everything,” Cat declared. “You make your own luck, Bob.”
Good luck, LONE STAR. You’re gonna need it!