Keegan Deane (Greg Kinnear) is a lawyer who owes $59,000 to a bookie, has overstayed his welcome at his best friend’s house, is always late for his weekly appointment with a prostitute, and over the course of one very long day becomes an enemy of the mayor of Los Angeles and its entire police department. He also gets paid by a client in the form of a very large blue fin tuna. The idea that the tuna pretty much co-stars with Kinnear in the first episode of this new comedy from Fox is one of the reasons I like the show. The other is Kinnear, who makes you want to root for Deane and his hot mess of a life, even when you know the tuna situation (or really any) is not going to go his way.
In fact, very little goes Keegan’s way in the first episode of “Rake.” He wins $5,300 in a poker game, but the loser is broke and can’t pay. He represents a confessed multiple murderer for the publicity but is ignored by the press when a “second rate Bernie Madoff” grabs all the headlines. He loses his dignity frequently. But he’s not a complete loser, which is what saves this series from becoming more than a comedy about a vain, self-defeating man-child who gives in to every desire.
To be clear, Keegan is a vain, man-child who sabotages his life, but he’s also a clever lawyer who, in between drinking too much and placing bets he can’t pay, knows how to do his job. The serial killer case isn’t full of twists and turns and Keegan isn’t going to be confused with an attorney who might show up on an old episode of “Law and Order” but he has enough skill to discover a flaw in the evidence that could make his career. In the end, Keegan’s sense of justice keeps him from an unethical choice. He might get paid in fish but his professional life isn’t a constant punchline.
His personal life, however, is another story and that’s where “Rake” is entertaining. He gets into situations that are absurd enough to make you laugh, but not so ridiculous that they become farcical. Trying to sell a tuna worth $25,000 isn’t so crazy when you owe a bookie more than twice that amount. Then again, he’s a lawyer going around L.A. trying to sell a tuna and he owes a bookie $59,000. ...
As the series title suggests, Keegan is a “rake” who lacks restraint and indulges in his vices but thanks to Kinnear’s charm, he isn’t an unlikable character. (The good lawyer depiction helps here, too.) Ultimately, Keegan is like the friend who has a way of messing up your life, just a little, every time he crashes into it. You tell him to grow up. He doesn’t. You like him anyway.
Page 2 of 2 - “Rake” premieres Thursday, Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. EST on Fox.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.