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TV Preview: Lonestar

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In the pilot episode of Lonestar, we meet Robert "Bob" Allen (James Wolk), a smooth talking, charismatic Texas businessman. With his boyish good looks and easy smile, he is hardly the type you would figure for a con man. But a con man he is.

We learn early on that his father set this path for him. From the show’s opening (a flashback 20 years earlier, where father and son are scrambling to escape the consequences of a con gone wrong), Dad advises, “Keep your life in the case and not in the closet,” as he hoists Bob and neatly packed suitcase out the bedroom window.

Twenty years later, we watch Bob as he deftly navigates his double life: a middle class existence with his fiance in Midland, Texas, and the life of a wealthy married man in Houston. Dad still runs the show, running cover as Bob sells shares in non-existent oil wells. When Bob lands a plum job in Cat’s family’s oil business, Dad is ecstatic (“They’re handing you the keys to the safe,” he exclaims).

While Dad considers Bob’s families "marks," Bob is starting to care about these people he has so easily conned. But Dad is adamant that Bob has no family but him. A time bomb seems to be ticking and we’re left wondering how long Bob can keep up the game. He is trapped in this web of his own creation. And while the consequences would be dire if his game were discovered, the rewards could be even greater if he can manage to keep up the con.

The story never lags; the writing is sharp and the acting is fine. This is James Wolk’s first starring role on episodic TV and he turns in a top-notch performance in what is an extremely challenging role: his character needs to con an entire cast of characters while winning the viewing audience over at the same time. In both cases, he succeeds.

Jon Voight plays the acerbic Clint, Bob’s millionaire father-in-law, and David Keith is John, Bob’s con-man dad. The women in Robert’s life are played by Adrianne Palicki and Nazneen Contractor.

Lonestar was created by Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman (Party of Five), written by Kyle Killen, and directed by Mark Webb ((500) Days of Summer).

It remains to be seen if Lonestar can keep up the pace and quality of its pilot episode. If it does, FOX might just have another hit on its hands.

Lonestar premieres this fall on FOX.

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