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Rob Lowe does earnest. . .

The Lyon’s Den

Pretty gutsy of the minds behind NBC’s new lawyer drama The Lyon’s Den to name their show after a firm and not the integrity-toting lead of the series, Jack Turner (Rob Lowe). After all, they’re starting from scratch, why not call Lowe’s character Jack Lyon and leave it at that? They tryin’ to convince us this is an ensemble show or something?
“Lyon,” it turns out, comes from the full name of the law firm that employs Turner: Lyon, LaCrosse and Levine. The series opens with a shot of the firm’s main office building – and a well-dressed man standing on top of it. Said suited gentleman does a gainer off the building as the camera inter-cuts to shots of Lowe running around the park in his jogging clothes.
Our seeming suicide is the manager of LL&L, and his demise brings our joggin’ hero – happily fighting the good fight in an inner city clinic – back into the backstabbing fold. Asked to take the place of the man he considers his mentor, Turner’s initial response is to decline. He’d much rather be defending clients like the Nigerian mother who is facing deportation back to her country (a death sentence since the once raped woman is considered an adulteress) than doing the corporate law thing. But since his refusal to return to the big building will result in the clinic closing, we know by the end of the premiere he’ll be changing his mind.
Once we get a taste of the two offices – the friendly casual street-level clinic with its crusading and somewhat disheveled staff (repped by Matt Craven’s George Riley, a wily-but-ethical street-scrapper) versus the slithery sleek affiliation of entangling alliances and double-dealing that’s the Lyon’s Den itself (best exemplar of this: Frances Fisher’s Brit Hanley, who could single-handedly revive the Alexis Carrington Bitch Villainess) – we can understand our hero’s reluctance. There’s definitely some sleazy bizness goin’ on at LL&L involving an Enron-esque corporation called Zero Tech (looks like someone’s trying to pin the funny stuff on our hero’s mentor, too!) not to mention a diligent homicide cop named Traub (Robert Picardo, always nice to see) nosing around the putative suicide.
Also added to the stew: a naive paralegal (David Krumholz) who Brit plans to use against our hero, plus an alcoholic ex-girlfriend (Elizabeth Mitchell) who likewise has been sent into the clinic as a spy. Turner’s estranged father (Rip Torn, also always nice to see on series television) is a crotchety reactionary senator – no party affiliation is mentioned in the pilot, though we know he plays golf with the president – with his own agenda for a son he sees squandering his life “fighting for Jill and Joe Six-Pack.” Plenty of soapish plot material, in other words, to flavor all the lawyerly action.
As for Lowe, he slips into his lead role with ease. The actor’s adept at playing guy-ish Ivy League earnestness, but whether the writers will be allowed to tweak Lowe’s natural smoothness as much as Aaron Sorkin could on The West Wing may depend on how comfortable Producer Rob Lowe is with a healthy dose of writerly disrespect. Too much earnestness can be fatal, though: if you don’t believe me, Rob, just ask Mister Sterling.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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