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April 18, 2014

'Lone Star' Premiere Review: Love and Lies Deep in the Heart of Texas

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 20th 2010 9:30AM
There's no doubt that the pilot for 'Lone Star,' the story of a young con man in Texas in love with two women, is a strong and well-crafted hour.

But 'Lone Star's' first installment inevitably invites questions: Should it have been the first half of a two-hour movie? Can the stories at its core sustain a full season of television?

After all, any con, even a long one, has a built-in expiration date.

Still, whatever the caveats, 'Lone Star's' first hour has quite a bit going for it. As it artfully weaves in an evocative soundtrack, 'Lone Star' deftly sets up the dilemmas faced by Bob Allen (James Wolk), half of a father-and-son team of con men. Raised to swindle honest folks out of their hard-earned money, Bob is alarmingly good at it. His face is so honest and he seems so well-intentioned that people in search of an easy payoff can't write checks fast enough.

Urging Bob along is his hard-driving father, John (David Keith), who senses a major opportunity in Bob's relationship with Cat Thatcher (Adrianne Palicki), the daughter of Clint Thatcher (Jon Voight), an imperious oilman.

Bob is trapped between two demanding father figures and two lovers (Bob has another relationship in different part of Texas), and to extricate himself from any of those situations will require a lot of ingenuity. Then again, as a grifter, he's been raised to think on his feet.

Despite being shot in Texas and featuring 'Friday Night Lights' alum Palicki, 'Lone Star' doesn't have quite the same sense of place as 'FNL,' and it's far more of a traditional soap than the NBC/DirecTV drama. Still, Voight and especially Keith, who projects palpable charisma, give terrific performances as the strong, stubborn men trying to bend Bob to their wills. This is no 'Dallas' but a sincere look at one man's attempt to go straight without alienating everyone he loves.

It remains to be seen whether Wolk has the full range of skills he'll need to continually go up against canny veterans like Voight and Keith. At times, Wolk seems a bit too fresh-faced and callow to make Bob's dilemmas seem as dramatic and compelling as they could be. More of a concern is where the show goes from the pilot: If 'Lone Star' starts to seem like 'The Riches,' an FX drama about grifters that went in maddening circles, I'll be done with the show quicker than you can stop payment on a check.

Still, 'Lone Star' is worth taking a chance on. This drama is thoughtful and intelligently made, and if the characters end up being as interesting as the premise, it may well be a solid investment, not a fly-by-night con job.


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