Emmy spotlight: ‘The Grinder’ with Rob Lowe & Fred Savage is one of best new comedies

Fox has another awards-worthy contender on its hands with “The Grinder,” a hilarious single-camera comedy starring Fred Savage and Rob Lowe as brothers, one a lawyer with confidence issues and one a TV star that famously played a hotshot lawyer on a long running TV series called, you guess it, “The Grinder.” It merits an impressive 92 at Rotten Tomatoes

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It’s a classic ‘odd couple’ scenario as Hollywood star Dean Sanderson (Lowe) returns home to Boise, Idaho when his hugely popular legal drama is cancelled. He comes from a family of lawyers, including his in-the-trenches brother (Savage) and loveable father (played beautifully by William Devane). Dean decides that seeing as he knows the ins and outs of being a lawyer on TV, he’ll just parlay his knowledge into a real-life career as an attorney.

My initial scepticism vanished as the palpable chemistry between the show’s leading men became apparent after a few minutes. Savage comes off as sincerely insecure and bemused with his high profile brother, who in turn is narcissistic but oh so charming as he decides to stick around and help his unremarkable brother win his cases with the panache and flair usually reserved for the glitzy network legal dramas of years gone by.

There are at three good reasons why the show shouldn’t be understimated at the Emmys.

Firstly, Rob Lowe. Although he’s only been nominated for one Emmy (back in 2001 for “The West Wing”), he’s a bona fide TV star, having moved on from his matinee idol status in the eighties and nineties to memorable roles on “The West Wing,” “Brothers and Sisters” and “Parks and Recreation.” This is the perfect part for him, as he plays on his good looks and TV past by lampooning his public persona.

Secondly, Fred Savage. I will always lovingly associate Savage with his breakout role as Kevin Arnold on “The Wonder Years,” for which he was nominated for a Best Comedy Actor Emmy twice (in 1989 and 1990). But Savage is so much more than Kevin Arnold, having become an acclaimed (and DGA-nominated) TV director over the past 15 years. Now he’s back on TV as a series regular in a single-camera comedy, and he really delivers as the straight man in this role.

Finally, the Emmys really embrace Fox comedies. Think of “Malcolm in the MIddle,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Raising Hope,” “New Girl” and “The Last Man on Earth,” all of which garnered major awards attention for their actors, writers and directors, especially in their freshman seasons. 

Do you think Emmy voters will take to “The Grinder”? Join the discussion with Hollywood insiders in our TV forum.

Photo: Fred Savage and Rob Lowe in “The Grinder.” Credit: Fox

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