A 'Rake' who's still learning to be bad

Greg Kinnear is Keegan and Miranda Otto is Maddy, his ex-wife, in "Rake."
Greg Kinnear is Keegan and Miranda Otto is Maddy, his ex-wife, in "Rake." (RICHARD FOREMAN / FOX)
Posted: January 24, 2014

Keegan Deane is not your conventional, buttoned-down lawyer. In fact, in Rake (9 p.m. Thursday on Fox29), he often shows up in court looking worse than his clients, who are fresh (if that's the right word) from the slammer.

Keegan, you see, has a rather reckless lifestyle. He's a compulsive everything: womanizer, boozer, gambler, you name it.

Hence the series' title. He's a rake in the Victorian sense: a thoroughly dissolute man.

As played by Greg Kinnear ( The Kennedys), he's also irresistibly charming. And that's a tough act to pull off when all you have going for you is a smile on your swollen face.

Presumably, he's also a brilliant lawyer, although there's little proof of that in the pilot. Mostly in the first outing, he's quick on his feet, if only to avoid the many punches deservedly coming his way.

Despite an obvious conflict of interest, he's buds with Roy (Omar J. Dorsey), the bookie's collector who keeps rearranging Keegan's face.

The show borrows the title and the creator (Peter Duncan) of the original Australian series, which starred Richard Roxburgh. It also maintains several central plot points and relationships.

Keegan's closest attachment, for instance, is to a prostitute (Bojana Novakovic), and he uses his psychologist ex (Miranda Otto) as his therapist to help him sort out his picturesque psyche.

Others in the cast include Tara Summers, John Ortiz, Necar Zadegan, David Harbour, and Ian Colletti.

Kinnear is extremely likable in the lead, which may prove to be a problem. You don't want the character too dark, like Paul Newman's boozy barrister in The Verdict. But he has to seem driven by his appetites in a way too self-destructive to be amusing, always dancing on the edge of the abyss.

In the early going, Kinnear is simply too stain-proof. His fizzy, boyish air makes Keegan's vices seem merely prankish and easily overlooked.

But if Kinnear can settle into this role and find a way to execute the acrobatic act of being both funny and deeply flawed, then Rake has the potential to be a modern equivalent of The Rockford Files. Wouldn't that be spectacular?


TV REVIEW

Rake

9 p.m. Thursday on Fox29


dhiltbrand@phillynews.com

215-854-4552

@daveondemand_tv

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