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James Wolk Makes a Charismatic Conman in FOX's Lone Star

By Edited Dec 17, 2015 0 2

Over the summer, I had the chance to watch a preview screening of the pilot episode of Lone Star, the new FOX show about a conman with a heart of gold. I enjoyed it, and my dad was especially impressed, so we were both disappointed to hear that after only one episode, the network is talking about scrapping the series. I think part of the problem is poor promotion; if it hadn't been for seeing that sneak preview, I probably wouldn't have even heard of the series. I hope, then, that a relatively low viewership for the first episode won't be enough to sink the show right off the bat. If the series, written by Kyle Killen and directed by Marc Webb, is allowed a little time to generate some buzz, I think that Lone Star could just turn out to be a hit.

One of the most popular characters on LOST was Sawyer, a sarcastic opportunist who, prior to landing on the Island, had spent his entire adult life as a swindler while hunting down the more ruthless con artist who destroyed his family. In the show's early episodes, he comes across as snarly and self-involved, and his transformation into an upstanding citizen is a grueling process. On Lone Star, baby-faced James Wolk plays Bob Allen, who persists with his life of crime only because his father (David Keith) has been training him to be his right-hand conman ever since he was a young boy. Bob is very good at what he does, running an oil scam that makes me think of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, but he doesn't want to keep doing it. He's a nice guy who just wants to live a normal life but can't figure out how to extract himself from his complex web of entanglements, especially with his father breathing down his neck every step of the way.

Bob lives a double life. I can't help thinking that this would be just about impossible to pull off in this modern age of Facebook and other websites that make the world so much smaller and one's identity so much harder to protect, but it helps that Bob's two lives are a decent distance from one another. He has a foothold in each city, though his father encourages him to cut ties with the town where he enjoys a cozy existence with his girlfriend Lindsay (Eloise Mumford). He's scammed half the town's residents, and now he's in great danger of being exposed. However, Bob doesn't want to ditch a woman he loves, nor does he like the idea of leaving all those people who trusted him in the lurch. As the first episode ends, we find him plotting a way to make good on his offers, much to his father's consternation.

The opportunity to go straight comes through his second life with Cat Thatcher, whose father is fabulously wealthy. It's a much more grown-up role for Adrianne Palicki, who plays small-town girl Tyra Collette on Friday Night Lights. She seems about ten years older on this show, a poised adult happy to be living the high society life. The most recognizable actor on the show is Jon Voight, who embraces Bob as one of the family and a possible successor, much to the discontentment of at least one of his own sons. Though he generally comes across as paternal and pleasant, he's a pretty shrewd operator himself, and it's no wonder that Bob feels nervous about the prospect of pulling one over on him. Besides, with the skills he has acquired, Bob actually has what it takes to be a successful businessman and earn a handsome enough wage to give up the con game altogether. But as he strives to make the transition, can he handle the necessary balancing act?

It's an interesting premise because we're being asked, right off the bat, to sympathize with a man who has bilked dozens, probably hundreds, of people over the years. And yet it's so easy to do because Wolk brings such charm and sweetness to the role, particularly in a touching scene at a convenience store that shows his ability to empathize with total strangers. We get the fact that this guy is stuck and want to see him somehow un-stick himself, though even if he manages to do it from the business end of things, it's hard to imagine how he can continue to nurture these relationships with two different women, each of whom he seems to love equally. I wouldn't say that the show glamorizes his lifestyle, at least not so far; instead, we get a good sense of how complicated and stressful it would be to try to live like this. On the other hand, he's clearly headed for trouble with Cat and Lindsay, and he doesn't seem to feel particularly guilty about constantly cheating on one with the other.

I will be interested to see where this show goes as Bob's two lives inevitably begin to bleed into each other. How long will it take for someone outside of the con to figure out that something about this guy is not on the up and up? Who will be the first to suspect? Already, one of Cat's brothers is searching for ways to bring Bob down, and he's shown investigative initiative in the process. He seems like the gravest threat, though the fact that her other brother appears to be an ally could counteract that somewhat. Both Lindsay and Cat are confronted with possible shady dealings from Bob in this episode, so it seems like one of them will probably start to have misgivings before too long.

Lone Star is a tense but also fairly light-hearted show somewhat along the lines of the Steven Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can. It has a lot of potential, and if it's given a chance, this story of a Texas conman with a double life might just catch fire. Here's hoping that the 9:00 slot on Monday nights will be set aside for the charismatic James Wolk for at least a few more weeks.



Sep 28, 2010 10:20am
Amazing article! I definitely enjoyed reading it, and learned quite a bit...I will refer it to anybody that is curious about the subject matter.
Sep 29, 2010 11:50am
Thanks! :)
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