Remember when the television golden age of the male anti-hero died along with Walter White? Remember how troubled leading men like Ray Donovan paled in comparison to the likes of Don Draper? Television seems hellbent on creating yet another so-good-he's-bad guy, despite the fact that, a) It has been perfected (see: above), and b) audiences are craving something new. Yet, they still insist on cranking out filler like Rake.
Of course, to even put Greg Kinnear's Keegan Joyce -- the boozing, gambling, homeless, rabble-rousing, albeit genius (because they always are) lawyer -- in the same category as TV legends like Tony Soprano is a crime. No, Keegan is more of a Dr. House-type, but still feels like a cheap knockoff. (It's kind of fitting considering that Rake isn't an original, but a remake of an Australian show of the same name.)
The pilot episode finds Keegan (who everyone insists on calling "Key" for some terrible reason) in heaps of trouble: trouble with the guy he owes $15,000 in gambling money to; trouble with his best friend's wife for living in their home and turning it into his bachelor den of sin; trouble with the LAPD for exposing their alleged framing of a serial killer; trouble with his prostitute for showing up 40 minutes late for their session; and trouble with his therapist ex-wife. But, oh, don't worry about that rapscallion Key getting his comeuppance. In fact, by the end of the episode, everything turns out to be just fine for the sniveling, pathetic Keegan.
You see, the Seinfeld-esque bassline that plays throughout and the shit-eating gleefulness with which lines like "All my clients are guilty" are delivered tells us that we are supposed to be rooting for Keegan. For some reason. The hard-partying lady killer, brilliant, entitled, bad boy trope is beyond played out, and not even Greg Kinnear's charms can save it.
But it's not just the tired clichés (men can do whatever grotesque things they want… as long as it's sexy and hilarious!) that make Rake so bad. It's that it's an unbelievable lawyer drama on the air at the same time as some damn good ones (see: The Good Wife). Every single character on this show behaves and talks like no functional person ever in society. And I'm not just referring to Peter Stormare's indistinguishable accent as Key's convicted serial killer client. No, I mean how Key's ex-wife would continue to be his therapist and then as some sort of therapy pretends to seduce him, and then when that goes awry, their teenage son walks in and asks matter-of-factly, "Mom, why are you on top of Dad?" You know how people do that.
Rake is predictable (when Keegan gets his hands on a rare piece of tuna, you can smell it turning up in one of his enemy's cars from a mile away), lazy (a cigar-chomping corrupt police officer is quite literally chomping a cigar) and played out. Shows like this want us to believe characters like Keegan are complex men, but we've memorized their M.O., and there's nothing exciting about it anymore. It's just as sad as watching a narcissistic middle-aged man who's hung over, bloodied and broke who thinks he's somehow alluring.
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