FOX’s new drama, Lone Star (premiering Monday, September 20), is set in the world of Texas oil with a two-timing con man at its center. If you’re thinking, Isn’t that called Dallas and was done in the ’80s? I’d say, Nope. Dallas had a compelling (albeit sleazy) lead character and was entertaining camp.
Lone Star has newcomer James Wolk as a con man leading a double life with two different women in different Texas cities. As Robert in Midland, he has a sweet blonde girlfriend (Eloise Mumford) and scams locals, including her family, by selling them fake investments. As Bob in Houston, he’s married to Cat (Adrianne Palicki) and angling his way into the company owned by his father-in-law, oil tycoon Clint (Jon Voight). Perhaps Robert/Bob can’t be faulted for his actions since he’s been living a life of crime with his scam-artist father (David Keith) since he was a little boy.
After Bob gets a top position at Clint’s company, he decides he wants to go legit. Well, as legit as he can be when he’s juggling two different women, both of whom he claims to be in love with. He also doesn’t know jack about oil drilling and Clint has already made overt statements about how he deals with people who cross him—it’s mentioned several times that Clint’s brother Ray is dead because he tried something foolish with Clint. I assume the rest of the season will deal with how Robert/Bob will manage to keep the scams going and his hide from getting skinned by Clint.
Wolk is perfectly good-looking but there’s something too self-conscious about him to make Robert/Bob work for me. The best actors make it look like they don’t even know the camera’s in the room, that we’re somehow peeking into their private moments. Wolk always seems to be aware of the camera; in close-ups, I can see him acting. I’m not talking about the scenes when he’s pulling a con so he’s supposed to be putting on an act, but those in which he’s being open with his father. Perhaps this is because Wolk hasn’t worked in film for very long—I read in an interview he’s been in L.A. only three years. In You Again, the movie opening next week in which he plays Kristen Bell’s brother, he has this same I’m-not-quite-comfortable-in-front-of-the-camera-yet quality.
He also doesn’t make a convincing con man because he gives giant tells when he’s cornered. In a scene when he thinks Clint is onto him, Bob looks like he might pee his pants. He needs to be less obvious or Clint will squash him like a bug. Maybe Wolk will loosen up eventually and then Bob will be more of a match for his father-in-law.
Besides the intimidating Voight, only Mumford makes much of an impression. She has an open, trusting quality that makes it believable her Lindsay wouldn’t suspect anything. If Robert/Bob had to pick one woman and asked my advice, I’d tell him to choose Lindsay. Cat comes with a lot of baggage from her family, including her two bland brothers played by Mark Deklin and Bryce Johnson.
Marc Webb, who helmed the charming (500) Days of Summer and is rebooting the Spider-Man franchise, couldn’t add any sparks to this, though his work is competent enough. For a show that takes place under the hot Texas sun, Lone Star is oddly tepid.
Nerd verdict: Lackluster Star
Disclosure: I was given a screener because I’m a Klout influencer. I was under no obligation to receive it or talk about it. I get no monetary compensation for talking about it or mentioning the company.