Keegan Deane is one of life’s indefatigable losers. The fact that the guy can’t catch a break, that his various addictions have left him deeply in debt and made for a lackluster legal career doesn’t seem to faze him. If the definition of insanity is you-know-the-rest, Deane is off his rocker.
What better qualification to be the lead character in the new Fox drama “Rake,” premiering Thursday night? The series stars Emmy winner Greg Kinnear as Keegan, who owes nearly $50,000 in gambling debts and needs to cough up the dough or say ta-ta to his kneecaps.
He thinks he can make a fast buck and get a lot of publicity by representing a confessed serial killer in court, entering a guilty plea and basking in client-attracting glory. Instead, Jack Torrant (Peter Stormare) pleads not guilty, insists that all of his confessions were coerced by the cops, and Keegan winds up with a pro bono case that could last for months. With no hope of any money coming in, the only “asset” Keegan has is a big dead tuna given to him as payment on another case. He hopes to sell it to a sushi restaurant. His secretary, Leanne (Tara Summers), has lined up a good deal for the fish, but of course Keegan screws it up.
His personal life is even more chaotic. His ex-wife, Maddy (Miranda Otto), has no patience with him, understandably enough, so he makes regular visits to a prostitute, not so much for the sex as for a somewhat sympathetic ear.
His best friend Ben (John Ortiz) isn’t surprised to find him passed out in his underwear in the kitchen one morning, but Keegan’s real problem is Ben’s wife, Scarlet (Necar Zadegan), who happens to be the prosecutor on the Jack Torrant case.
The series was created by Peter Duncan, based on his idea for the original Australian “Rake,” and executive-produced by Peter Tolan, co-creator of “Rescue Me.” That last bit of information should tell you Tolan has a special fondness for self-destructive losers.
Kinnear is great in the role because he doesn’t look like a loser – quite the opposite – and that’s important. If he looked like Walter Matthau, it would be more difficult to embody the irony that’s really the heart of the role. The rest of the cast is appealing as well.
Perhaps because this is the pilot, most of the episode is devoted to showing Keegan screwing up and only a few afterthought scenes focus on Torrant’s case. In order to succeed from week to week, the series needs more than just a lot of figurative pratfalls. It needs a real and moderately compelling episodic legal case, something that doesn’t feel like a last-minute addition. That may be what Fox has in mind from episode 2 onward. Otherwise, that fish is gonna start to smell.