I’m going to be presumptuous and presume that a lot of you have been having similar thoughts about two shows that premiered on Fox last night. The last few weeks, I’ve been really excited for fall TV to start back up. Since most new shows this season looked terrible, I was especially excited for, as it kept coming up in my mind, ‘That Rob Lowe Show’ and ‘That Other Show I Can’t Remember That Premieres the Same Night As the Rob Lowe One.’ However, many of you may have been looking forward to ‘That John Stamos Show’ and ‘That Other Show, etc. etc.’ For the life of me, I could never remember the names of both shows in the same thought. Which isn’t all that surprising. They premiered back to back on the same night, they’re both about attractive man-children dealing with the aging process, and they both basically stunt casted their leads, casting them in what we all assume to be basically very thinly veiled versions of their actual selves. Because this is who we assume Rob Lowe is, right?
And this is DEFINITELY who we think John Stamos is.
Look, there isn’t even a promo picture for Grandfathered that isn’t identical to 20 actual photos of John Stamos.
It’s like someone at Fox saw that smirk and thought “Hey, that should be a show.”
Yes, no one would blame you for not being able to keep the two shows straight. Except now that they’ve aired, you should. Because while they may seem to be the same, one of them is very good, and the other one is not.
The Grinder, as Emily already told you earlier today, is surprisingly great. It’s one of my favorite new fall shows so far. Hell, I’ll even extend that to returning shows— it’s just one of my favorite shows this fall, period. And while it has a lot going for it— Mary Elizabeth Ellis is the absolute best, Fred Savage is pretty good, and they even managed to hire child actors you don’t feel guilty about wanting to cause bodily harm— this role is perfect for Rob Lowe. Somewhere right at the midpoint between Sam Seaborn and Chris Traeger, with a touch of Lowe’s own douchey interview persona thrown in, it really is easy to imagine they just cast Rob Lowe as himself. An aging actor with good intentions but a gaping emptiness and gross sense of megalomania? Yeah, I’d believe that’s Lowe in a nutshell.
Grandfathered is about John Stamos as an aging restauranteur who refuses to acknowledge that he’s aging. But then he gets a surprise visit from a twentysomething guy (played by Josh Peck’s perpetually open mouth) who says he’s Stamos’ son, and that surprise! He just had a baby, so Stamos is actually a grandfather. GET IT??
Now, in synopses only, the difference between these two shows may not sound like much, but it is huge. Because while The Grinder has a lot of heart and great relationships and actual promise, Grandfathered just has that one joke. The joke that Stamos is old but— get this!— won’t settle down. He’s just SO HANDSOME. In fact, the only reason his son finally found him was to ask for advice on wooing a girl. It has nothing to offer but the idea that Stamos is a GILF, so it’s leaning— even in its very first episode, it’s leaning HARD— on Full House cast member cameos and the idea that John Stamos (cause he’s so old and yet somehow still attractive, you see!) talking to a baby is endearing enough to hook viewers. And, to be completely fair, it almost is.
But is it sustainable? Of course not. So networks, take note. If you’re going to write shows around barely exaggerated versions of the public perception of your lead, that’s great. Just make sure that’s not all you have.