Lone Star Eulogy: How the Made-in-Dallas Show Could Have Lasted More Than 2 Episodes

As Peter noted, Lone Star has been canceled after airing but two episodes. Six episodes were completed, according to reports. No one is sure yet how Fox will burn those off. They might just end up getting thrown on Hulu at some point.

As one of a dozen or so people nationwide who watched both episodes, I feel uniquely qualified to explain how producers might have been able to avoid this premature death sentence. I thought it was a good show, with a central premise (a con man balancing two lives/wives while scheming to make some big money in the energy business) that had strong potential. I don’t think it was a great show — I’d much rather campaign for Fox to bring back the dearly departed Firefly. But it was certainly distinct from other dramas on television, which means losing it’s a shame.

So my prescription for how Lone Star could have succeeded with the fickle American television audience:

  1. The title was generic, and bland. Even the original title (Midland) would have been preferable. But to succeed, they really needed something familiar to couch potatoes. Going with NCSI: SVU Houston, they might have had a fighting chance.
  2. Poor Jon Voight. The Oscar winner deigns to work in television, and this is the thanks he gets? Only minor — barely more than cameo — appearances in the only two episodes that air. Heck, we saw much more of guest star Sarah Jones (literally, thanks to the shower scene) in the second episode than we saw Voight. His character needed more quirk. Should have given him a cane to hobble around on and a secret addiction to prescription pain killers while solving medical mysteries. Then they might have had something.
  3. Adrianne Palicki was sorely misused as Cat Thatcher. I couldn’t get used to her dark hair color. (She’ll always be Tyra Collette to me.) And where was her shower scene?
  4. Questions were raised in these first episodes. How did Bob expect to live the rest of his life happily-ever-after while balancing two marriages? Who was that unknown person that his father John called to help steal tens of millions from Thatcher Oil? But I say there wasn’t enough intrigue. Remember when Clint gave Bob that key at the end of the pilot? Episode 2 should have opened with Bob using the key to enter a mysterious room at the center of the Thatcher Oil offices, wherein a trained polar bear must push a button every 108 minutes to avoid the catastrophic implosion of the moral balance of the entire universe. The bear is rewarded with fish biscuits. Heck, I’d have tuned in weekly for six seasons of that.
  5. They should have just set the whole thing in Dallas, and changed Bob’s name to J.R.

Don’t cry for me, FrontRow readers. Now I can devote the full measure of my Monday night recap attention to Chase, which deserves it. Re-reading my latest recap of NBC’s U.S. marshals show, I realized that I failed to accent sufficiently the true absurdity of Dallas playing Las Vegas on television. Advice to producers: if you can’t afford to shoot in a setting that looks even slightly like a desert, don’t take the story to Vegas. Especially not in the second episode. (It seems the writers are already bored with Texas as a setting.)

Until next week.  RIP, Lone Star.

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