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'The Grinder': Why the Rob Lowe comedy stands out from the pack

The new sitcom stars Lowe as an actor-turned-attorney. Lowe starred on the NBC comedy 'Parks and Recreation' and 'West Wing.'

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    'The Grinder' stars Rob Lowe (l.) and Fred Savage (r.).
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The new Fox show “The Grinder” premieres on Sept. 29 on Fox, bringing “Parks and Recreation” actor Rob Lowe to a new network. 

Mr. Lowe's character is an actor who starred on a legal drama (got that?). When actor Dean Sanderson (Lowe)’s show ends, he decides to join the real-life legal practice of his father (William Devane) and brother (Fred Savage). 

At the heart of the TV drama is the human tendency to “most covet what seems to come so easily” for someone else, Mr. Savage said in an interview with USA Today. His character, Stewart, sees his actor sibling “as someone who’s respected and admired and heard and appreciated and beloved. And [Dean] sees Stewart as someone who’s grounded and rooted and has a home and family that loves him and a place that he belongs. Both of us are the envy of each other, and that draws us together and is where a lot of the conflict comes from.” 

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Lowe starred on several seasons of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” a sitcom that finished its run this past February.

"The Grinder" parodies legal dramas much as comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” satirizes cop shows.

That show stars Andy Samberg and centers on the members of the New York City police force. The program has found critical success with its comedic take on the police show genre. “Brooklyn” won the 2014 Golden Globe for best comedy or musical TV series, and Mr. Samberg won a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical TV show. Co-star Andre Braugher has been nominated multiple times for the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy TV show. 

Legal stories flourish across the television dial, from CBS’s “The Good Wife” to NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” now in its 17th season.

Fox may be looking to NBC for a winning strategy. One of NBC’s recent hits was the show “The Blacklist,” which stars James Spader as a criminal who decides to aid law enforcement in solving crimes. Spader and Lowe are both actors who originally starred in some of the biggest movies of the 1980s – Spader most famously acted in the 1986 movie “Pretty in Pink,” while Lowe starred in the 1983 movie “The Outsiders” and 1985’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” – and then proved their skills on television, with Spader starring in ABC’s “Boston Legal” and Lowe appearing on NBC's “The West Wing.” Both earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for those roles. Lowe then proved his comedic chops in “Parks.” 

Lowe's name recognition, like Spader's, may attract viewers who otherwise wouldn’t tune in for a new comedy.

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