[This is a review of The Grinder season 1 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
Even with Rob Lowe coming off a successful and well-received stint on NBC’s Parks and Recreation and Fred Savage making a surprise return to network television in a leading role, FOX’s The Grinder seemed to come into the 2015-16 TV season with relatively low expectations. Yet, even when the show proved to be an absolute delight — with its clever jabs at clichéd courtroom dramas, likable cast, and amazing guest star turns — the rookie comedy still failed to attract an audience worthy of its quality. For those who have noticed The Grinder‘s subtle charm, the fact that the show is currently on FOX’s chopping block just doesn’t seem right.
And while it’s a shame that The Grinder is facing the network’s ax, the show — like its main character — is confident that it will get another shot. In fact, there was no mistaking this confidence when it ended its season with Lowe’s Dean Sanderson proclaiming, “It’s just the beginning, because we know that this works. This has legs. For as long as we want it to.” Of course, the character was referring to the family’s law firm, but this is an obvious meta joke speaking to the current predicament the show is in as it faces potential cancelation.
It was a brilliant and hilarious way to end the season 1 finale, ‘Full Circle,’ but it’s far from the first time The Grinder has let the audience laugh at what’s behind the TV network curtain. In fact, part of the show’s major appeal has been its sharp satire of TV legal dramas, as nearly every episode of FOX’s The Grinder has kicked off with a short clip of the show within the show, which always mocked one legal drama trope or another with gleeful absurdity.
Interestingly, though, the finale didn’t open with an overdramatic scene featuring Mitch Grinder, but instead took viewers back to the events of the pilot and then into the life of disgraced attorney Leonard Velance (Kumail Nanjiani), who ended up losing that first case to Dean. And apparently, after that embarrassing loss to a first-time lawyer, things got really bad for Leonard, as a montage sequence reveals he lost nearly everything. He even lost some of his own sanity, becoming obsessed with The Grinder and with the idea of getting his revenge on its former star.
While it is a departure from most Grinder openings, this sequence works on a couple of different levels. First, by bringing back a minor — and, most likely forgotten — character for the sole purpose of trying to beat Dean at his own game, it serves as an astute and funny commentary on the insistence of many TV shows to bring their storylines full circle (something also commented on by the episode’s title and by Dean at several points). Then, of course, there’s the fact that Leonard’s reintroduction actually does set up a fun showdown with Dean — one that most certainly ends with a satisfying payoff.
See, as it turns out, Dean’s wild hunch about Leonard being the mystery man behind Dean Sr.’s (William Devane) malpractice lawsuit proves to be true. Indeed, he’s the one who’s been pulling all the strings in order to get back at the Sanderson family for his recent misfortunes. If this all sounds like the plot of a cheesy lawyer show, that’s definitely what The Grinder is going for as it works its signature brand of satire.
And after some hilarious barbs are exchanged in the courtroom between Leonard and Dean, there’s an even more ridiculous topper. In an all-too-convenient turn of events, Stewart uses his “instinct” to discover that the plaintiff is not who he says he is, and is actually the twin brother of the real accuser, causing the case to be dismissed due to fraud.
As absurd as this ending is, it is also reminiscent of how TV attorneys like Perry Mason and Matlock seemed to always find a last-minute clue to win the case against all odds. This is truly The Grinder at its best, where you can ignore the gaps in narrative logic, embrace the silliness and just be captivated by the fun of it all — much like the judge is in both the pilot and the finale.
What’s more is The Grinder didn’t just bring the laughs this week alone. It has consistently been one of the funniest shows on television week in and week out this past fall and spring. That’s because, even though it continued to struggle in the ratings, it didn’t change its comedic sensibility and just kept grinding away. Now, we just have to hope the network gives it another chance, but if we go by the words of Dean Sanderson, there’s no doubt The Grinder will return.
FOX is currently undecided on a season 2 renewal for The Grinder. Stay tuned to Screen Rant for the news of its continuation or cancelation.
Photos: Ray Mickshaw/FOX