The first reviews of the US Rake, which premieres on the Fox network on Thursday night US time, are generally positive but some critics are undecided about the show’s prospects.
Most praise the performance of Greg Kinnear as Keegan Deane, a brilliant, charismatic lawyer with a self-destructive gambling habit and a tendency to ruin every relationship in his life.
But some critics question whether US viewers will warm to such a flawed character. “What sort of man (and mostly, woman) will want to watch this playboy? It’s hard to say, but if Fox loses on this dice roll, at least nobody should beat them up over it,” said Variety’s Brian Lowry.
Fox has scheduled Rake at 9 pm after American Idol but Lowry doubts there will be much of a cross-over audience.
The New York Times was more positive, its reviewer Alessandra Stanley declaring, "Rake is a clever look at just how stupidly even smart people behave.
"The writing is smart and the episodes well structured, but much of the credit goes to Mr. Kinnear, who maintains a veneer of charm without stinting on his character’s underlay of seedy desperation. Keegan is still winsome enough to attract beautiful women in bars, but in daylight, his boyish good looks, like his shirt collar and stalling tactics, are unmistakably creased and worn."
Peter Duncan, who co-created the Australian Rake, created the US series which is produced by Essential Media & Entertainment and Fedora Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television.
Sam Raimi directed the pilot but Fox elected not to show that as the premiere episode. "We found that we had an episode that had maybe an overload of not drama…but maybe a little sadness, which worked against the episode," the executive producer Peter Tolan said last week. "And so we refigured it, sort of toning it down.
Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall observed, “It is, essentially, House, JD, and Kinnear has the impish charm to play this kind of character."
Bojana Novakovic plays a prostitute with whom Deane has a relationship, Miranda Ottto is his ex-wife, John Ortiz is his best friend and Omar Dorsey is an enforcer who is sent to beat him up for not paying his gambling debts.
David Wiegand of The San Francisco Chronicle says, “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.
"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."
Cinema Blend's Kelly West was equivocal, stating, "Everything about Rake's first episode is fine, with potential for goodness — possibly even greatness — down the line. But it doesn't quite get there in the first episode. Instead, "Serial Killer" feels like a case of TV deja vu, where everything seems a bit too familiar, as though we've seen all of this before in some form or another. And in the process of making the lead character charming and likable, his intrigue and edge is scrubbed away."
The show will screen in Australia on the Universal Channel.