Greg Kinnear, Miranda Otto
Stop us if you've heard this one before. Fox's new drama Rake features a main character who, despite being pretty great at his job, is a complete trainwreck in every other aspect of his life.
But unlike the Dr. Gregory Houses or Don Drapers littering the past and present TV landscape, Rake's protagonist, defense attorney Keegan Deane, is a bit less rough around the edges. Indeed, most of the time, he's quite the charmer, which probably has something to do with the fact that he's played by Greg Kinnear.
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"Greg's kind of perfect because there is this likability about him that people are prepared to forgive all sorts of things," creator and executive producer Peter Duncan, who created the Australian drama of the same name that inspired the Fox series, tells TVGuide.com. "The guy's so charming, he's constantly being forgiven. That's probably part of his problem. People tend to forgive him because they do like him."
Those people in Keegan's life include his therapist ex-wife Maddy (Miranda Otto) and his son Finn (Ian Colletti); his longsuffering secretary Leanne (Tara Summers); his best friend Ben (John Ortiz), who along with his wife Scarlet (Necar Zadegan), offer him a place to crash; and Mikki (Bojana Novakovic), his call girl of choice.
It's through the eyes of the three main women in his life that the audience will begin to understand both the positive and negative aspects of Keegan's character, Dunan says. "They've seen him at his worst, and they've seen him at his best," he says. "These are very different, very strong, very smart women, and all of them have a deep and abiding affection for Keegan despite the fact that he is Keegan. They are not saying get out of my life. They get irritated, they get disappointed, they get upset, but there's also a certain degree of elation he brings to their lives."
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But Keegan also brings a whole host of other problems to their lives. In addition to excessive drinking and bad judgment, he is also a gambling addict who owes equally large sums of money to both his bookie and the IRS. So, how is it that Keegan can still manage to run a successful law practice?
"Necessity is the mother of invention," Duncan says of how Keegan generates his legal prowess. "We have this image in our heads in the writer's room of him as Indiana Jones being chased by the big ball. That's his life. He gets up in the morning, and that ball is chasing him. So, he has to be on his feet. He has to be spritely. He has to be thinking quick."
Of course, Keegan's quick thinking usually brings down pain and suffering on those closest to him. It's for that reason that Keegan has moved on from his failed marriage by being in a "relationship" with a prostitute. "Keegan never falls out of love," Duncan says. "Every woman he's loved, he continues to love. That's part of his curse. [With Mikki,] there's the safety of being able to have some sort of glass wall between the two of them, because he doesn't want to hurt anyone anymore.
"He knows he's the original butterfly that creates the tsunamis," Duncan continues. "So there's a way of managing that relationship with Mikki. There's simplicity about that that he finds logically and emotionally elegant. There is a safety about that and it's a really good port in the storm that is his life."
Greg Kinnear talks returning to TV in Fox's Rake
However, don't expect Keegan's journey to be one of great self-discovery and change. "He's going to be in that cycle that he's created for himself. That's the fun of the show," Duncan says. "If he hits a wall of change at some point in the first season, then that would be a big surprise to me. But if the audience likes him and hopes that he will change, then that's great."
Which raises the question: Are viewers ultimately supposed to be charmed or repulsed by Keegan? Although Duncan admits the Tony Sopranos of the world are much more interesting to watch, he thinks Keegan will connect with viewers because, despite his many flaws, he keeps trying.
"It's all about that rolling ball," Duncan says with a laugh. "Life is exhausting. Every day is such a challenge. And that's what's great about the character: every morning he wakes up he is challenged by himself and by his past. I think that's one of the ways that he will connect with the audience. It's good to see a character whose audacity and tenacity are such that they show a strength of purpose to survive, which I think a lot of people will relate to and admire."
Rake premieres Thursday at 9/8c on Fox.