Fox enjoyed eight seasons of great success with House, a high-concept medical procedural about an incorrigible, deeply flawed medical genius. I'm not sure I could make it through eight episodes (I've seen two so far) of Louse — also known as Rake (Thursday, 9/8c) — which must have been pitched to Fox, via the series' Australian roots, as "House in a courtroom," a high-concept legal dramedy about an incorrigible, deeply flawed law maverick.
One major difference: No matter how aggravating and broken Dr. Gregory House might appear, you understood why people would put their life in his hands to solve provocative medical mysteries. Whereas Rake's Keegan Deane — the quirkily roguish attorney on whom Greg Kinnear strenuously applies his vast reserves of rumpled charisma to try to make charming — is such an annoying loser (except when it comes to his inevitably and self-consciously perversely wacky caseload) that even the ambulances he chases would likely seek another route to avoid his company.
This rake is a flake, a mooch, a leech, a hapless stooge who incurs bottomless gambling debts — one unfunny running gag involves his bookie's sympathetic collector, who gives Deane occasional periodic bloody beat-downs for his own good. I'd like to say I felt his pain, but Rake's uneven tone (which makes Ally McBeal seem grounded in reality) left me numb. If you're not amused by the way Deane imposes on his best friend, in whose home he crashes (dragging along a party girl in the premiere's opening reel), maybe you'll giggle when said friend's disapproving wife turns out to be his opponent in court. (I sighed.) And maybe you'll bust a gut when you meet his secretary, who's owed $1300 in back pay but sticks with him for reasons I and my remote couldn't fathom. Did we mention his ex-wife is his kind-of therapist? And that he frequents a hooker for nooners he obviously can't afford? (At least House could pay up during his liaisons.)
In the first episode, a client pays the desperate-for-cash Deane with a cooler full of pricey tuna, which he proceeds to drag around for the rest of the poorly constructed, to-hell-with-continuity episode. (The week's case, involving a confessed serial killer and a shady police chief, is sloppily presented even by the genre's loose standards.) By hour's end, the fish isn't the only thing that stinks.
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THE THURSDAY GUIDE: Some actual reasons to think about watching TV on a Thursday when CBS's top-rated lineup is in repeat mode: Parting is going to be sweetly sorrowful on NBC's best sitcoms these next few weeks. Starting with the departure of Donald Glover on Community (8/7c) — which means no more Troy-and-Abed-in-the-Evening for those who love this dynamically deranged duo. You won't be surprised to learn that Abed (Danny Pudi) has a big send-off planned for his buddy, which then spirals out of control. (Next week, Parks and Recreation will say goodbye to Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe, an arguably even bigger loss to that fine ensemble.) ... NBC flips the time periods of The Michael J. Fox Show (9/8c) and Sean Saves the World (9:31/8:31c), which makes sense to put the better comedy first. In an unusually timely episode of Fox's show, Mike spars with his work nemesis Anne Heche to score a gig to cover the Sochi Olympics. ... The CW's The Vampire Diaries marks its 100th episode (8/7c), a mere speck of time to these immortal creatures. It's mostly about Katherine (Nina Dobrev), with flashbacks to the 15th century and pivotal twists in the 21st. ... Tim DeKay directs an episode of USA Network's White Collar (9/8c) in which his character, Peter, recruits Diana (Marsha Thomason) to return from maternity leave to help sting a crooked stock trader. Rescue Me's Steven Pasquale guests. ... Finally, a nod to Thursday's most worthy underdog: NBC's Parenthood (10/9c). The most heartbreaking current storyline involves the troubled marriage of Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger). The circumstances of their estrangement sometimes felt contrived, but the emotional fallout has been profoundly painful. Which isn't likely to change when they have to tell their kids what's going on.