5 Questions and 500 Words: “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder”

Welcome to another installment of “5 Questions and 500 Words,” my approach to reviewing the crazy amount of shows that will be unspooling/returning over the course of the next few weeks. Given the glut of shows, and the glut of reviews that will be published for these shows, I’m keeping things short and sweet. This is for your convenience and my sanity.

“Grandfathered” and “The Grinder” premiere Tuesday, September 29, at 8:00 pm and 8:30 pm EST (respectively) on FOX

You can’t even be bothered to write two separate reviews?

Look: This isn’t a knock on either show. Some programs aren’t meant to sustain heavy insight, and that’s totally fine. The takeaway you need to know: These are two very entertaining pilots. Both are in the upper tier of this Fall’s crop, which I know isn’t saying much, but they still have modest goals that are effectively achieved. That shouldn’t necessarily be praised, but here we are.

Choose a side, Mr. Critic: Which is better?

Again: I’m only looking at the pilots for these shows. There’s no way to know which one will get better. But if I had to put my chips on the table, I’d go for “Grandfathered,” which is the sweeter of the two shows, has John Stamos doing his Stamos-iest work, and is secretly a rom-com buried in a high-concept show.

What puts “The Grinder” slightly below that?

Do you like Rob Lowe? Because I do. I love his energy on “Parks and Recreation” and those DirecTV ads. He’s like Nicolas Cage but you’re more willing to forgive him because he still looks cuts from alabaster. But do you want that energy so prominent on a television show? He’s full-tilt weird as a former actor on a successful lawyer procedural who tries to practice law with his brother (Fred Savage) after the show’s cancellation. I like weird. I am not sure that this much weird can be sustainable over the long haul.

But you still enjoyed it?

Oh sure. And it’s not like “Grandfathered” is blowing the socks off the single-camera comedy world, either. I’m not sure what it says about Fox’s comedy division that they have pushed aside younger, female faces aside in favor of two men so identical that they are this side of Dylan McDermott/Dermot Mulroney. You don’t have the gender or sexual politics of “The Mindy Project” (now on Hulu) and “New Girl” (pushed until later in the season). But you might have a shot at a more broadly-appealing program. That might be good for FOX, but bad for fans of comedy with a singular voice.

Why are you getting more depressed as this review goes on?

I’m not, honestly. I now get to watch Paget Brewster and Fred Savage on a weekly basis, which is a good thing. I probably won’t tune in on a weekly basis, but I also want have to do so: in both cases, it’s easy to see an incremental change turning into an overall hard reset each week. These are safe choices for FOX, and executed far better than we have any right to expect given the overall dire Fall lineup. I’m curious to see how much Stamos and Lowe will be asked to push the envelope, even while fearing these shows are coloring so far within the lines that approaching the edge will take either a huge miracle or an unintentional accident.