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Love him or hate him, Fox hopes you can't live without him

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PASADENA, Calif. -- Most people, if they're smart, responsible grown-ups, learn from their mistakes.

Keegan Deane is not most people.

He is smart, and he is -- chronologically, at least -- a grown-up. But he is not, by any measure, responsible, and he makes a habit of not learning from his mistakes.

And it's those two flaws, and the darkly charming manner in which they're revealed in an ongoing TV-series narrative, that has Fox executives convinced that they've got a winner on their hands with Rake, the new Greg Kinnear-led legal drama that premieres Thursday (Jan. 23) at 8 p.m. on Fox and Global.

Based on a like-titled hit Australian TV series, Rake follows the misadventures of Deane, an L.A.-based lawyer who's very good at being an attorney and very, very bad at pretty much everything else. He's divorced, a lousy dad, a compulsive gambler, a tax cheat, a womanizer, a drinker and a frequent patron of a high-priced prostitute -- but all his compounding misdeeds are committed with a combination of wit and charm that makes him almost impossible to hate.

"At the end of the day, I think that he is, for the most part, brilliant at that (career) aspect of his life, in spite of all the other self-destructive mechanisms in his life," Kinnear said when the cast and producers of Rake met with TV critics during Fox's portion of the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour in Los Angeles. "And what appealed to me was that kind of mix.

"When I first met with Peter (Duncan, co-creator of the Australian series and executive producer on this American spinoff) on this over a year ago and started talking about it... I was like, 'Well, Peter, what does he learn? What does this man learn each episode?' And Peter said, 'Not a lot.'

"He wasn't built like a typical television protagonist; that was kind of what appealed to me."

Indeed, within the 42 minutes of Rake's premiere episode, Deane gets punched out by a bookie's thug, is hounded by his lawyer about IRS arrears, lies to his ex-wife, abandons a new date to take part in a poker game, has multiple run-ins with police over trivial but character-revealing matters and is late (again) for his standing date with a hooker.

But he also takes on a case that few attorneys would consider and, in true heroic-TV-lawyer fashion, finds the tiny shred of evidence that everyone else missed and turns the California legal system on its head.

It's a promising beginning that should convince viewers that Rake is worthy of at least a second look.

The series also stars Tara Summers as Deane's overworked and underpaid assistant, John Ortiz and Necar Zadegan as the friends with whom Deane was been living while he's "between residences," Miranda Otto as ex-wife Maddy and Ian Colletti as perpetually disappointed son Finn.

Pairing with Duncan to write and produce Rake is Peter Tolan, who returns to broadcast-network TV after a long and successful run as Denis Leary's writing and producing partner on Rescue Me. Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 D3

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