Fox’s con-man melodrama Lone Star lives up to every bit of advance buzz. James Wolk’s Robert “Bob” Allen was trained by his father (played by David Keith) to be a perfect fake. He’s keeping two scams going simultaneously: As Robert, he lives with his sweet girlfriend in a small town, shilling fake investments; as Bob, he’s a big city operator married to Friday Night Lights’ Adrianne Palicki and plans to raid the company of his new father-in-law (Jon Voight). He’s about to hit the jackpot, twice. But like Pinocchio, or Tony Soprano, he’s yearns to be an actual boy, capable of love. “This is a house of cards,” his con-man father warns him. “You don’t get to live in it.” But Wolk’s conflicted character has lied so well he’s conned himself.
It’s a high-concept story, and for the first few scenes, the series seems like it might be just another slick caper show — something like Undercovers, the formulaic new update on Mr. & Mrs. Smith (or maybe Hart to Hart with martial arts). Instead, Lone Star’s beautifully edited pilot gradually suggests the potential for something deeper, more like the John Cusack–Angelica Huston movie The Grifters, only set in the unforgiving bright light of the Texas oil fields.
The cast is sensational, from Voight’s corrosive father to Palicki, who exudes warmth and savoir faire as the suckered wife. But it’s Wolk’s ambiguous charisma that lends the show emotional weight, with melancholy buried behind his bright, dimpled smile.