Created by Rob Lowe, his son and co-star John Owen Lowe, and Better Off Ted creator Victor Fresco, Unstable is a delightful workplace comedy that’s odd enough to be fresh and traditional enough to feel good to feel.
To prove almost a central point of the series, in which a famous father overshadows, overwhelms, and otherwise steals the attention of a less outgoing son, I’d like to ask: Who doesn’t love Rob Lowe? At the hauntingly young age of 59, he is the veteran of a varied career in which the person and the parts often seem to intermingle. Listen to his excellent interview podcast, “Literally!” (a title echoing his “Parks and Recreation” catchphrase, derived from Lowe’s own habitual use of the word) isn’t all that different from watching him act.
His trademarks are energy, confidence, and good looks that seem like a parody of beauty. They are qualities he can use for various purposes, transforming confidence into narcissism, making energy inspirational or draining as the situation calls for it, although his appeal is such that his characters remain charming even when when they make an effort.
An undeniable star, Lowe has made a name for himself in ensemble plays and supporting roles in everything from The Outsiders to The West Wing to his current-running Fox firefighter drama 9-1-1: Lone Star since his bizarre role as Liberace’s plastic surgeon in Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra to the comedy in question.
To say he makes an impression in a short space of time doesn’t mean a little bit of him goes a long way. Something of a cross between a villain and an upstanding citizen, in life and on screen, he has no problem with self-deprecation, as in the terrific underrated sitcom The Grinder, in which he plays an unemployed, self-promoting actor who He, who has played a lawyer on television, believes he is one.
In “Unstable,” Lowe plays Ellis Dragon, a renowned and eccentric scientific genius, recently widowed, who turned sugar into plastic, created an avocado without bruises, and a bionic pancreas so cheaply “you could sell them in a three-pack at Costco.” ‘ and is working on a way to turn atmospheric carbon into concrete. (The show’s technobabble outbursts may or may not sound ridiculous to a person who knows about biotechnology; they just sound ridiculous to a person who doesn’t know about it.) You shouldn’t be thinking about Elon Musk, either regarding Lowe’s character, or at all, ever if you can avoid it.
The loss of his wife has thrown Ellis off track and made him less focused at a crucial time – he’s in danger of losing his biotech company – if no less energetically: he’s dancing, he’s singing.
“Are you all right?” asks Anna (Sian Clifford), his full-time deputy. “It’s just that you seem to be getting more and more maybe, I don’t know why dancing around – crazier.”
“Crazy?” Ellis asks in turn. “Or am I just letting the beauty of the world touch me in a deeper way?”
“It’s literally the same.”
As the series’ designated adult, Anna sends for Ellis’ son Jackson, played by John Owen Lowe, who inherited his father’s scientific ability but teaches the flute across the country and makes his own way. Jackson reluctantly comes to the West, intending to stay for just a day, but the script finds reasons for him to stay. Ellis, although he loves his son, would still like to make him in his own image; Jackson just wants to be Jackson.
“I don’t want you to be anyone else,” says Ellis. “I want you Exactly a version of you… Exactly nice of you.”
As grieving as he is, Ellis is spending the season without a love interest, which is oddly refreshing. His main relationships are with Jackson; the wry, business-savvy Anna who secretly writes fanfiction about her officemates; Juan (Frank Gallegos), the gardening philosopher who, for spiritual reasons, directs the landscaping crew that Ellis moonlights with every week; and Leslie (Fred Armisen, whose deal with the devil apparently guarantees him an appearance in every other television comedy), the company’s hired therapist, whom he has locked in his (very nice) basement.
Also in the mix are labmates Ruby (Emma Ferreira), laid-back, and Luna (Rachel Marsh), stiff, otherwise interested in Jackson; newly promoted project manager Malcolm (Aaron Branch), a shy late bloomer who’s devoted to Ellis; and the already established comedy team of Tom Allen and JT Parr (“Chad and JT Go Deep”) as the dubbed idiot twins determined to bring Ellis down.
With all the good fortune in matching actors to well-written roles, the cast comes into its own. Without making any outrageous claims for the thoroughly enjoyable, not at all groundbreaking, series they share, I found their company invigorating.
John Owen Lowe has a sweet, ordinary guy vibe befitting the role. They wouldn’t necessarily identify him as his father’s son; He has some of his father’s facial features, but he’s softer around the edges. In Brat Pack terms, he’s the Andrew McCarthy version of Rob Lowe. (“Unstable” is her second television series after the short-lived paranormal road trip reality show The Lowe Files, which also starred Rob’s other son Matthew.)
Social media (and this paper) have been grappling with the topic of “Nepo babies” lately, as if people hadn’t gone into their parents’ businesses all along or inherited some of the traits that made their parents successful . Or would you hide Sammy Davis Jr. from the world? Liza Minelli? Pieter Brueghel the Younger? It’s quite possible that if John Owen weren’t Rob’s son, he wouldn’t be starring in his own co-created series, at least not yet. But you could say the same of Dan and Eugene Levy and see how well that turned out.
If: Anytime, starting Thursday
Evaluation: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under 14 years old)
Source : www.latimes.com