During the opening moments of the deliberately idiosyncratic procedural, Rake, criminal defence attorney Keegan Deane (Greg Kinnear) lays in bed, sweaty, with a blonde woman straddling him. She says, "I don't know, Keegan; I don't think I can do this." He replies with, "C'mon: just get in there; get a good grip and pull on it."
It's seemingly naughty, opening up the series with a bit of deceptive titillation that is quickly eschewed in favour of intentional quirkiness. Obviously, he's not referring to something sexual; rather, he's asking someone to pull out an infected tooth because he doesn't have the money to see a dentist. The irony is that he's asking a prostitute to pull out the tooth, having enough money to spend on her company, but not enough to take basic care of himself.
He's "in love" with this hooker who, as we learn shortly, is just a girl trying to put herself through school (like all prostitutes?) that doesn't reciprocate his feelings so much as she likes the spare income. This becomes clear when he's unable to pay for her services; something communicated in another unlikely, awkwardly goofy, sequence with her large, black pimp cooking steaks for his dog.
In addition to have romantic woes, Keane is also a compulsive gambler nearly $67K in the hole. His affable loan shark doles out some beatings, leading to the procedural element, which is the acquisition of a case that no other lawyer would touch (think House with lawyers). The mayor's chief economic adviser has been charged with murder and cannibalism, having allegedly killed and consumed a man that he met on the internet.
This unseemly topic is exploited for broad comedy about humans tasting like chicken or keeping spare limbs covered. None of it is particularly funny—mostly because it's all so incredibly obvious—but it does keep the tone light enough that the duller expository aspects of the formulaic plot breeze by without removing the audience from the moment.
Though Kinnear is up to the challenge of playing a loveable screw-up, Rake is far too self-conscious, desperately straining for a lack of conventionality—primarily superficial aspects like wardrobe or character signifier assertion—while itself being an astoundingly conventional show. It emulates the tone of other successful FOX shows, such as Bones and House to a tee, but has a really difficult time convincing us that it's a natural fit for the writers and actors.
Still, the playfully crude double entendres and presumed sex appeal of Kinnear for the target demographic—women over 60—could prove a winning formula for those still mourning the cancellation of Jag.
Rake is scheduled as a midseason replacement to air in early 2014 on Global TV. (Sony)