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TV Series Review

Dean Sanderson isn't a lawyer, but he played one on TV. And that's, like, almost as good. Right?

Well, Dean thinks so. For years, he was America's favorite fake attorney, starring in a show called The Grinder. Dean always fought for the little guy and never, ever, ever settled out of court. Why not? Because settlements make for terrible TV, that's why. Oh, and then there's all that truth and justice stuff.

Alas, nothing lasts forever. Not even successful television shows. (Well, except The Simpsons.) The Grinder has ground to a halt, and Dean wonders what might be next for himself and his perfectly coifed Hollywood hair.

And then it hits him: Why not join the Sanderson family practice in Idaho?

"It's so clear now," he tells his younger brother, Stewart. "Dad was a great lawyer. You're a great lawyer. I became a character who was a great lawyer. I need to be doing this for real."

So begins "the Grinder's" second career, working alongside his nervous little bro—winning cases through sheer charisma, losing them through utter incompetence and interfering with Stewart's life and family at every turn.

That's important, that last part. Because while Dean may treat his life as an extension of a telegenic legal drama, Fox's The Grinder is a mostly sweet family comedy. It showcases a family that is both deeply loving and utterly dysfunctional … much like some of ours, I'd imagine.

While Rob Lowe's Dean is unquestionably the star, Fred Savage's Stewart is the show's true protagonist. He's an uncomfortable everyman who practices law, fatherhood and being a good sibling to his gently narcissistic bro. It's not easy, all that practicing, and he spends a lot of time trying to help Dean understand that the legal profession—not to mention life—doesn't work like it did on Dean's old show. That means Stewart's sorta talking Plugged In's language: We're all about showing that what works in entertainment can be unhelpful and unhealthy in real life.

This real-world ethos is augmented by the fact that the characters we meet are usually trying to do the right thing. Dean may be a little exasperating, but he's no jerk. He loves his family dearly. "You made the right choices that lead to a meaningful life," he tells Stewart in the opening episode. "I want that."

And for all the frustrations that Dean brings to the family's law practice, Stewart loves and appreciates his brother—even as Stewart's priorities are firmly, and rightly, set on loving his longsuffering wife (Debbie) and raising his sometimes rebellious kids (Lizzie and Ethan).

The Grinder's quite funny to boot—not something you take for granted in a sitcom. And early on, the show seems relatively free from jokes relying on sexual innuendo, the kind that have sullied many an otherwise decent comedy.

But for all the good in The Grinder, there are some elements that grind this show's gears a bit. As mentioned, Stewart's kids can be headstrong and disrespectful. Lizzie will lie and go behind her parents' back if given a chance. And Ethan, in his quest for popularity and relevance, will sometimes make bad decisions. And Dean—well-meaning as he is—sometimes makes things worse.

Characters utter mild profanities. And while innuendo is not pervasive, I expect the show will dabble in sexuality at times. Dean was not averse to sleeping with fictional characters on his old show, and I suspect—given his bachelor status—some sort of romance will bloom down the road.

But with those caveats in mind, The Grinder is still a mostly pleasant PG surprise.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

The Grinder - September, 29 2015 - "Pilot"



Readability Age Range



Rob Lowe as Dean Sanderson; Fred Savage as Stewart Sanderson; Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Debbie Sanderson; Hana Hayes as Lizzie Sanderson; Connor Kalopsis as Ethan Sanderson; William Devane as Dean Sanderson Sr.






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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