The Grinder - Rob Lowe and Fred Savage ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Company, photo by Brian Bowen Smith

Fox’s new comedy The Grinder stars Rob Lowe (The West Wing, Parks and Recreation) as Dean Sanderson, Jr who has spent eight seasons playing the title role on the hit legal drama The Grinder. When his series comes to an end, he decides to return home to Boise, Idaho, where his brother, Stewart (Fred Savage, The Wonder Years, Austin Powers: Goldmember) is about to take over his family’s law firm.

Despite having no law degree, and no experience in an actual courtroom, Dean is positive he can contribute to their firm, and starts inserting himself in the law firm’s cases.

Rob Lowe and Fred Savage came to the TV Critics tour to discuss their new series.

The Grinder 101 “Pilot” – Guest star Tonita Castro, guest star Juan Carlos Cantu, guest star Steve Little, Rob Lowe and Fred Savage ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Ray Mickshaw

What attracted you to this material?

Rob: When I read this script, I had no sense of what it was going to be. My agents hadn’t given me any background, so I didn’t know what to expect.

The thing that I really responded to was in an era where we all want things to be less and less derivative, this was not derivative.

This was a tone I hadn’t seen before. It was challenging on the one hand and really accessible on the other.

The Grinder 102 “Heroes Reborn” – Fred Savage and Rob Lowe ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Ray Mickshaw

How would you describe the series?

Rob: It’s a sibling rivalry show. It’s a story of a father (played by William Devane, 24) who, for whatever reason, has one son who can do no wrong, no matter how ridiculous he is. And the other son has to struggle for attention.

In themes like that, that all families have, that’s 80 percent of the storytelling as we move forward. And the sort of grinder of it all, the Hollywood of it all is just a really original spice that you haven’t ever seen in a family show.

Fred: If Hollywood ever does become a part of it, it’s an outsider’s view of Hollywood. How we living in Boise, view Hollywood. So it will be how people outside of show business view show business.

Rob: The old sensibility that America might find things about Hollywood too inside to me feels so pre-digital age. My family lives in Dayton, Ohio, and I go back there all the time.

I’ll be at the Stop and Go getting a Slurpee, and somebody will come up to me and go, ‘Boy, that per-screen average on the second Twilight franchise was really down.’ I’ve got a news flash, America understands show business! (he laughs)

The Grinder 102 “Little Michard No More” – Rob Lowe, Fred Savage and Mary Elizabeth Ellis ©2015 Fox Broadcasting

Do you feel like you could fake being a lawyer, and could get up there and represent somebody?

Rob: Like all the TV A Few Good Men lawyer movies? Totally. Yeah, for sure.

Fred: I think that to Rob’s point about the A Few Good Men (with its) big speeches, what we’re trying to say in the pilot, and what we’re going to be trying to say to Rob’s (character) in the beginning of the show, is that that’s not what the legal business is at all, or at least our firm.

He’s all about the show. In the pilot I end up in trial, which I didn’t want to be in trial, and it’s probably not something I do very often.

So I was definitely out of my element. And that was definitely an arena where Rob’s character shined, where the spotlight was on him, he was making big speeches, and that was not my comfort zone at all.

So I think that we’re both going to be pushing each other out of our comfort zones a little bit. He’s definitely going to be dragging me out of mine.

The Grinder – Fred Savage, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Connor Kalopsis, Rob Lowe, Hana Hayes, William Devane and Natalie Morales ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Company. photo by Brian Bowen Smith

The Grinder Soundbyte

Both Rob and Fred were child actors, with Rob having some bumpy years and Fred avoiding the pitfalls of the business. A journalist asked them if they ever discussed their pasts in the bonding process to play brothers. Click here to listen to Fred and Rob joke about their relationship.
Rob Lowe and Fred Savage on pasts in the bonding process

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.