Rake is not a reality show about folks tidying their autumnal yards. Nor is the word followed by the phrase "across the coals." And no one is actually named Rake in this hour-long Fox dramedy.
But rarely has a title been more descriptive.
Keegan Deane is as rakish a fellow as you'll find this side of The Bachelor. The guy's a womanizing, gambling, unreliable, narcissistic lout—an L.A. defense attorney who gives credence to every lawyer joke you've ever heard. Oh, sure, the guy can be kinda lovable, like one of those polar bears in the Coke commercials. But of course there's a reason those bears are animated: fill a real bear with alcohol, then send him off to make closing arguments and see how well he does.
It's a testament to Keegan's raw charisma that several people still put up with him. Old friends Ben and Scarlet Leon let the lawyer sleep in their house—never mind that Assistant DA Scarlet often battles with Kee in the courtroom, or that Kee often wakes up drunk in front of the kids, or that occasionally he sneaks in a woman to have sex with on the family couch. Kee's assistant, Leanne, hasn't been paid since flip-phones were all the rage, but she sticks around anyway. His steady paramour seems to miss Kee when he's gone—never mind that he pays her $500 for her hourly services. Even his psychologist ex-wife, Maddy, still finds time to give him some off-the-clock (and much needed) professional advice.
Not that he takes it. If he did, they'd have to change the name of the show.
And that points to one of the program's core problems—deeper than the sexual content (which is both vivid and frequent) and the foul language (which is pervasive). The show's ethos, like Keegan himself, is kinda slimy.
The creators of most television programs predicated on the ever-popular antihero want to trigger tension in the viewer. We're not supposed to fully embrace Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) or Don Draper (Mad Men). We're supposed to be appalled by what they do sometimes, even as we're also encouraged to sympathize with them. Are they good? Bad? We hope the former, fear the latter. And when an antihero slips too far to the dark side—Walter White of Breaking Bad, for instance—audiences know he'll have to pay, even as they root for the most miniscule of redemptions.
With Kee, there's no such ethical tension: We know the guy's no good. And we know he's never gonna get sainted. Yet we're asked to like the cad anyway.
Granted, it's early. If Fox gives Rake (based on an Australian series) a few seasons, Kee will surely change and grow a little. He'd almost have to. Television audiences may not be as discriminating as we'd like them to be, but it'd take a special sort of viewer to deal with Kee's self-obsessive immaturity for weeks on end. We don't share a history with Kee, as Maddy or the Leons do. He's not paying us for our time. Fox will surely show that Kee has a better heart than he'll let on. Network types like good ratings. And they won't want to make it so easy to walk away from this relationship.
That'll make it harder for some families to get a handle on this Rake.
Kee owes a bookie $59,000. With a heavy named Roy breathing down his neck, Kee schemes—gambling some more and trying to exploit his current serial killer case—to try to come up with the cash.
Roy throws Kee against bathroom walls, cutting and bruising his face and drawing blood. Kee and his son get into a car accident. We hear talk about the case's various murders. Kee engages in heavy petting with his $500/hour prostitute, stripping off her shirt and kissing frantically. His ex-wife straddles him and begins unbuttoning his shirt, sensually telling him about an erotic dream—all a ploy to show him how narcissistic he is. Kee also sneaks a woman into the Leons' house for sex. Glasses and bottles of booze are shown. Indeed, Kee is rarely without a drink and the Leon kids lambast him for being drunk and hung over. Kee's son asks him to lie for him. We hear "h‑‑‑" (eight or so times), "b‑‑ch" (twice), "jacka‑‑," "p‑‑‑ed," and "b‑‑tard" (at least once each). God's name is misused a half-dozen times.