Fox Hopes ‘Rake’ Is Their New ‘House,’ Greg Kinnear Is Hugh Laurie

Rake-Fox

Kinnear plays a brilliant professional and devilishly charming man who cannot keep his personal life in order — sound familiar?

Fox’s “Rake” is a legal drama, but the showrunners want you to know it’s not like all those other legal dramas.

For starters, it’s kind of a comedy, actually — or it lives in the oft-frustrating-to-explain middle ground that falls under both genres. Heard of that before too? Well this one is already a hit — just not in America.

“Rake” was created by Peter Duncan, originally airing in his home-country of Australia. On this side of the Pacific Ocean, the former attorney-turned-TV-man has no idea how viewers will receive his series, which stars Greg Kinnear.

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The American version, which premieres on Fox on Thursday night, will not “slavishly follow” the original version, Duncan told TheWrap. The differences include casting (“Part of the journey for me is to release myself from Richard [Roxburgh] in the [lead] role”), profanity (thrown around loosely on Australian TV), and cultural humor differences. “I think Australians are more blunt,” Duncan said.

Plus, there is the business side. In Australia, the creative aspect takes precedent. In Hollywood, it’s the business part that counts, he opined.

Business-wise, Fox will be very satisfied if “Rake” becomes its new “House” — which is a lofty expectation, but a somewhat-unstated goal of the project, executive producer Michael Wimer told TheWrap.

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The Hugh Laurie hospital show was not brought up specifically in the selling of “Rake,” but Fox chief Kevin Reilly was clearly looking for that type of a character, Wimer said. “‘House’ is not necessarily a prototype,” Wimer said, rather as an example tonally.

More specifically, Dr. House was the “most reprehensible character on network TV” in Wimer’s eyes — but he was also beloved by the characters around him, and more importantly, the fans. Now that’s Kinnear’s challenge.

Keegan Deane (Kinnear) is a brilliant attorney who can’t get any other aspects of his life on the right track. He’s a gambling addict, an alcoholic, a womanizer — an “otherwise irredeemable character,” as Wimer put it. So the charm factor is a paramount quality. “If we had an actor that was any less likable than Greg, it would make our battle as storytellers quite difficult,” Wimer said.

Also read: Fox Bypassing Pilot Season, Says It’s a Relic

As for Kinnear, he says he’s not really aware of or concerned with playing such a “Greg Kinnear” role, which appears to rely on natural charisma and likability as much as acting chops. “I felt like in terms of my interest in this particular role that it would be fun to play, something that could evolve and something that could be a good starting point on an onward journey,” Kinnear told TheWrap. “I wanted to do it because of what I saw on the page.”

“Rake” is produced by Fedora Entertainment and Essential Media & Entertainment Pty Ltd., in association with Sony Pictures Television. The series is created and written by Duncan. The series is executive-produced by Duncan, Peter Tolan (“Rescue Me”), Wimer (“2012″), Roxburgh and Ian Collie (both of the Australian “Rake”). Kinnear, Sara Goodman and George W. Perkins are co-executive producers. Sam Raimi (the “Spider-Man” franchise) directed and served as an executive producer on the pilot.

Rake premieres Thursday Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. on Fox.