‘Unstable’: Rob Lowe’s tech workplace comedy has a promising startup

Breezy Netflix show pairs the engaging, agelessly handsome actor with his son.

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On “Unstable,” Rob Lowe (left) is joined by his real-life son, John Owen Lowe, as well as co-star Aaron Branch.


Paul Rudd is the go-to guy when we talk about actors of a certain age who never seem to actually age — but what about Rob Lowe, who is somehow 59 years old and is still so annoyingly, er, I mean impressively youthful? As Jim Belushi’s Bernie famously said to Lowe’s Danny in “About Last Night…” in 1986, “You know what your problem is? Your face. Wise up, man, you’re TOO good-looking.”

Still true to this day, man! To be sure, Lowe was known mostly for pretty-boy roles early in his career, but he’s also a grind-it-out, team-player, working actor who has wisely taken supporting roles in acclaimed series from “The West Wing” to “Parks and Recreation,” and he has played against type as the foil in films such as “Wayne’s World” and “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

In the new Netflix comedy series “Unstable,” Lowe is perfectly cast and delivers some of his finest work as the eccentric-but-not-quite-crazy biotech billionaire genius Ellis Dragon (he’s sort of a cuddly, apolitical version of Elon Musk, so I guess he’s really not like Musk at all). Lowe’s son John Owen Lowe is also perfectly cast (and quite good), given he’s playing Ellis’ prodigal son Jackson, who returns home to California from New York City to live and work with his father, as they both process their grief following the death of Ellis’ wife/Jackson’s mother.



An eight-episode series available Thursday on Netflix.

Executive produced by the Lowes and Victor Fresco (“Santa Clarita Diet”), “Unstable” is comfortable, chuckle-inducing, occasionally touching, light-snack viewing, with each episode running between 20 to 26 minutes. Even though Ellis runs a large, forward-thinking company with presumably hundreds upon hundreds of employees, “Unstable” takes the form of the classic workplace comedy, in that a half-dozen or so main characters are constantly crossing paths while the background players stay in the background — and of course, we get some terrific guest star pop-ins.

Fred Armisen is his usual wonderful self as Leslie, who is Ellis’ therapist but is needier than even Ellis, and Alison Becker, who played the reporter Shauna Malwae-Tweep (who briefly dated Lowe’s Chris Traeger) on “Parks & Rec,” pops in as … a reporter who profiles Ellis for Time magazine and starts the interview by saying, “So, I heard you went crazy when your wife died, tell me about that.”

As for the main cast: In addition to the Lowes, who have a terrific, tense but loving dynamic as the effusive Ellis and the socially awkward Jackson, the standouts include Sian Clifford (“Fleabag”) as Anna, the hilariously rigid CFO of the company; Aaron Branch as Jackson’s boyhood best friend Malcolm, who is a project manager and worships Ellis, and Rachel Marsh and Emma Ferreira as Luna and Ruby, respectively, who are biotech geniuses and BFFs. The latter two actors are so good playing such endearing characters, we can already envision them having their own spinoff someday. For now, though, they’re key players in a relatively breezy series that doesn’t try to reinvent the comedy mold and is content to deliver consistent laughs in a traditional and time-tested format.

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“I feel like I [have his support] but I don’t really focus on that,” Grifol said. “I’m the manager right now. And I’ll do it for as long as they want me to do this.”
Albert Ruddy produced more than 30 movies, from the “Godfather” and “Million Dollar Baby” to “Cannonball Run II” and “Megaforce,” nominees for Golden Raspberry awards for worst movie of the year.