The Grinder: (S01E19) “A System on Trial”


The Grinder opens as always with clips of Dean Sanderson as The Grinder on his TV show. Only this time it is taking place in 2008 when the show must have just been starting. They have brought in people off the street to form a focus group to give feedback on The Grinder. Dean asks for feedback on the actor who plays the Grinder. Everyone thinks the actor who plays the Grinder is hot.

Back to real life today back in Idaho. The Sandersons and other staff members are in the office preparing their dad for his trial. Later at home Dean is saying they need a focus group to get feedback for how to handle his dad’s case. So, the next day Dean & Todd go to the mall to look for focus group members. Dean is going incognito in a hat and sunglasses. Later at home with the family Dean says he has had a focus group for every important decision in his life. He tells his brother he found people for the focus group.

The next day at the office Dean tells the focus group there is no wrong thoughts. They say his dad seems angry. They say Stewart seemed a little weak. One says Stewart has no charisma. Another says he wasn’t believable as a lawyer. Another says they want to see more of the woman. That must be Claire.

Later that night at home, Dean shares feedback from the focus group that believes the “whitehaired guy is hiding something.” The whitehaired guy is of course the dad, Dean Sanderson, Sr.

Lizzie and Ethan have gotten feedback from their own focus groups. Lizzie is upset by her results. It says she is forgettable and invisible. Ethan is OK with his. The next day Lizzie shows up with black hair and no one at school notices while the family tells her she looks great.

Debbie and Stewart have great discussions as always.

At the office Dean and Stewart tell their father that the focus group says that he has anger issues and is hiding something. Dean Sr. asks if they are going to believe those mall people. Dean says the focus group is never wrong. Dean Sr. gets angry because his sons believe strangers over him. Then Dean flips and seems to believe his dad over the focus group and is devastated because he thought the people were never wrong.

Stewart tries to cheer Dean up about the focus groups. He says maybe there is a middle ground between them being always right or always wrong. Or they can take some of what they say but not everything they say.

What is funny is that Stewart takes some of the focus group comments about himself to heart and by the end of the episode, his performance has become noticeably stronger.

Lizzie is happy because a boy likes her now that she changed her hair. Dean says no, don’t talk to that boy. She says he likes me. Dean says no, it’s a fluke. Ethan then questions about all his focus group cards that came back positive. Dean says maybe they don’t mean anything.

The next morning at the office Stewart is prepping Dean Sr. for trial and he admits to hiding something. He says he took a deal. Dean comes in and sees that the focus group is still there. He tries to tell Stewart they can’t rely on them. Stewart says they were right, Dean Sr. was hiding something. Dean then says he knew the people were right. Dean is hilarious in his convictions. He holds them so strongly even as he flips from one way of thinking to another.

Dean is just happy that the cards from the focus group still tell the truth. Stewart says “But our dad is a liar.” Dean doesn’t care. He is more interested in the fact that the focus group was right.

That night Stewart, Lizzie and Ethan try to be a focus group for Debbie but before they can barely get any words out Debbie says no and walks away.

This week’s episode of The Grinder was perfect. Rob Lowe as always is a genius at playing serious while being hysterically funny. How does he do that? The kids, Connor Kalopsis and Hana Hayes, had a fair amount of screen time and skillfully played their roles. Fred Savage and Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Stewart and Debbie Sanderson are hilarious as a married couple when they have their discussions. I wonder if all married couples are as cool as they are. What did you think of this episode?

According to, and The Grinder’s Twitter account, next week’s episode of The Grinder is new.