Monday, June 1, 2015

Saving Grace: A Review of the TV Series

This image beautifully captures the character of Detective Grace Hanadarko

  Holly Hunter has never been on my radar before I saw her in the role of detective Grace Hanadarko in the series, "Saving Grace".  
          The cop show genre is tired. There are so many redundant procedurals about catching bad guys.  Do we need another one?  "Saving Grace" is distinctive because its premise is hewn out of a metaphysical absurdity.  It takes this crazy premise and carries it with gusto through three seasons.  That's an achievement worth noting.
            The premise, (we can even call it a gimmick) is simple enough.  Detective Hanadarko is driving drunk, speeding in her unwashed Porsche 911 down a dark deserted street when she hits and kills a man who has appeared as if from nowhere.
            She leans over the body and wails, "Oh God, Oh God, what have I done?  Please help me!"
            Suddenly the man is gone, there's no blood on the concrete, no damage to her car.  It's as if it never happened.
            Grace has experienced an intervention.  The agent of this intervention is an Angel, literally an Angel, with retractable wings, shaggy grey hair and a weathered face that is full of kindness.  His name is Earl and his function is to serve as a "Last Chance Angel".  Does Grace believe this?  Of course not.  Earl whisks her to a promontory at the Grand Canyon, performs a few other casual miracles and returns her to the site of the accident. 
            Saving Grace is set in Oklahoma City.  We are never allowed to forget that the bombing of The Murrah Building is for Oklahomans an equivalent to 9/11 for most other Americans.  Everyone in the The Violent Crimes Unit  lost a loved one or a friend in that heinous crime and it is still very much alive in  Oklahoma culture.  
          The Violent Crimes Unit is filled with unruly cops, all of whom are either having sex with Grace, will have sex with Grace, or want to have sex with Grace.  For Hunter this is a great role, a vehicle for her acting chops and she inhabits the character effortlessly and with total conviction. She has  a distinctive way of speaking, as if she is whistling through the side of her mouth.  I don't think this is an affectation.  It may be more of a symptom, but that's none of my business.  It doesn't harm Hunter's effectiveness.
            Hunter is a tiny person.  She is like a petite thoroughbred race horse, every muscle rippling with purpose.  She moves with sexy arrogance, tossing her mane of hair with a trademark twitch, striding through the world in her hippie clothes and cowboy boots.  As Grace she is a very naughty girl, a sex addict, an alcoholic, a disturber-of-shit.  It's amazing that she hasn't been fired but she's always teetering on the brink of disaster with Internal Affairs.  Her raunchy provocation keeps the cops in her unit in a pheromone ferment.  She's having an affair with her partner/cop.  This is flirting with personal and professional suicide.  Cop/Partner/Boyfriend is jealous of every other cop who might have been or will be involved with Grace, hence the constant outbreak of boyish fistfights in the squad's office.  Fortunately for Grace, the unit is commanded by a loyal friend, Captain Kate Perry, played with assurance by Lorraine Toussaint.
            The series begins with an adequate episode. It works well enough to keep me around to see more.  It gains momentum and the characters emerge in ways that are appealing.   The Violent Crimes Unit is a family.  It behaves dysfunctionally but one thing can be said: these are not corrupt cops.  They may be drunk, jealous, their personal lives in chaos, but these cops aren't dirty.  They are very good at their jobs. In spite of their screwy milieu, they solve crimes.
            Leon Rippy, playing Earl, The Last Chance Angel, is a pillar in the structure of the story arc.  He pushes no religious agenda, he's strictly non-denominational. 
            It's easy to see that the cast and crew of "Saving Grace" had a wonderful time working on the project.  When such chemistry evolves in a film or TV series, it's palpable and it makes the viewing that much more rewarding.  I enjoyed "Saving Grace" for its sense of family, for the obvious devotion that the characters had for one another, for Earl's angelic mischief.  There's a lot of good stuff here. 

          I give it four muskrats.  It's really a three and a half muskrat series but I'll throw in another half because there's so much worthless crap around.  And there's Laura SanGiacomo. She plays the most adorable forensic coroner working in the TV/Cop world.
Leon Rippy as Earl, The Last Chance Angel

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