I had high hopes for “Saving Grace,” the new series starring Holly Hunter that debuted on the AMC channel yesterday. I also had high hopes for “Mad Men,” which began last week.
I’m disappointed with both, but it’s Holly’s that’s the biggest folly. Right out of the gate it’s title should’ve been a big old red flag, what with it being taken from the name of the boozin’, fornicatin’ narsicistin’, Porschin’ Oklahoma City detective she plays.
To be fair, I didn’t fly in blind. I knew the premise and was all set to enjoy this rough and ready “Touched By An Angel” meets “Highway To Heaven,” primarily because Hunter who I’ve missed for far too long would be bringing her phenomenal acting chops to the small screen. And sure enough, in the preview commercial when she’s giving CPR to the man she’s just drunkenly decorated all over her Carrara and the road behind her and she stops mid-heart massage and haltingly says “Dear God, please help me” I got chills and thought to myself this is gonna be good. And then when scraggly guardian angel Earl shows up spitting tobacco juice into a plastic soda bottle and asking her “Whatcha need?” I was all: homerun!
Guess you could say I got…
Jeez, sorry. Couldn’t resist the… temptation. I’ll stop now, have faith. Quit it!
Anyway, Hunter is great as the not-quite-ready-to-be-saved Grace. And they certainly offset any holierthanthou-itude with the occasional swear word and sex scene. And honestly my problem isn’t with its religious overtones, no matter how ham-handed they’re handled.
It’s the cliches, gahdamma! The show was lousy with them.
â€¢ She’s having an affair with her partner, who’s married.
â€¢ Earl yanks Grace to the edge of the Grand Canyon for a little purgatorial pow-wow that ends with her getting wrapped up in the power and the glory of Earl’s wings after waking up from it and thinking it’s a dream she finds red Arizona dirt in her boots. Whoa! Guess it musta happened Grace!
â€¢ She has a token brother who’s a token catholic priest.
â€¢ Same thing with her next meeting with Earl in the backyard of her house. Right after she’s stepped in dog crap he shows up for a little Q&A and when we next find her she’s awakening inside the house and repulsed because her shit-kicker is still shit covered. Whoa! Guess this Earl’s for realz Grace! Either that or you drunkenly passed out in bed with your boots on.
â€¢There’s a cow with a pattern on its flank that resembles Jesus Christ. What does Hunter’s forensics pal (played by Laura San Giacomo) say in response to seeing it? “Holy cow!” Though in fairness the way she delivers the line is nice and chuckle-worthy.
â€¢ And then there’s the weak comic-relief B-story that could’ve been left out entirely. On a stakeout at a cattle auction Grace is hit on by an ass-grabby trucker-hatted geezer who sexually harasses her verbally and physically. Eventually she breaks off the engagement with a right to his jaw and down he goes out cold. If that’s not bad enough, the guy then turns out to be the richest cattleman in Oklahoma and as a result of his complaining to her superiors, her captain without so much as even asking her what happened pulls her off a missing child case growing colder by the minute and won’t put her back on it until she physically goes to the asshole’s ranch and personally apologizes for being a woman in a man’s world or for not being entirely tolerant to his unwanted sexual advances.
What is this, the ’50s?
But wait, it gets better. Itchin’ to get back on the kidnap case the mono-dimensional writers make Grace suck up her pride and go to the dude like a good little girl and say she’s sorry. Does she at least say she’s sorry for not hitting him sooner or for not arresting him afterward or for having to put up with such a sorry excuse for a man? Does she thank him for getting her removed from an ongoing investigation in which the life of a little girl might have been lost as a result and if that proves to be the case he’d better hope not or get the fuck out of town and quick because she’ll be coming back bringing fists and guns and a murderous rage with her?
Nah. She just bites the bullet and shakes hands at which point why should the writers quit now: the cattle baron pulls her in close and demands that if she wants her job back she’s gonna have to do more than that and then he puts a paw on her chest, tells her to pucker up and plants a kiss on her decidedly unpuckered face. After respectfully but directly requesting he remove his hand from her breast, he asks “Or what? You gonna sucker punch me again?” Of course she does.
I’m supposed to be entertained and engaged and compelled by crap like that? Hell no.