Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Saving Grace

Last night was the series finale of Saving Grace, Nancy Miller's cop-with-an-angel show.

The series starred Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko, (playing against type) a bad-ass, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, sexually promiscuous Oklahoma City detective. Leon Rippy plays her hillbilly angel, Earl, in whom she doesn't want to believe but can't deny. Laura San Giacomo plays Rhetta, Grace's BFF from childhood who is the PD's chief CSI.

Most of the rest of supporting cast are quirky and on-target, and most of them named after towns in Oklahoma, where the series creator Miller grew up.

The series was passing strange, odd-ball, slightly off, but almost never on-the-nose, which I loved. ("On-the-nose" meaning that a show is entirely predictable.) Grace was good at heart, a long-lapsed Catholic, and her hard-livin' started her out drunk, whereupon she ran down and killed a pedestrian. When Grace called on God for help, Earl showed up and allowed that Grace was headed for hell, she didn't change her wicked ways and turn herself over to God.

The show's three seasons are all about Grace resisting the call.

Produced by Fox and on basic cable -- TNT -- the show got very convoluted, and at the end of the second season, with apparently six episodes of the third season in the can, Fox cancelled it. It had good ratings, but it wasn't making enough on DVD sales and foreign rights, and was spendy, so they allowed the writers to add a final three episodes to wrap it up.

Lest anybody here forget, Hollywood isn't about quality, it is all about the bottom line.

The show was about redemption, with a vein of good versus evil running through it. Characters died, and in ways both expected and unexpected. You'd see it coming, but you didn't believe it when it happened. It was violent, shading into R for nudity and language, and a showcase for Hunter to chew some excellent scenery.

A few years ago, HBO did an adult western series, Deadwood, with Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane, which was the grittiest and most-swear-words-per-minute show ever aired. I loved that, too. I put Saving Grace in that same category of riveting, gonna-be-a-trainwreck, can't-look-away TV, of which there is not nearly enough. (Olyphant now plays a toned-down modern version of that sheriff in Justified, one of my current guilty pleasures, on the FX network.)

Since you might get around to watching the DVDs or streaming the series, I won't give away the Grace ending. It went pretty much where I thought it was going to go. It felt a little rushed, and there was one way-too-hokey moment at the end I wish they hadn't put in, but otherwise, it ended the arc as I would have done, had it been me writing it.

AdiĆ³s, Grace ...


Geri Jeter said...

I always know that if I really like a show, it probably won't make it to the magical fifth year. There have been some exceptions (like Buffy and Bab5), but they struggled -- and it could have been a lapse in taste on my part. :-)

Dan Moran said...

Thanks for not blowing the ending. I haven't seen it yet.

Unsurprisingly at this point, you're nailing the shows I've bothered to watch over the last few years here -- Deadwood, Justified (though I'm only watching Saving Grace because you said to, so that one's not a coincidence.)

I just love Justified, though. Reminded me a lot of Saving Grace in that "approaches greatness" way, without quite getting there --

Though that one line in the last episode of Justified -- "Arlo, I think I've always known" -- qualifies as a great moment, anyway.

jks9199 said...

I had issues with the ending -- and I think you just explained 'em. Rushed. Lots to squeeze in, not enough time/space to get it done in.

But, I agree. The overall ending plot fit.

It's one of the few shows I'm actually gonna miss... and that didn't stretch one or two (or more!) too many seasons out.

Nancy Holder said...

Yer talking about the article, right?

I wrote two SAVING GRACE novels. Steve helped me with the gun stuff. I need to send you a copy, plz email me your street addy again. Thanks, hoss.

Steve Perry said...

Nan --

No spoiler to say it was the salutes that bugged the hell out of me. Completely forced and inappropriate for the characters. A slow pan of the faces would have done it ever so much better.

Nancy Holder said...

Steve, I could take the salutes. They did that kinda stuff at the other funerals, etc. What bugged me was the necklace. But that's just me.

Dan Moran said...

Saw the ending last night. Yeah, it felt rushed. I was more irritated by it than uplifted by it -- not a disaster on the order of Lost, but not what I was hoping for, either. (Though almost exactly what I was expecting.)

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, the first half with all that great Mexico stuff was fine, but the last twenty minutes I looked at the clock and thought, "No way they have time to wrap this up."

They did and they didn't, and like Butch and Sundance, the ending was laid in well back, but it needed another forty-five minutes to do it even half-assed justice.

And I hated the salutes.