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Idol Chatter

I’ve been catching up recently with “Saving Grace,” Holly Hunter’s vehicle on TNT, in which she plays an Oklahoma City police detective who, “Joan of Arcadia”-like, gets regular visits from a messenger of God. Her communication with the Higher Power is about all Hunter’s character has in common with that earlier show’s sweet, small-town teen. Grace Hanadarko (the character’s first name is so overdetermined that we’re bound to plumb the significance of that last name before the show runs its course) is dealing with a serious alcohol problem, smokes, drives too fast, and is sleeping with a married man.
What’s intriguing about the show is that, once she becomes convinced that her guardian angel is no dream or bad practical joke, she doesn’t immediately clean up her act. She’s too weak, and strong willed, to change her ways just because she has physical proof (including, charmingly, crime-lab analysis on the sand from holy ground) that there is a God. This is, after all, how many of the believers I know act, and it makes the show compelling, even if some of the theology gets mushy and the angel effects a little corny.
Hunter, also, can flat-out act, and it’s almost frightening to watch this self-destructive, willful lawwoman chase the baddies and compensate for a rough upbringing in a large Catholic family. Hunter isn’t the first film star to take up with TV, or even the most accomplished–Glenn Close and Alec Baldwin have both appeared on the small screen this past season–but none of her big-screen colleagues have chosen as risky a role as Grace. The more daunting risk for such a big-name actress was making religion such a large element in her own show (Hunter produces as well as stars).
Here on Idol Chatter, I’ll be following her episodes as we get toward Christmas to see if Hunter can keep the grit and realism as the sappy season comes our way.

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