A Baltimore grandmother visits heaven for an hour before being brought back to life.
Or so says Holly Hunter’s hard-as-nails character Grace Hanadarko as she basks in the heavenly glow of an angel in the pilot for TNT’s newest police-with-a-twist drama “Saving Grace.” TNT isn’t kidding in its advertisements about how the show is raw and edgy and boundary-pushing. The opening scene involves full-on sex with clever camera angles, a la NYPD Blue. Grace likes to walk around the house naked and flash her old neighbor, to his great delight. Vices abound: the characters swear, smoke, and drink like it’s candy. Grace gave up God long ago–she was abused by a Catholic priest in fourth grade and she is angry about God letting her sister die too early. Oh, and Grace is having an affair with her partner–that’s who she is having the mindblowing sex with in the first minute of the pilot–and she can’t seem to beg off the addiction.
The miracle of the show, however, is that Holly Hunter and castmembers like Laura San Giacomo–especially winning as the police department’s criminalist scientist who’s also a devout Catholic–somehow manage to pull it off with very little feeling over the top or forced.
Granted, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when Earl (yes, Earl) the angel–literally a man with big, sweeping wings–first appears and continues harrassing Grace throughout the series. He’s a tobacco-chewing (and spitting), southern-sounding, hard-talking “Last Chance” angel with a sense of playfulness and humor. But he’s all about bringing grace to Grace: his job is to make Grace believe. To turn Grace into a believer. Without faith, Grace is going to hell. Literally.
Luckily, Grace is not easily convinced no matter how high the stakes. Her curiosity is alternately peaked and diminished and her impulse is to treat Earl like a spurned suitor that won’t go away. Her best friend and co-worker Rhetta (the criminalist) adds a convincing example of real life faith and excitement about what’s happening with Grace without losing her sense of humor about it all even for a second.
I almost want to say that “Saving Grace” is “The Closer” meets “Touched By An Angel,” but that doesn’t quite do the show justice. There’s no doubt in my mind that “Saving Grace” will join “The Closer” and “Bones” in the ranks of television series that turn on the bravado of strong, smart (to the point of brilliant, at least with “Bones”), charismatic women who are their center and savior, not to mention their show’s reason for being and popularity. It warms my heart that somehow women have become the forces to reckon with in police dramas–shows that were once almost exclusively a man’s world and where women appeared almost always and only as victims.
See Beliefnet’s full “Saving Grace” features.