Review: Saving Grace 1×1

Saving Grace

In the US: Mondays, TNT, 10/9c

In the UK: Not yet acquired

I watch a lot of old tatt for you guys. I really do. Normally, I manage to sit through it all. Sometimes I can make it as far as five episodes into a piece of old rubbish before decreeing its awfulness, just to save you all from having to do the same.

The last time I couldn’t make it through an entire episode of something was Angela’s Eyes, almost exactly a year ago. I lasted less than a minute with that one.

I lasted 16 minutes of Saving Grace before I decided enough was enough and I couldn’t take any more. What was wrong with it?

It was offensive. It was really, really offensive.

Plot (handed down on stone tablets from the TNT web site)

Academy Award®-winning actress Holly Hunter (The Piano) takes on the role of a cynical police detective facing a personal crisis of divine proportions in the provocative new drama series SAVING GRACE, premiering this July on TNT.

In her television series debut, Hunter stars as Grace Hanadarko, a tormented, fast-living Oklahoma City police detective who, despite being at the top of her field, takes self-destruction to new heights. After seeing tremendous tragedy in her life, both professionally and personally, Grace lives life hard and fast. She drinks too much, sleeps with the wrong men and defies authority. Grace has a tender side with her 22 nieces and nephews, but that is a side that most of the world doesn’t get to see. It all catches up with her one night when, as she’s driving too fast after too many drinks, she hits a man who is walking along the road. In an uncharacteristic moment, Grace asks for help, and she gets it – in the form an unconventional angel named Earl (Leon Rippy, Deadwood). Earl tells Grace that she is in trouble and running out of chances, but he wants to help lead her back to the right path. The journey, for both of them, will not be an easy one.

Creator Nancy Miller says of Hunter, “Holly can break your heart and make you laugh in the same moment. She’s astonishing. Grace is a complex character, deeply troubled but searching for the good, with a heart full of love and pain, and a surprising tenderness when you least expect it.”

In addition to Rippy, the cast also includes Kenneth Johnson (The Shield) as Grace’s partner; Gregory Norman Cruz (Criminal Minds) as detective Bobby Stillwater; Bailey Chase (Las Vegas) as detective Butch Ada; Bokeem Woodbine (The Big Hit) as a death row inmate who figures into Grace’s struggle and Laura San Giacomo (Just Shoot Me) as the criminalist who, despite having strong religious beliefs, is the only one in Grace’s life who does not judge her.

Is it any good?

Let’s start from the outset with a few notes.

  1. I’m an atheist. Sorry, but I am. I’m unconvinced by any religion. It’s not for want of exposure: I went to Christian schools from the age of four. But I no more believe in God, god, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Ganesh, et al, than I do in chocolate teapots orbiting Mars. When the evidence comes in for any of it, I might reconsider.
  2. I’m not closed minded on the subject. It’s entirely possible that Jesus has visited all Christians everywhere personally, shoved a load of evidence in their faces and explained everything to them (don’t say ‘What? Like the Bible?’ Just don’t). He simply hasn’t reached me yet. So I’m not going to accuse anyone of being wrong/stupid/whatever.
  3. I don’t hate Christian TV per se. I used to watch Highway to Heaven religiously (ho, ho) and I managed to sit through a couple of episodes of Touched by Angel without much difficulty (some would call me a saint for that).
  4. I don’t think of myself as a bad person. Maybe I’m deluding myself – I have had Christian friends tell me that because I don’t believe in God, my life must be empty of love and my soul will go to Hell when I die (thanks guys). But I don’t hurt people and I don’t do anything criminal that I’m aware of. I give money to charity, a proportion of my working life is dedicated to helping nurses care for their patients and I try to be nice wherever possible. I even try to give balanced reviews of really bad TV shows.

But Saving Grace is having none of that. As an atheist, apparently I must be an adulterous, chain-smoking, drug-taking, drink-driving, law-breaking, evil bigot who takes every possible opportunity to knock Christians for their beliefs.

Maybe I’m just being over-sensitive here (I probably am), but it just riled me. She couldn’t be a lapsed Christian, couldn’t be a Christian who had lost her way and had started to gather sticks on the Sabbath or something*. No, she had to be an atheist – the only one in the show. Bah!

The God-angle aside, it’s not a great show, by the looks of its first 16 minutes. Holly Hunter is one of those “ballsy” female cops – naturally, the only one who spends all her time punching sexual harassers, as you do. She has one of those police captains who are there purely for her to argue with and who force her to apologise to the men who sexually harass her. There’s some God-awful dialogue and it’s impossible to take Hunter seriously since Sarah Paulson’s impression of her on Studio 60. although there’s nothing really wrong with her performance (although she can’t really play drunk very well).

So my general advice is to steer clear of it for all sorts of reasons. Maybe it’ll be your cup of tea though. It really just wasn’t mine, so you’ll have to try it for yourself to be sure.

Here’s a YouTube trailer, although it’s not very good. You’ll notice that God stops her cell phone from working when she wants to call for an ambulance to save a man’s life. Bad God – or at least bad scriptwriting. Tsk, tsk.

PS “Laura San Giacomo (Just Shoot Me) as the criminalist who, despite having strong religious beliefs, is the only one in Grace’s life who does not judge her.” How’s that? Because she has strong religious beliefs, she’s the one expected to judge Grace? What about “Judge not, that ye be not judged”? Something odd there, even on the show’s own terms. It’s probably the God-less marketing department’s fault though. Although they seem to regard defying authority as a sin, as well.

* Oops. Punishment for gathering sticks on the Sabbath: death by stoning. Maybe something less terrible than that then


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.