Third-episode verdict: Graceland (USA)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, USA Network

Three episodes into Graceland and things are looking up. A bit, anyway. Based on a true story, Graceland is about a bunch of undercover agents from the FBI, DEA et al, who all live together in a seized beach house in LA.

The show was created by White Collar‘s Jeff Eastin, who actually wrote the pilot script before White Collar but figured it was too dark for USA and went with White Collar instead.And the first episode looked like it was written by someone a long time ago. A carbon copy of Point Break, with more homoerotic bro-bonding tension than Patrick Swayze could have shaken his shaggy blond mane of hair at, it offered nothing that you couldn’t have seen done better elsewhere and excluded the few female characters from the action as much as was humanly possible.

Things didn’t look much better in episode two, also written by Eastin, which once again saw more masculine posturing, with women there to be ogled at or to merely stand on the sidelines. As I mentioned during my first episode review, if you’ve ever lied about anything, you’ll not have found anything revelatory about the episode’s insights into life as an undercover agent and how to maintain a cover; quite why anyone believes that these guys are anything except law-enforcement officers is unfathomable – even Sonny Burnett was more likely as a criminal in Miami Vice than newbie Mike, who tries to pull off being a marine in this episode and fails abysmally.

The episode also saw the introduction of Serinda Swan as an additional ‘house mate’, although she’s not had much to do beyond wear a bikini top and sing karaoke. Indeed, while there was a promising point where there as many as three female agents in the house to four men, albeit female agents who spend all their time nurturing the men or their informants, episode three (no spoilers, given the series cast list and publicity shots) saw one of the female agents ejected from the house for incompetence and letting her emotions get the better of her, giving us a 2:1 sausage-fest ratio (a potential girlfriend for the clean-cut hero doesn’t really count. Not yet anyway).

Nevertheless, the third episode was a marked improvement over the previous two. Written by co-producer Stephen Godchaux, who also worked on Spin City and Dead Like Me, and directed by Renny Harlin no less, that saw some welcome darkness and twisty-turniness, with everyone lying and double-crossing one another. The difficulty of maintaining a relationship when undercover was also emphasised, and for once, there were some clever tricks and bits of sneakiness.

As a whole, it’s clear at least that Jeff Eastin probably isn’t the best writer of the scenario he’s created but there are possibilities to it. It’s all a bit ‘dark’ rather than actually dark, escapist rather than insightful; despite being based on a real story, it’s not desperately plausible, although Daniel Sunjata does his hardest and achieves it when the scripts let him; it’s also a major bro-fest, which is a pretty tedious thing to witness.

Yet, when out of Eastin’s lightweight hands, Graceland has the potential to be a decent cop show, albeit a summer cop show. With a bit of tinkering here and there, it could even be pretty good. I’ll keep watching to see if they manage it.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will probably get at least one more season, maybe more