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A Wedding and Three TV Shows

By admin Published: July 8, 2007

Yesterday I went to the wedding of the Black Keys' Pat Carney and Denise Grollmus. You can find a few notes, as well as photos, here.

The evening was devoted to TV viewing in what turned into a tough-women marathon: Monday's new episode of "The Closer," the premiere of the new series "Damages" (starting July 24 on FX) and two episodes of the new series "Saving Grace" (July 23 on TNT, in the post-"Closer" time slot). ...

"The Closer," you should know, stars Kyra Sedgwick as L.A. homicide ace Brenda Johnson. It's a show that has been very adept at blending gritty drama with comedy -- I have found myself laughing quite a bit at the third season's episodes -- but Monday's telecast puts Brenda's comical personal life aside, to get very heavy on the drama, about a missing girl and a sex criminal suspected of having a hand in the case.

I don't want to get into too many details (except, perhaps, to urge you to be sure you're recording the whole thing -- it's an extended episode). But not only is Sedgwick good, as usual, but it's a solid showcase for Corey Reynolds (who plays Gabriel). And Robert Gossett, as Taylor, once again gets to play a side of a character who is one of the show's most complicated -- ambitious, a tad unscrupulous, but very, very smart about police ways.

That said, this is also a very disturbing episode, dealing not only with the ugliness of a certain kind of crime but layering a singularly creepy kind of racism on top of it. Still, it's a very good show.

I was looking forward to "Damages," which stars Glenn Close as the high-profile boss of a prominent New York City law firm. Close knows her onions, after all, and was so very good in her short run on "The Shield." The cast here is sold, with Tate Donovan making some strong early appearances, and I was looking forward to Ted Danson's moves as the villain in the piece. And "Damages" tries to intrigue, starting with a key character in big trouble, then flashing back six months to show us how she got to the point where the show begins.

But while a twist near the end of the episode might get me back for another week, the "Damages" premiere overall felt flat -- not so much overplayed as unplayed, as if everyone was trying to hard to be ambiguous that they ended up indicating no emotion at all. This was especially frustrating in some key scenes -- such as a job interview with Close -- that should have popped and instead just kind of sat there. The first time we see Danson, he should be bold and powerful, but he's just kind of blah.

This may seem weird, but when I was watching a little bit of "The Devil Wears Prada" during a morning cable-flip, I thought that Close was taking some notes from Meryl Streep: the deceptively low-key but icy way of conveying power. It's an idea that seems even more prominent when you get to the end of the "Damages" premiere, only Close in this situation is not as watchable as Street -- or as herself in "The Shield" or "Fatal Attraction," where she played powerful and charming with a stronger current of aggression.

After the disappointment of "Damages," I might have been a little more primed to enjoy "Saving Grace," which stars Holly Hunter as an Oklahoma City police detective who finds herself in intense conversations with an angel.

I know, you're thinking "Touched by an Angel" and "Joan of Arcadia." "Saving Grace" leans closer to the latter, but with a grime and sexual swagger that make it much more adult. Where I loved "Joan" for its first season, I'm not quite as wild about "Grace." Still, I want to see more.

See, Grace is a mess. She screws around, and isn't too picky about the marital status of her partners. She drinks too much. She takes a pill or three. She has a wicked temper, and as tiny as Hunter is, you quickly realize that it would be a mistake to pick a fight with her.

Then, one night, drunk and driving home, she hits a pedestrian. And asks God for help. Which arrives in the form of a tobacco-chewing, pudgy, T-shirt wearing angel named Earl (Leon Rippy). Grace, we find, has been on the fast track to hell -- and Earl has been hanging around, waiting for a chance to untrack her.

It won't be easy, for Grace or for Earl. But the show is perfectly comfortable in making it difficult for them, because it is also comfortable with the idea that an angel has come to help Grace -- no coyness, strong faith, even when Grace is skeptical.

There are good things, including what becomes of that pedestrian Grace hits. Still, I'm not sure how long the show can sustain its balance of the faith story, Grace's personal issues and police exploits. (In the personal/police combination, you can see how this would fit well with "The Closer.") The second episode was not as good as the first, mainly because the police case was a lot less interesting than Grace's life, but also because of a shocker ending that feels too out of left field.

Even so, you've got a lot of good people at work -- Hunter, Rippy, "The Shield's" Kenneth Johnson, Laura San Giacomo among them. And they've been given plenty to work with. I'll be back for the third episode in any case, to see the aftershock from the second show, and I'll be around for the fourth because I like just enough of the first two.

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