It's hard not to link FX's Damages and TNT's Saving Grace together, with both premiering this week with bigtime film stars Glenn Close and Holly Hunter in the respective leads. Nevertheless, the shows are quite different in subject, tone and style.
Based on the opening episodes, Damages has the better shot of being a critical success. Though melodramatic in parts, there's the potential for a compelling season-long story arc and in an era where serialized drama is suddenly on the run from a procedural rebellion, this is welcome. I also like Rose Byrne as the ingénue whom we know ultimately becomes damaged herself. I'm still on the fence, however, whether Close's character will be enticing or just campy. Episode 2 will be key in telling us whether drama or melodrama will rule the day.
In Grace, Hunter cuts loose throughout like the firecracker she is, beginning with a rollicking sex scene to open the episode, but ultimately strains against material that isn't good enough for her. The ongoing scenes in which Hunter is forced to confront her lack of faith are hackneyed; they're corny. In fact, I'm not sure the show even knows how to define faith, since it asks for faith after Hunter has seen explicit evidence of God, instead of before.
As for the nitty-gritty plot, the police investigation involving a kidnapped child misses the point I felt more emotion during a two-sentence NPR news update this morning about a ceremony honoring murdered Southern California child Samantha Runyon than I felt in any part of Grace. The show did very well ratings-wise in its premiere for TNT and could easily be a long-term cable success, but it's not the one for me.
I've also seen and decided not to continue with Lifetime's three summer premieres: Army Wives, State of Mind and Side Order of Life. None of them seemed like particularly smart shows.