When I named TNT's "Saving Grace" one of my top 10 reasons to keep watching TV this summer, it was mostly because of Holly Hunter. Granted, the premise of the show, which premieres tonight after "The Closer," sounded a little too "Touched by an Angel" for my liking — alcoholic, sex-fueled cop nearly kills someone and is sent a "last chance" angel to put her back on the straight and narrow. But I trusted that Hunter, whom I always find wonderfully watchable, could keep the show grounded.
Based on the first couple of episodes, at least, the show is a fine vehicle for the Oscar-winning actress to showcase the toughest, angriest and most acerbic end of her range. Hunter plays Det. Grace Hanadarko, a hard-living, tough-love cop who drinks too much and has too much sex with far too many of the wrong men. One night, in a moment of extreme weakness, she asks for help — and gets it in the form of a gruff, tobacco-chewing, invisible angel named Earl. But this is no easy story of redemption, so
Grace doesn't immediately believe a word Earl says, nor does she really believe he exists. But the strength of the show comes from Grace's struggle to understand what's happening to her and what to make of it. At one point in the first episode, Grace's best friend (played by Laura San Giacomo) says that Grace's visits from Earl can be a way to ask all the questions she's always had about God and heaven; Grace cracks sarcastically that she can finally find out what's up with menstrual cramps.
The show's backdrop is Grace's unit at the Oklahoma City police department, but compared to the part of the show that focuses on Grace's faith, the crime procedural elements aren't as strong. They're worth sitting through, though, to get back to the personal side of Grace's life; her scenes with Earl (played by Leon Rippy) are especially delightful, and Hunter gives Grace an appealing mix of vulnerability and edge. Check out this preview:
Photo courtesy of TNT