Monday, September 24, 2007


Contempo television, with all of its cable niches and non-network possibilities has become more of a big (re: movie) name acting repository than ever, particularly for actresses. Many of those who’ve worked fairly steadily on the big screen (Sally Field, Ann Heche, Lili Taylor, Gina Gershon), most particularly Kyra Sedgwick, whose The Closer is a huge cable ratings hit, have found solid homes on the small screen, and every other Tom, Dick and Turner Broadcast network went looking for the same. Holly Hunter is detective Grace Hanadarko on TNT’s Saving Grace (Mondays, 10:00 PM), an unrepentant middle-aged crazy who devotes equal time and energy to both solving crimes and to boozing, smoking, and sexing it up. Into Grace’s chaotic life comes Earl (Leon Rippy) an angel with actual wings and a thing for dipping tobacco, who claims he’s there to provide Grace with an opportunity to gain some faith and avoid a road trip to Hell. Hunter, she of the chipmunk voice, the pre-teen body, and the disposition of a rabbit bunny rabbit makes the most of this showy role, pushing Grace around from fetching to annoying to downright dislikable, but much of the show’s religiosity on display is an unpalatable mix of whimsy and heavy-handedness. The show is sharp and crackling enough to stick with, with Hunter’s central performance well worth watching, but hopefully the writers will learn to better intermingle it’s heavenly aspirations with it’s earthbound pleasures.

Glenn Close has entered the TV diva fray, as a regal and lethal omnipotent lawyer named Patty Hewes, in the FX potboiler Damages(Tuesdays, 10:00 PM). The basic plot, Patty vs. a big bad CEO (Ted Danson, wonderfully reptilian), with young and naive start-up lawyer Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) caught up in their web of intimidation, manipulation, pet killing, and, yep, good old fashioned murder, is a twisty soap opera. The show comes across sleek and well oiled, a small screen Grisham-like thriller, but its insertion of a knife turning plot device every twenty minutes or so, along with the employment of a huge spate of chameleon-like secondary actors is more over calculated than mood inducing. Close, angular, cold and self-satisfied is obviously enjoying the chance to extend a role through an episodic structure (she was a top notch guest star in The Shield season of two years ago), and her lawyer/goddess almost makes the pour-it-on plot conventions worth hanging in there for, although the smug sheen thrown off by all of the paranoia thickening ingredients has been decidedly off-putting as the season has worn on. If Damages manages to hunker down to even a slightly satisfying conclusion, I'll hop on again next time around, figuring the creators may get around to substituting credible suspense for high-falutin' shenanigans,and for the chance to watch Gal Glenn do her TV thang again.

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