7 June 2013 | eschetic-2
Intriguing law enforcement/spy genre piece lives on good casting and locales
Despite the title (the show is only in the most tangential sense Elvis related, thank goodness), we felt we had to watch at least the pilot because of the presence of admirable Broadway actors Aaron Tveit (NEXT TO NORMAL & CATCH ME IF YOU CAN), Daniel Sunjata (TAKE ME OUT) and Courtney Vance (SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION).
Vance, as the head of the FBI at Tveit's character's graduation, may not prove an ongoing character (inexplicably for a personality of his calibre, IMDb doesn't even mention him in the Pilot Episode at present!), but he SHOULD be as he serves as a solid grounding for a location and character heavy tale of young cross-agency enforcement agents living and working out of a luxurious beach front headquarters seized from an Elvis-fanatic drug lord (hence the name for the house and series) before the series ever begins.
The true leads in the story about drug enforcement and possibly the investigation of the enforcers are Tveit as the young hotshot just out of training academy with top scores and unlimited potential and Sunjata as the experienced but still charismatically young agent (one of the few with Academy scores exceeding Tveit's own) who is to field train Tveit. The hour and 15 minute pilot was languorously paced but ultimately got in its share of moments of excitement among the hot locations (was the opening shot really intended to evoke the opening shot of THE USUAL SUSPECTS?) and potentially enjoyable cross currents of character relationships in the unusually large ensemble.
The USA Network has made a name for itself with quirky character "mysteries" which entertain on many levels and, despite an unfortunate European-style preference for ultra-short "seasons," allowing the well ensembles time to develop followings. Given that time, with slightly tighter story telling, GRACELAND should be another in a popular line-up of lightly challenging USA entertainment. It has something for everyone between beach skin, vicarious luxury, post collegiate kidding, an underlying frisson of mistrust and dark underpinnings and the promise of developing character interplay among the large cast (who will turn out to be bad guys beyond stealing from the communal refrigerator? Who will mate with whom?).
In some ways GRACELAND looks like it wants to be a cross between the BIG BROTHER HOUSE and TRAFFIC. If they can get the mix to gel, and they seem to be off to a good start despite one or two moments which strain credibility - but which may actually be parts of the story supposedly "based on fact," they could have something very special. At the very least it's worth a second look.