Tag Archives: Cop Show

TELEVISION: Saving Grace Welcomes Christina Ricci For Three Episode Arc

Tonight, Saving Grace [TNT, 10/9C], one of the more unusual cop shows returns – bringing Detective Grace Hanadarko [Holly Hunter] a new partner, Abby Charles [Christina Ricci in a three-episode arc] and Grace’s “last chance angel,” Earl [Leon Rippy], a seeming setback in his assignment to help Leon Cooley [Bokeem Woodbine].

Hunter & Ricci

Heart of a Cop introduces Abby, who makes a terrific first impression by being late on first day of a 28-day rotation. The day gets more complicated when a murder turns out to be the work of a serial killer. Then, to Earl’s consternation, Leon asks for his execution date to be moved up. Plus, a creepy crime scene fan may be the killer.

Do You Believe in Second Chances? Finds Grace’s brother, Father John Handarko [Tom Irwin] trying to help Leon – but being more than a little bewildered by Leon’s response. Meanwhile, Grace’s niece, Sarah, is arrested at a scavenger party [the guests bring various drugs which are then put in a bowl and everyone takes something randomly from the bowl – it’s a kind of druggie’s Russian roulette], while her friend winds up in a coma. This episode features one of the most heartbreaking depictions of consequences I’ve ever seen.

In Take Me Somewhere, Earl, the investigation of the murder of a drug dealer bleeds over into another case – one with unexpected ties to the precinct. Meanwhile, Father John and Loretta [Laura San Giacomo] meet the mother of the woman whom Leon was convicted of killing; Earl produces an ancient hangover remedy, and we see that Grace is actually capable of having fun without any artificial stimulus. Oh, and there’s an unexpected revelation about Abby.

Besides having one of the two coolest theme songs on TV [the other being True Blood], Saving Grace has taken an especially odd premise and turned it into a powerful exploration of ethics, morality, self-destructiveness and [hopefully] redemption. The writing has become sharper and wittier as the cast have settled into their characters [or, in Hunter’s case, rode her character into the ground]. The show’s directors have framed the cast’s performances in episodes that are now individual jewels in a complicated setting.

With Saving Grace, a series that could have become a joke has become a genuinely unique show – and one of the best on TV.

Final Grade: A

TELEVISION: Patrick Swayze Gives A&E’s The Beast Its Power!

The new A&E series, The Beast [Thursdays, 10/9C], is built around a familiar premise – the veteran cop/FBI/CIA agent being teamed up with a green partner. The main difference between most movies and TV series that use this premise is that this one has Patrick Swayze and some very effective writing.

Dove & Barker

Swayze is the unorthodox [and possibly corrupt] veteran FBI agent, Charles Barker, who is partnered with the wet-behind-the-ears Ellis Dove [Travis Fimmel – who’s learned to act since The WB’s Tarzan]. Dove was handpicked by the cantankerous Barker to become his new partner, though you’d never know it from the way he treats him. The show opens with the two working undercover – and Barker shoots him! When they’re not actively pursuing a case, Barker has Dove fetch coffee, deal with obnoxious drunks and generally act as a gopher. By hitting the kid in his pride, Barker is pushing him to work on his undercover skills.

Then there’s the Internal Affairs thing. In the premiere, Ellis is approached by a handful of IA people who try to recruit him to prove Barker’s corruption – of the four, only “Ray” [Larry Gilliard Jr.] reappears in the second episode, and then to give Dove a DVD that allegedly implicates Barker in something illegal. Throw in something that disappears from the evidence room, and a woman who lives in Dove’s apartment building [Rose, played by Lindsay Pulsipher], and you’ve got most of the ingredients for a formula show.

Fortunately, series creators Vincent Angell and William L. Rothko aren’t interested in the standard tropes of the genre. Instead, they set up a selection of standard characters and play with their motivations and situations. The result is a smarter, darker show than you’d expect on basic cable – and an entertainment that would be more engrossing than most even without Swayze. With him, though, the show has serious heft.

Michael Dinner directs the first two episodes with an eye toward mixing noir-ish lighting with slightly bleached colors to give the show an individual look. He has a knack for lighting his characters so that we get a sense of who they are even before they say anything. Dinner does a good job of exploiting the chemistry between Swayze and Fimmel – not to mention Fimmel and Pulsipher – in a way that doesn’t seem forced. When you put it all together, it’s safe to say that The Beast is the best hour-long series that A&E has had since Nero Wolfe.

Final Grade: B+

DVD REVIEW: M Squad – The Complete Series: Hard Boiled Cop Drama on Chicago’s Mean Streets!

What Dragnet was to Los Angeles, and Naked City was to New York, that’s what M Squad was to Chicago. The hard-boiled cop show starred Lee Marvin, in his first major leading role, as Lt. Frank Ballinger of the so-called M Squad. In Ballinger’s words, M Squad “is a special detail of the Chicago Police; we work on cases when requested by other departments, and when there are special circumstances.” Most of the show’s one hundred and seventeen episodes dealt with homicides. The Timeless Media Group collection of the complete series marks the first time the series has been released on any form of home video.

MSquad_Box Art

Although Lt. Ballinger had occasional support from various fellow detectives, the only other series regular was his immediate superior, Captain Grey [Paul Newlan] – as hands-on a boss as any cop could hope for. Ballinger’s cases ranged from deaths caused during escape from a robbery [caused by a cleverly disguised sailor hoping to get away when his ship sailed], to the case of a married businessman killed in an apparent robbery after breaking up with his mistress [the dead man’s wife was a friend of Captain Grey’s wife].

The series ran for four seasons and, beginning with the second, featured a theme composed by Count Basie. For all four seasons, the episodes’ scores were composed by jazz greats like Benny Carter and John Williams [who went on to score Star Wars]. Coupled with the stark black & white, noir-ish cinematography, M Squad was an effective combination of sizzle and substance.

Marvin’s Ballinger could be as brusque as Jack Webb’s Joe Friday, but was a bit on the empathetic side when dealing the victims of the crimes he investigated. He could be fooled by a pretty face, but not for long – and he had a very Sam Spade-like attitude to female criminals. He was smart and intuitive, and as perfectly capable of taking down bad guys with his fists as with a gun.

I could bore you with a list of guest stars who went on to bigger – if not necessarily better – things [among the ones listed on the box are two future Star Trek stars, a vigilante and a policewoman-to-be] but I’ll leave the fun of spotting them to you.

As for the quality of the set, it varies. Originally, Timeless planned a best-of set because they didn’t have access to all one hundred and seventeen episodes. The missing episodes were supplied by fans, making this a unique achievement. The result is something rare – a complete set of episodes from a groundbreaking, fifty-year old series that led the way in writing, direction, performance, production values and scoring.

There are no features included with the set – other than the liner notes that are duplicated on the back on of the slipcase and the interior foldout box, and a CD of Count Basie’s theme and jazz selections from the show’s score.

The variable quality of the episodes keeps the set from getting an A+ for content, but, as all episodes are definitely watchable, it doesn’t lose much.

Final Grade: A