Summer is upon us, which means USA Network's warm-weather roster stands poised to claim its usual place as one of the better options for (generally) lighthearted original series; Graceland, which premieres this week and is currently being marketed as "inspired by true events," is the newest addition to the lineup. However, despite the sunny SoCal setting and shared DNA with network veteran White Collar, Graceland seems to run a bit darker than USA's typical summer fare.
The network has been toying with grittier themes for a while now (see: last summer's Political Animals, the more mature storylines on Covert Affairs and Suits), but is Graceland an amazing wonder born out of all this experimentation, or the channel's very own Frankenstein's monster? Let's talk it out.
Graceland! The Elvis biopic everyone has been waiting for!
Yeah, not so much with the Elvis. In this case, Graceland is the name of an impeccably decorated beachfront home where the FBI, the DEA, and U.S. Customs house a handful of their best agents, Real World-style, so that they can work together to catch the bad guys—when they aren't sipping mai tais, surfing, or squabbling over the chores wheel. Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me) is the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Aaron Tveit's (Les Miserables) Luke Skywalker... on a way less intergalactic scale. They're joined by Vanessa Ferlito (24, CSI: New York), Brandon Jay McLaren (Falling Skies, The Killing), Manny Montana (Chicago Code), and Serinda Swan (Breakout Kings).
Whose saltwater-soaked brain graced us with Graceland?
That would be Jeff Eastin. He created White Collar for USA as well.
When does this beach party start?
Thursday, June 6 at 10pm.
Who will like Graceland?
Honestly, probably not Real World fans. White Collar fans will notice similarities between that show and Graceland, most notably in the latter's bromance and in the way Southern California receives the same "love letter to the location" treatment as New York does in White Collar. But be warned, Briggs and Mike, our two leads, are not Peter and Neal. Graceland has its fun and sexy moments, but at its core, it's a tense, borderline thriller where the lines between hero and villain are somewhat blurred. I wouldn't go as far as to say that Graceland has nothing in common with its fellow summer shows or that it doesn't have a place in USA's lineup, but it's definitely something different. If you've ever caught yourself watching White Collar, Covert Affairs, Suits, or any of Graceland's processors and found yourself frustrated by how they often seemed to stop juuuuust short of "getting real," Graceland is worth a look.
What's good about Graceland?
Graceland's pilot is TIGHT. Like, sometimes-I-forgot-I-was-watching-a-USA-summer-show tight. Without getting into spoilery details (let's save those for my full review on Thursday night!), it's not necessarily the show it's been sold as and it's awesome.
What's not so bueno?
Just little things, really. Some of the roommates aren't as well-developed as they could be, but it's just the first episode and it's a fairly large cast, so I'm willing to let that one slide with the understanding that we'll probably get more backstory as we go. Regarding the more developed characters, there's one in particular who, I thought, came off as rather unlikable—which is unfortunate because I get the feeling this character was meant to be the exact opposite of that. Still, it's fixable.
So... should I watch it?
Oh, yes. I initially approached it as a "summer show that doesn't look awful" and after watching the pilot can say that I'm definitely hooked.
Trailer, por favor?
Heeere you go:
What beverage should I pair with Graceland?
Margaritas and a nice beach-y beer like Oberon or LandShark (or Bud Lite if you'd prefer to drink water).
Graceland premieres Thursday, June 6 at 10pm on USA.