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Saving Grace saves summer TV

To say Grace Hanadarko is a complicated character is ridiculous. Holly Hunter’s television alter ego is so much more deliciously troubled.

Grace is taking this very seriously

The Grace of Hunter

With the show’s July 14, 10 p.m. premiere, Grace and Hunter are back with a vengeance for season two. A first year performance in 2007 led to Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Hunter, who already has an Oscar on her mantle.

As Hunter portrays Grace, she is an out of control mess with a firm grasp of the art of catching criminals. What gifts she possesses in her career, Grace completely lacks in her personal life.

The premiere is titled, “Have a seat, Earl” and its titular character is angel sent to aide Grace on her journey. With her damaged past and haunted present, Hunter blazed a scorching trail when navigating Grace through her Oklahoma City police detective life in season one. Audiences should prepare for more heat.

If Earl is the angel, Grace is his little devil. Living hard, she has numerous affairs including one with her very married police partner, Ham. Detective is portrayed with a steely cool by “The Shield” veteran Kenneth Johnson.

Last year, SheKnows spoke to creator Nancy Miller, who has embodied the Hollywood success story. After serving as a contributing producer of TNT sister show, “The Closer,” Miller created “Saving Grace.” She insisted it be centered it in her native Oklahoma City. The fact it its location is the central stretch of America is refreshing in a twin-coast Hollywood mindset world.

“Saving Grace” finds its own path on many levels. The secret to this gripping piece of television is just that, the show is one part mystery, two parts soul searcher and all powerful drama.

Season premiere, version 2.0

“Have a seat, Earl” begins with a bang, literally. “Saving Grace” is primed for another riveting season if its season premiere is any indication. Having lunch with best friend and co-worker, Rhetta (Laura San Giacomo), Grace knows something’s not right with a man crossing the street. Her instinct lands her on America’s front pages. The only problem is there are questions as to whether she was drinking before the big bust.

Holly and Laura share a little lunch

The spotlight squarely is on the detective least likely to want or enjoy it.

In many ways watching Grace operate under intense pressure defending her heroic actions in the premiere is the same feeling that was emitted from its star heading into the new season.

Hunter told me on Friday night at the Turner party in Beverly Hills when I wished her the best for the new season, “We’ll need it. Thank you so much.”

Hunter’s humbleness is delightful. It fits the beautiful Southern Belle. The fact is last year’s record-breaking ratings were not a fluke. The collective behind the spectacular program should, in fact, be prepared for enormous ratings once again. Audiences respond to quality and “Grace” is gold.

A gifted cast delivers a season premiere that makes a powerful statement about Nancy Miller’s “Saving Grace.” In the midst of a so-so television summer having “The Closer” and “Saving Grace” return together means Monday nights are not merely a time to save Grace, but audiences craving the best on television.

Lean on Me

Graceful supporting cast

Of particular note is the quiet intensity of the performance of Laura San Giacomo as Rhetta. Watching her criminologist interact with Grace is an actress master class. Rhetta knows about the angel Earl and encourages her best friend to heed his advice. San Giacomo’s Rhetta is so far from her character in “Just Shoot Me,” the actress has proved she has mastered both faces of drama and comedy and her career is truly only beginning.

The angel Earl is played with impeccable grace by Leon Poppy. A veteran of television greats, recently HBO’s “Deadwood,” as Earl, Poppy is able to show a vast acting portfolio in delivering the priceless performance of an angelic character who is hardly an angel.

Evidence of the show’s depth is prevalent within the first 60 minutes of the new season.

Hunter and her entire cast form a cohesive dramatic unit that permeates pure electricity that stews beneath the surface. On occasion when the drama overheats, the cast’s powerful glow mirrors a Fourth of July firework finale.

“Saving Grace” is the perfect vehicle at this moment in time for Oscar-winner Hunter. Many of her characters over her career are challenged in varied ways, but what makes Grace special is how Hunter portrays her as deeply lost. It is a pleasure to witness a film icon that normally graces movie screens yearly each Monday through the summer. Each episode is a gift of Grace.

As “The Closer” that precedes it illustrates, “Saving Grace” proves that TNT is the new home of ‘Must See TV’ on Monday nights.

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