Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show was created by Jeff Eastin of White Collar. He wrote the pilot, and also executive produces with Sean Daniel (The Mummy). Russell Lee Fine (White Collar) directed the pilot.
The Cast & How You Know Them: The residents of Graceland are Aaron Tveit (Gossip Girl, Les Miserables), Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me, One for the Money), Vanessa Ferlito (CSI: NY, 24), Manny Montana (The Chicago Code, Breakout Kings), Brandon Jay McLaren (The Killing, Falling Skies), and Serinda Swan (The Lightning Thief, Breakout Kings).
The Premise: Newly minted FBI agent Mike Warren is sent to southern California to live in a beach house named Graceland, which is home to a variety of undercover agents from various departments (FBI, DEA, etc.). He must learn how to fit into the house and the community and how to do his job, while figuring out the quirks – and secrets – of his fellow agents.
What Works: Graceland basically follows one of USA Network’s formulas – ridiculously smart, ridiculously good-looking, somewhat damaged people solving problems in a flashy, sunny location. And you know what? That formula works for me. Here, in addition to all that, they’re all living in a house together, which adds to the “found family” concept I enjoy. Graceland has a bit more of a gritty edge to it, which is refreshing, and I enjoyed this pilot a lot: clever writing, solid acting (especially from Aaron Tveit as the brilliant but naive young lead), and a case of the week mixed in with enough hints of ongoing intrigue to hook me.
What Doesn’t: For all the talk about how this is USA’s attempt at a darker show, there are an awful lot of shots of surfing and bikinis, and this tonal dissonance will have to sort itself out to some extent for the show to be as good as it could be. And the ensemble is a little big to really get a fix on in just one episode; other USA shows do best when they focus on one complicated relationship, so we’ll see where they end up going here.
Our Favorite Line: “Whatever you think success means, I hope you’ll stay open to the possibility that you’ve got it all wrong.”
You Might Like This if you like other USA Network shows, for one thing. It’s from the creator of White Collar, but the beachiness and drug dealers actually reminded me more of Burn Notice. Either way, the pilot suggests that this is a solid offering that fits right in with the network’s “blue skies” procedurals while expanding into a slightly darker tone.
If You’re Interested: Graceland premieres tonight (Thursday, June 6) on USA Network and Bravo Canada at 10/9c.
(Photo courtesy of USA Network.)