Wanderers, I flatter myself that I’m not an easy person to fool. Maybe I’ve watched too much Sherlock, maybe I’ve just watched too much TV in general, but for the most part when I’m watching a TV show, especially in a fairly standard format or with a common premise, I can tell where things are going. So I hope you’ll understand when I say a show that can surprise me always gets me rather excited, and Graceland is just such a show.
Graceland stars Aaron Tveit (whose credits include the recent Les Miserables film and too many Broadway shows to mention, given that we don’t have all week) as Mike Warren, a newly-graduated agent with the FBI. Mike is sent off to the glamorous beachfront property in Southern California that lends the show its name, ostensibly to train under the legendary Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) – but not all is as it seems, and Mike may have more to learn than he thinks.
The house itself is shared between a handful of FBI, ICE and DEA agents – the latter agencies being to do with customs and drug enforcement, respectively, for those unfamiliar with them – and the interplay between the residents is part of the show’s particular charm. And it is charming, whih is pretty surprising for a show with more than its fair share of drug-dealing, double-crossing, and shootings. I defy anyone to watch this show and not fall a little in love with Johnny (Manny Montana), Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito), Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) and Paige (Serinda Swan). They’re a sweet little group of friends and it’s easy to be drawn in and feel like you’re part of the gang – even as they all switch on a knife-edge between booze-swigging and cooking to stone-cold, calculating agents of the federal government, then straight back to the washing up.
Here we reach the point in the review where I really want to rave about my favourite plot points, but every single one of them is too delicious to spoil. Let me just say, then, that you will be surprised. You will be amused. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend a worrying portion of episode four (season one) not even realising you’re holding your breath. You’ll enjoy this show, and if you have a penchant for picking up weird skills you’re never going to need unless you become an FBI agent, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy that, too.
Getting onto the technical, behind-the-scenes stuff… well, firstly, in front of the scenes – the whole cast is fantastic. I just sat here and tried to think of a performance to single out for special praise, but seriously – the amount of brilliance we see is only proportional to the amount of screen time each actor gets to show off in. I keep forgetting I’m watching actors at all, to be honest. The writing is sharp, witty, and so clever it hurts. And location-wise, it’s all set in this fantastic beach-house, so the scenery is definitely there if you need something visually pleasing to appreciate while something horrific happens in the foreground.
Ah – that’s the thing I would warn you about, Wanderers – Graceland doesn’t shy away from the dangers and consequences of getting involved with dangerous criminals and gangs. People getting shot can consider themselves lucky in a lot of cases, and while I don’t remember there being any explicit torture (rather than an implication of it), the effects are visible, so if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing you might want to steer clear, or at least get someone who knows your limits to give it a test-run for you before you watch.
So, if you’re looking for a gritty but frequently light-hearted insight into TV’s idea of what being an FBI agent is like, look no further. If you’re looking for a lovable, well-written and, let’s not skirt around it, frankly gorgeous cast of characters to spend about an hour with each week, this may be the show for you. My advice? Check out the pilot, see how you go. I think you’ll like it.
I’d give this show a 4.5 – not because I can think of anything wrong with it, but because I have a feeling it’s just going to get better as it goes on and if I’ve already given it the full 5 marks, then where will I be?
Eleanor Musgrove (wants to get on the Graceland chore wheel)