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Miller returned to her faith after working on a show that was clearly agony for her. "It took me back on my knees," she said ruefully, "I can't tell you what it was but it was a horrible experience." A small cluster of press pestered her for an answer but she graciously fended them off. "I'm not going to tell you where it was," she kept repeating.
Saving Grace is a character-driven cop show. It's the anti-CSI. "It's not about a maggots eating a face off," asserted Miller, "it's not about that crap. It's about this woman. We're gonna go deep."
(Thank you, Lord!! I'm fed-up with that crap, too.)
The pilot slows down a little due to the exposition. Miller had a lot to accomplish in forty-five minutes or so. The episode is essential viewing because so much of the series is established in this one hour. By the end, we find out why Grace wallows in her self-destructive behaviors. What will be especially interesting going forward is Grace's linkage to a death row prisoner. It's a plot twist that gives the series additional depth and complexity.
Another stroke of genius is the setting - Oklahoma City. Few Americans have ever visited. It just doesn't bubble up to the top of the list as a favorite vacation spot. (TNT's attention may change all that.) This is the viewers' chance to visit occasionally by remote. One scene, filmed at the memorial dedicated to the victims of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, is beautifully shot in golden Autumn (or winter) light. It's a quiet tribute to those who died.
Watching that scene, I realized suddenly that the Vietnam Memorial is fixed in our consciousness but I can hardly recall seeing film images of the Oklahoma memorial. Surprisingly, neither could my news-hound husband, nor my neighbors.
For Miller, the bombing is personal, very personal, and immediate. "I knew people in that building...a good friend of mine was out of the office that day. She lost 35 people she worked with," said Miller during the TCA panel.
The tragedy is not forgotten in Saving Grace. At a shooting range, Grace and her nephew imagine that Timothy McVeigh is their target and they nail him square in the forehead.
"I'm sick of that part of the country being called the fly-over states, " added Miller, "There are a lot of great stories to tell from that part of the country."
Unfortunately, few scenes were actually shot on location in Oklahoma City - only the memorial and stadium scenes. Some were shot in Calgary, Canada. Miller said to me personally that she hopes to film more on location in Oklahoma next year, "if there is a next year" because of the rich setting and the interesting characters that could be tapped.
Still, for all its appeal, I wasn't 100% hooked on Saving Grace when the closing credits rolled on the pilot. I was fence sitting, unsure if the series could hold my attention for the long term. It's during the second episode that the series begins to pick up steam. I highly recommend that viewers invest in the pilot plus one.
Hopefully, Saving Grace will eventually be shot on location. And I do think there will be second season. I'll be very surprised if this series isn't renewed. It's a show that transcends the blue state/red state divide, and that's probably a metaphor for Nancy Miller, too. What the series lacks is the authenticity that can only be a fully realized by location immersion. Nevertheless, even without the extra oomph of cool location shots, Amazing Grace is still good and decent television.
Saving Grace premieres Monday, July 23, at 10 p.m. Pacific/Eastern and at 9 p.m. Central