From Jeff Eastin, the creator of White Collar, comes a series based off true events, a bit more of a grittier take on the aforementioned show. Graceland is your typical run of the mill formulaic cop drama on TV. The series, however, has a bit of a unique concept. Graceland's name is actually taken from a beach house in Los Angeles, where it's a base of operations for various FBI, DEA, and undercover agents. The series follows several of these agents as they try to solve various cases and uncover mysteries.
The series starts off introducing us to our lead protagonist, newly graduated FBI agent Mike Warren (played by Aaron Tveit) whom is assigned to the undercover house, known as Graceland, when a DEA agent, Donnie Banks, ends up getting shot after unintentionally revealing his identity during an undercover mission. Upon his arrival, Mike meets his new training officer Paul Briggs (played by Daniel Sunjata) and the rest of his new housemates, including FBI agents Johnny Tuturro (played by Manny Montana), the young hotshot looking to prove himself, and Charlie DeMarco (played by Vanessa Ferlito), the parent figure of Graceland. DEA agents Paige Arkin (played by Serinda Swan) who is probably the most underused cast member and is clearly used on the show as eye candy, and Lauren Kincaid (played by Scottie Thompson), Donnie's partner who is looking for justice. At ANY cost. Lastly we have Customs agent Jakes (played by Brandon Jay McLaren), the brooding killjoy of the team, who like Paige, is underutilized.
While at first, Mike is a bit upset that he is being lumped into Graceland, as he aspires to be the FBI's director someday, he is soon ecstatic to find out that he will be trained by Briggs, a legendary FBI agent whom Mike has always looked up to. Mike and Briggs begin to bond after the latter saves Mike's life. The two quickly become friends, something that feels all the more real with the excellent chemistry between the lea actors, Tveit and Sunjata. As soon as Briggs/Mike begin to bond, We're thrown right into the main plot in the cliffhanger of the Pilot episode... While Briggs works for the FBI, he is suspected of being a dirty agent, a revelation that devastates Mike. Mike's loyalties to Paul are tested and lives are put on the line when Mike is ordered to secretly investigate Briggs, and bring his double life to light.
While the main focus is obviously set on Mike working with the FBI to investigate Briggs, the series manages to balance numerous subplots quite successfully (and some not so much.) I'd say the best and most interesting subplot of the series, and I can't go too far into it as it will be a spoiler for the show, was definitely watching how Briggs's double life unfolded. I was actually sucked into this story, and felt somewhat bad for him, as he was practically forced into it. On the other end of the spectrum, we DO have some filler and wasted subplots as well, the one that springs to mind is Mike's love life. This storyline lasted a bit long for me, and didn't particularly interest me in any way. Around the middle of the season, we have something like a half dozen episode arc of Mike dating a woman named Abby, whom is currently in law school, which gets worse with every passing episode, then as soon as she's gone, he realizes he has feelings for one of the lead characters. Big surprise... In the end it all felt like time wasted that could have been spent on developing underdeveloped characters, such as Jakes and Paige for example.
Other subplots include Charlie being forced to take heroin, and the after effects of that with Briggs trying to help her. Lauren trying to bring justice to Donnie's name, which consistently puts Graceland and it's inhabitants in danger. Instead of allowing Mike to handle Briggs's investigation, his commanding officer, Juan Badillo, decides to take the case into his own hands. Who is "Jangles"? and why does the name matter so much to Briggs? Various relationship subplots, and Lastly, we have the search for Odin, a mysterious drug dealer who no living person has seen, as he kills all those who see his face.
The series asks a lot of questions... Is Briggs the corrupt agent the FBI says he is? or is he the golden boy that he appears to be? Does Briggs know what Mike is up to and if so, to what extent? Is it in Mike's best interests to follow instructions to investigate Brigg's, or to torpedo his career by choosing to stay with him? What side will Charlie, Johnny, Paige and Jacks be on? By the end of these first 12 episodes, all the loose ends are tied up, with all the questions answered. Although there is a very nice cliffhanger to get you excited for season 2!
+ Sunjata is terrific as Briggs, and is a true joy to watch as the character.
+ Briggs's storyline.
+ The cast is very good.
- Some of the cast is underutilized. Especially Jakes.
- Some plots that end up going nowhere.
Video and Audio:
The complete first season of Graceland is presented in broadcast quality 1.78:1, expect pretty much the same exact quality as any of USA's other releases (White Collar for example.) Overall the show looks great, with great cinematography that compliments the series feel of polished grit. The setting itself can be beautiful at times, as the main setting is the beach house.
The audio track is 5.1 English Digital Dolby, which is clear and consistent throughout, no audio dropouts or distortions that were at all noticeable.
- 15 minutes worth of deleted scenes.
- Gag reel that lasts approximately seven minutes.
- The Real Graceland - A behind the scenes in depth featurette with the cast and creators of the series.
While not anything particularly exceptional, Graceland in it's freshman season is off to a very solid start. While the show fails to break any new ground, the series has proven itself to be fun and time well invested thus far. If you're looking for a transitional show in-between the truly special series' television has to offer, then I'd recommend this. I'll eventually check out season 2. Recommended.