Graceland, Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Written by Jeff Eastin
Directed by Russell Lee Fine
Airs Thursdays at 10 pm (ET) on USA
Though a solid episode, Graceland‘s premiere was somewhat bland and unremarkable. The pilot tried to strike a balance between gritty primetime thriller and light-hearted summer TV and mostly succeeded–the final product was entertaining to watch, if not particularly satisfying.
Graceland centers on a group of undercover agents (DEA, FBI, and Customs) playing house together on a Southern California beach. The house–nicknamed “Graceland”–was seized in a drug raid by the US Government and handed over to top US agents investigating everything from drug deals to illegally imported birds. According to the creators, Graceland‘s premise is based on a true story.
Graceland‘s premiere opens on a dark note: scenes of FBI agents proudly graduating are smoothly intercut with scenes from a beachside drug bust gone bad, resulting in a DEA agent’s near-fatal injury. One of the graduates, Mike Warren (Aaron Tveit), is immediately sent to California as the man’s replacement. After a few newbie missteps (drinking a roommate’s labeled juice, nervously bumbling through an undercover drug bust), Mike manages to fit into his Real World-esque surroundings fairly well, even earning himself a brand new nickname (“Levi”) and befriending seasoned FBI agent Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata), who doubles as Mike’s trainer.
All of the characters, aside from the aforementioned Mike and Paul, were underdeveloped and generically one-dimensional. Many stock crime show characters were present, including the cheery jokester and no-nonsense boss. With such a big cast, the show understandably didn’t have enough time to truly flesh out its characters; future episodes will hopefully develop them further. The writing was decent, but also nothing special. The writers managed to neatly bring the pilot’s storyline full circle by episode’s end, and a slight twist before the credits lends promise to the otherwise lackluster show’s future.
Definitely not must-see TV, Graceland remains a watchable and enjoyable way to pass the summer.
– Ashley Laggan