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HTF DVD REVIEW: Saving Grace Season One

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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

    Executive Producer



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  • Real Name:Cameron Yee
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Posted July 14 2008 - 01:49 PM

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Release Date: July 15, 2008
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc slim cases housed in a cardboard case
Year: 2007
Rating: General
Running Time: 9h36m
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Closed Captioning: English
MSRP: $28.98

The Series: 4/5
Grace Hanadarko (Holly Hunter) is a top-notch, Oklahoma City detective, but she has her faults. She's sleeping with her married partner, drinks to excess, and is a loose canon in both her professional and personal life. When she hits a pedestrian while driving drunk she comes to face-to-face with her questionable choices and in a true moment of need calls on God for help. The Almighty's response is to send Earl (Leon Rippy), a "last chance" angel with a penchant for chewing tobacco. But God's plan for her isn't as simple as "be good now." She'll have to confront some serious issues in her life - strained relationships with family, past sexual abuse, and painful memories from the Oklahoma City Bombing. But she's not alone in all of it - there's Rhetta (Laura San Giacomo), childhood friend and the police forensics technician; nephew Clay (Dylan Minnette); and an inmate on death row (Bokeem Woodbine) with whom she's having shared dreams. With regular visits from Earl dropping way points, she should have everything she needs for her redemptive journey.

Based on its promotional material "Saving Grace" seems like another faith-based, feel-good series along the lines of "Highway to Heaven" and "Touched by an Angel." But with the liberties afforded by being a cable series, it has a grit and edge that one would never see in those other shows. Because of the unflinching look at the crimes that cross Grace's desk and her own life issues, her encounters with the angel Earl wind up being a kind of respite. On paper it seems like a strange concoction - crime of the week with a dose of divine whimsy - but the writers somehow make it work so that the shifts in content and tone are mostly seamless. By the season finale all the elements are brought together nicely.

A lot can also be said for Hunter's commitment to the role, giving it her all even when she has to perform wrestling moves on an angel in front of a low grade digital backdrop. Fortunately those "acts of God" aren't a regular thing, conversation and more subtle signs making up most of Earl's redemptive work. Those who have an inherent aversion to faith oriented shows - or at least the way popular media tends to co-opt faith and belief - might want to give "Saving Grace" a try. For a good portion of the first season you'll at least identify with the main character, who is resistant to and skeptical about everything she sees.

The DVD set includes all 13 episodes from the first season, spread over four discs.


Video Quality: 3/5
Typical of many first seasons, the pilot episode has some issues that the remaining episodes in the series don't. Most notably, contrast is rather flat, leaving colors and black levels a bit on the dull side. Things improve in that area somewhat in the following episodes, but things still tend to look rather muted. Sharpness can also be variable, though none of the episodes seem especially crisp. Noise is visible in all episodes - though it can be spotted without much trouble it doesn't prove to be a great distraction. Overall it's an acceptable transfer, but has some obvious room for improvement.


Audio Quality: 3/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix consists mostly of dialogue, which is by-and-large clear and intelligible. The most consistent bass activity comes from the show's theme song.


Special Features: 3/5

The special features are predominantly promotional pieces that aired on TNT, making for a fairly superficial feel to the package.

Audio Commentaries: Commentaries for the pilot episode and final episode of the season feature Creator/Producer Nancy Miller, Executive Producer Gary Randall, and Director/Executive Producer Artie Mandelberg. The trio have a good rapport, which can be a little counterproductive to a thorough commentary. They share some nice behind-the-scenes nuggets if you're willing to sit through their tendency to chat.

Everlast Music Video "Saving Grace" (3m07s): Standard music video with performer footage intercut with show clips.

Behind the Scenes with Holly Hunter (4m17s): TNT promotional piece focusing on Hunter's interest and take on the material.

"On the Set" Featurette (3m15s): TNT promotional piece gives a brief glimpse behind the scenes of production, with the requisite praise from cast and crew.

Conversation with Executive Producer Gary Randall (7m23s): Promotional interview with Randall covers the standard territory of how the show came to be, what the show is about, and who makes up the cast.

No Ordinary Angel - Behind the Scenes with Leon Rippy (3m00s): TNT promotional piece focusing on the Earl character.

Rhetta - Laura San Giacomo on Her Character (3m30s): TNT promotional piece focusing on the Rhetta character.

Saving Grace: Overview (5m46s): TNT promotional piece covering the series as a whole and includes much of the same material from the preceding featurettes.

Season One Rapid Recap (4m18s): Condensed overview hits all the season's major highlights in preparation for the second season.


Recap

The Series: 4/5
Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

Faith-oriented series with gritty elements gets acceptable audio and video transfers and a special features package that's mostly promotional in content. Still, the strength of the performances and writing makes the series worth checking out.
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