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Graceland Recap: Hair of the Dog

by Zan Romanoff

July 19, 2013 | 11:58 am

As a rule, I feel like television needs more police procedurals like I need a hole in the head. I've had enough of criminal minds and crime scenes and lab techs etcetera to last me several lifetimes, plus almost no one's ever done it better than Law and Order. (I do mean Original Flavor, though will also accept SVU and some seasons of Criminal Intent.) I started watching Graceland out of sheer idle curiosity; as far as I can tell no one's talking about it, which is a shame because it's totally engaging storytelling featuring a diverse cast of very attractive people. The pilot was medium-shaky and there are still some too-obvious moments, storylines telegraphed too boldly too far in advance, but it seems to me that the show really improves episode to episode; I'm almost sorry I can't wait for a binge-watch at the end of the season, because I'm starting to get impatient for more. 

What sets Graceland apart from the rest of the field is partly structural: instead of focusing on a single case from start to finish, it's a show about a handful of undercover agents from several federal agencies (FBI, DEA, Customs) who live in a Venice apartment the government picked up as part of a drug raid some years prior. They slip in on each others' cases-- one of the FBI agents, Jonny, moonlights as a Mexican drug dealer when his roomate, DEA agent and white girl Paige can't pass enough to meet a contact-- which means there's a lot less technical fiddling around and a lot more tense scenes involving improbably quanities of drugs, guns and cash.

The real fun of Graceland is watching a bunch of pros at their tops of their games as they work. The show doesn't mess around with anything remotely trivial, instead keeping things at at least a medium simmer in every scene. It's picked a plot that's interesting without being complicated; it's fun to follow, but there's no threat you'll lose track. You get the satisfying case-per-episode wrap up of a procedural without any grim morgue sequences or monologues about The Dangers of the Internet. (Okay I am looking at you a little bit there, SVU.) It's basically brain candy but it's not embarrassing to watch: like a cold popsicle on a hot day, maybeJust because it's not necessary doesn't mean you won't enjoy the hell out of it while it's going down. 

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