Monday, July 23, 2007

TV Gets Some Big Names

Here's the thing about actors: if they have the choice, most would rather be big-time film stars rather than big-time TV stars.

Why? Several reasons. Film pays more money and is a less intense schedule. A film shoot might last a couple of months, while a TV series ties up an actor for most the year, assuming the series isn't canceled. A series is at the mercy of TV executives, while the movie tends to see light of day in a theatre once it is shot and edited. And actors are less likely to be type-cast in a role if its in a movie rather than TV, because on TV, we see the actor play the same role week in and week out.

But thanks to the emergence of cable TV as a viable option in terms of quality, big-time screen actors are moving to the small screen, and two of the very best actresses in Hollywood make the leap this week.

Tonight marks the debut of Oscar winner Holly Hunter as a full-time TV actress in her new series, "Saving Grace," (TNT, 10 p.m.) The show joins TNT's growing lineup of original dramas, and is preceded by new episodes of "Heartland" (which moves to 8 p.m.) and "The Closer" at 9 p.m.

Hunter plays Grace, an alcoholic cop in Oklahoma City who has reached rock bottom, including hitting a stranger while drunk driving. But Hunter then meets a mysterious man who claims to be an angel looking after her. Is it a delusion? That's what Grace has to figure out as she tries to get her life back in order.

Some of the elements are reminiscent of "Rescue Me," which had Denis Leary's similarly flawed character talk to the ghosts of his cousin, his son and Jesus, among others.

Hunter isn't the only big-name actress moving to TV. Glenn Close, one of the two or three best actresses alive, returns to TV in "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.) The latest offering in FX's stable of big-event dramas, Close plays the lawyer from Hell, who is going after a big-time corporate shark (Ted Danson).

Close made her series debut a couple of years ago on "The Shield" and was utterly fantastic, delivering an Emmy-worthy performance even if the Emmy voters are a bunch of dingbats for not recognizing her for her work. When FX hits the mark with one of its series, such as "Rescue Me" or "The Shield," it does so in a big way, giving the viewers some of the best stuff on the dial. Here's hoping "Damages" gets added to that list.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: If you decide not to watch TNT's all-new lineup, there are a few options. ABC Family is all-new with episodes of "Kyle XY" at 8 p.m. and "Greek" at 9 p.m.

HBO delivers a new episode of "Big Love" at 9 p.m.

For non-dramatic TV, the best bets among the esoteric crowd are "CMA Music Festival," (ABC, 9 p.m.), which features an all-star lineup of country music acts, and "Simon Schama's Power of Art" (PBS, 10 p.m.), which centers on the great British landscape artist J.M.W. Turner.


zodin2008 said...

The reviews from many of the critics have not been kind to this new Holly Hunter series so I will stay way. The one time TNT engaged me in a series ("Wanted"), it was canceled.

But I am intrigued by "Damages" because of Glenn Close's amazing work on "The Shield" and FX's winning tradition with dramas.

Anonymous said...

Damn the reviews, I was glued to the tube for Saving Grace. I never stay up till 10 to watch anything other than news but this show was a real winner.
Grace is a terrific character and there was just enough of the angel to keep me watching.
Holly Hunter though needs to eat a couple of cheeseburgers.

Phillip Ramati said...

I agree somewhat, anon. I enjoyed the pilot for the most part, so I will still watch for now. It's not on par with Rescue Me, which I compared it to, but Hunter was excellent (and doesn't need any burgers!)