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What I Watched Last Night

Do you believe in God? Well, do ya, punk? That's kinda the premise behind Saving Grace, TNT's new Monday night show that, I'm hoping, will quell my incessant bitching about the state of Monday night TV. It's a good show, but whether it turns out to be a great one will depend how well Holly Hunter can beat it into submission. Or lets us in on why she keeps kissing police headquarters lab rat Laura San Giacamo on the cheek, whichever comes first.

Hunter plays Grace Hanadarko, an Oklahoma City detective who gets her morning hangover started with a healthy Jack and Coke because, well, history has shown that cops with the shakes aim their guns better with some hair of the dog. She drives her own Porsche on duty (which ought to make the citizenry wonder about the pay scale for their civil servants) and her hobbies involve an adulterous affair with her partner (police fraternity runs rampant in Oklahoma City, it seems), parking in handicapped spaces, sucker punching smart-assed cattlemen, and fishtailing through the crowded Okie streets giving her grade-school nephew and his girlfriend a high-speed joyride while blaring the siren and flashing her gun. She also likes to drive drunk and mow down pedestrians, but more on that later.

Grace is, after all a cop show, so last night's episode dealt with a missing 10-year-old girl. Time dedicated to actual cop work took up maybe 10 minutes of the hour-long program, so the cop part followed the search for a missing fourth-grade girl at the hands of a high school kid with a fascination for little-girl porn. Let's just say the most pivotal moment of the cop part concerns a set of high school football field bleachers high enough to be the easternmost satellite of the Rocky Mountains.

Grace doesn't believe in God, so naturally she's the one who gets an immediate answer to her "Please God, help me" when she mows down a guy in the wee hours while bouncing her Porsche down the street like a pinball on her way home from the bar. Help comes in the form of Earl, a greasy, tobacco-spitting angel (the always-excellent Leon Rippy) with bitchin' light-up wings visible only to windows of parked minivans and heathen vehicular homicidals. Earl's a "last chance angel," a sort of Clarence you get when things have gone from It's A Wonderful Life to It's A Shitty, Fucked-Up Life. Blow Me. Before Grace is able to shoot him dead for asking if she believes in God, Earl fires up the wings and whooshes her in an eyeblink to some cliff in the middle of the Grand Canyon. Since she can't make up her mind quick enough, Earl snaps up a little windstorm that threatens to blow her off the edge.

"You're headed for hell, Grace. I'm here to give you a second chance," Earl says. "You asked for God's help. You want God's help or not? You ready to turn your life over to God?" Then in an instant, she's back on the street where she left off - except now sans dead pedestrian and showcasing the quickest windshield and body repair job in Porsche history.

Grace's brother, who happens to be a priest, doesn't believe her story. "You're full of shit," says Father Brother. The Vatican is no doubt in a good mood this morning.

Thankfully, Grace doesn't turn into a do-gooder, she still doesn't believe in God exactly, and what she really wants is Earl to go away - probably because he's good for shit in explaining why the world is such a terrible place and good people die far too soon - including her sister, who was killed in the Murrah Building massacre because Grace was too hung over to babysit her sister's son the day before. "You people ask the same question: Why there's evil, betrayal, tragedy, and death. If I give you all the answers, there's no room for faith." Oh yeah, one other thing, he says: "And I can't help you solve crimes, either."

Great. But the good news from Earl is that God "sits on a monster Harley."

*

Just when you think someone went and exorcised Gordon Ramsay's Exploding Chef alter-ego a few episodes back, it returned like a comfortable old friend in last night's Hell's Kitchen. And we have cheftestant Josh to thank for what might be the most classic Kitchen moment ever.

Since five cheftestants remained, Ramsay combined them into one team, giving them snazzy new cheftestant jackets and spraying them with champagne. The magic didn't last long when Josh started cooking panfuls of risotto and spaghetti before anyone even ordered it in order to stay ahead of the imagined rush of customer orders. This doesn't escape Ramsay's notice, so he instructs Josh to stop before he risottos again. Josh complies by firing up several orders of spaghetti ahead of time. Ramsay notices this, too. "WE COOK SPAGHETTI TO ORDER!!!" Chef screams in Josh's face. "Even the fucking dirtiest, scummiest Italian restaurant in Venice Beach cooks spaghetti to order!!!"

So what does Josh do? He turns right around and cooks up even more spaghetti. "You're fucking useless," Chef screams as he orders Josh to get the fuck out of his kitchen for good. Chef almost wings Josh with a spoon and begins morphing into Joan Crawford: "GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!!!! LEAVE THE JACKET AND GET OUT!!!! YOU USELESS SACK OF SHIT!!!! GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!!!!" Meanwhile, cheftestant Bonnie gives us her weekly Blonde Moment when she dumps a perfectly good load of monkfish into the trash without checking with anyone else whether it actually did smell funny. "Smells like monkfish," says one of the sous chefs.

In the end, the team gets whittled down to three when cheftestant Julia, the scrappy little waffle house cook, is sent packing for giving bad garnish - but not before Chef Ramsay offers to send her to culinary arts school on his dime. "You have an exceptional amount of talent," he tells her. "When you're through, I want you to come back and win this hands down. There's something quite amazing about you. I am very proud of you."

Awwww. I don't think America's done drying its eyes yet.

*

See what else we've been watching.




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Posted on July 24, 2007


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