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"Graceland" is pretty and somewhat less than pretty good

The "inspired by true events" television production is always amusing because it's like saying my blog postings are inspired by Shakespeare. He uses words to communicate and so do I!

"Graceland" (10 tonight, USA) is inspired by an actual beachfront property seized by the government in 1992 and used as an undercover residence for federal agents. Apparently, the person from which it was seized was an Elvis fan. Beyond that, the show is based in the kind of truth only TV drama tells. It's not an awful take on undercover cops, but it's nothing special.

It's an ensemble show, but at the center is Paul Briggs (cutie Daniel Sunjata), as a veteran FBI agent who is a legend and kind of a mystery and a big surfer. New to the house is FBI agent Mike Warren (Aaron Tveit), who is ambitious and a bit of a square. He's also on a secret mission.

There's also Johnny Tuturro (Manny Montana), another FBI guy who's everybody's little brother; Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) who goes undercover as a drug addict and Dale (Brandon Jay McLaren), an agent with Immigration and Customs.

It's interesting that the USA sent out the pilot, then offered a chance to skip episodes 1-3 with just a quick synopsis at the beginning of episode 4, which the network or the producers think you'll really like. I'll translate: the pilot is pretty ho-hum, save for a twist at the end that makes you think, "hmm, this might get interesting." The synopsis of 1-3 actually had some compelling stuff in it. Episode 4 built on the interesting stuff but, again, didn't blow me away.

Part of the problem is that Sunjata isn't compelling enough to be what I think he's supposed to be: an anti-hero, the dude we aren't sure about. He just seems laid back, a good guy who even if he is shady, we'll forgive him.

Cinematically, "Graceland" is pretty; it takes place mostly on the beachy areas of California and its vivid when it needs to be and dark when it needs to be. This is supposed to be USA's move to a darker kind of show. I've seen the word 'gritty' used. But when you've seen a cop show like "The Shield" or "Southland," this seems awfully devoid of grit.

It's as pretty as Sunjata, but "Graceland" needs to put better stuff (words, stories) around the cast.

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