May is usually the best and worst month on TV. The best, because of the great season finales; the worst, because it's the beginning of four months of reruns, and bad reality TV shows. Basic cable has smartly realized that people do watch TV in the summer and they have begun stepping into the void.
TV, unlike film, recognizes the importance of the female demographic and networks are targeting women and creating shows they will watch. Lifetime has had many hit and misses and is on a good track now with Army Wives and the Lili Taylor show State of Mind, and now TNT has joined the party in a big way. TNT has a monster hit in The Closer, the police drama starring Kyra Sedgwick now in its third season, so they smartly are adding a companion show Saving Grace starring the amazing Holly Hunter starting tonight. I'm no TV historian, but I don't think I will be going too far out on a limb saying that having two female one-hour dramas back to back is unprecedented.
While one might think that the two shows are quite similar because both women are cops and from the south, one would be quite wrong. The Closer shows Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson running a priority homicide squad in Los Angeles. Hunter plays Grace Hanadarko, a Oklahoma City detective whose life is a mess. Most of the advance press about the show talks about the shock value of the opening where Hunter is seen straddling her married (not to her) partner, flashing her neighbor, and adding alcohol to her soda before getting in her car. It is a bold way to start a show and I applaud their making her a provocative woman embracing her sexuality, but during the scene all I could think about was how many of her ribs I could count and how pronounced her clavicle was. I know she's always been petite but she has gotten scary skinny.
Saving Grace, created by Nancy Miller, also created the Lifetime show about race, Any Day Now. This show is about Grace's struggles with herself and her life, and the struggles people have with faith and belief. Laura San Giacomo plays the department's forensics expert and Grace's best friend, and Loretta Toussaint will join the cast in episode three as the squad's captain.
Also starting this week on Tuesday night is Damages on FX starring Glenn Close. FX is known for its male-centric shows like Rescue Me and The Shield so it's about time that they got a woman centric show on the air (sorry, Courtney Cox, but Dirt doesn't cut it.) Close plays Patty Hewes a ruthless, and I mean ruthless, attorney. The premiere episode works to keep you off kilter about just how ruthless she is. She seems to be trying to "do good" by taking on a class action lawsuit against a company that looted its employee's pensions. But she wants to win more than she wants to help the employees and that's where everything gets murky -- and interesting.
It's so exciting to see both Close and Hunter acting in such meaty roles. I will also be watching the ratings to see if these shows will be as successful as The Closer and Army Wives. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a new trend. All I know is that it will make the heat of August much more bearable.