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Sunday, June 11, 2017
GRAVES: WISHFUL THINKING FOR SOME
I went into this series thinking that with the combined talents of Nick Nolte and Sela Ward as the two main stars it would offer something insightful, thought provoking and offer a wonderful satiric look at Washington, D.C. and those who inhabit that location. I got none of that. Oh sure, the performances of all involved and in particular Nolte are wonderful to see. But this ended up being no meat and all low brand instant potatoes.
The concept of the show GRAVES is pretty simple. Nolte plays ex-President Richard Graves, a cross between a Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush style Republican. Out of office for over 20 years he’s been relegated to making speeches for other politicians and just causes and he’s grown weary of it all. Graves feels his life has no meaning and hates all the things his past duties have forced him into now from making these speeches to being surrounded by Secret Service agents.
Now if you are to believe this series a single night of getting high with a millennial waitress who lives in a trailer coupled with his visiting several website that proclaim him the worst President ever causes Graves to wake from his self-imposed moral coma and his way of thinking doing a complete 180. Yes, that’s all it takes. Suddenly he complains about defense spending saying the solution to cure cancer is to use that money there, he stands up for illegal immigrants, he supports though doesn’t endorse gay marriage, etc. This is the main crux of the series.
Along the way we also find that his wife Margaret (Ward) is approached to run for the Senate and possibly the Presidency itself down the road. She may be a little more flexible on the issues but her husband’s antics are not helping any. We also have Richard’s new assistant Isiah Miller (Skyler Astin) on hand, an idol worshipping conservative of Graves who is seeing his hero in the flesh for the first time. Add to that their daughter Olivia who has recently split with her cheating Rockefeller husband, son Jeremy the spoiled brat who’s just returned from the military and a myriad of other obstacles and you have what is supposed to be a comedy. At least that’s how it’s described at imdb.com
The problem is…it just isn’t funny no matter what your political viewpoints are. For liberal viewers I would think that a show that offers little depth on any issue and glosses over each this way would be insulting. For conservatives the attack on any and all things you believe in depicted through the eyes of someone who was supposed to represent you offers nothing humorous. This has been a problem of late with political comedy. Whereas comedians of the past made a point of poking a stick into both sides it has changed to focusing only on one these days. David Frye made a career out of making fun of both LBJ and Nixon. Today only Nixon would get the barbs. The worst thing is that this conscious decision to play an us versus them mentality in entertainment as well as news was what gave rise to the whole Trump movement. Not trying to see and depict that there are two sides to every issue and slamming anyone who disagrees does not sow the seeds of compromise.
This series is unlikely to reshape the hearts and minds of anyone it decided to skewer. It will most likely find praise and adulation from those who agree with the sentiments it expresses rather than taking a critical eye at just how badly it is done. In reading reviews posted online I’ve found that those that praise it also tend to slam anything that leans right at the same time. It offers a smug “My way of thinking is the only correct way to think and if you think differently then you’re stupid and a joke” mentality. Again, more preaching to the choir and altering no one.
Technically speaking it looks great and is well acted. Thematically it lacks a ton.
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