Viewers and critics alike don’t care about ratings, just about the quality of the shows they’re watching. Networks, on the other hand, initially only have their expectations and crystal balls to go on. They make an assessment of how a script is likely going to be translated to screen, judging by creator, actors and director. Then, they decide to start production on a number of episodes. But when a show’s on the air and doing great in the quality department but is unable to rake in the necessary ratings, there’s no mercy.
This week we had to say goodbye to a merciless kill by USA. They don’t usually make bad decisions; they’ve been renewing Suits – one of the best shows on television -, they’ve chosen Satisfaction over Rush for a new season (the former will have its second coming on October 16), and very recently they’ve lost dead weight Complications. But every now and then, a show just doesn’t haul in enough (big) advertising (contracts), like, apparently and for incomprehensible reasons, in the case of Graceland. So we had to say goodbye to Briggs, Mike, Paige, Charlie, Johnny and Jakes. At a point where it was getting very, very interesting.
Fresh and New
The show, starring Daniel Sunjata, Aaron Tveit, Serinda Swan, Vanessa Ferlito, Manny Montana and Brandon Jay McLaren, blew up the summer of 2013 with its first season. Every week there were multiple cliffhangers, revelations, twists, turns, sharp dialogue, cool images, sizzling locations, this fresh new show was on everybody’s radar immediately. So where did it all go wrong, I hear you ask. But did something actually go wrong?
The way I see it, every Graceland season wore a different signature. Almost like for three years in a row, the show changed showrunners. From the funny, action-packed season 1, they went for a more serious approach in season 2, with a new Mike. Still played by Tveit, he was a different guy. Left Graceland at the end of the first season finale, he came back after Briggs invited him, but at arrival demanded right away he’d be the man in charge. It turned out to be a total failure, with him doing some very questionable things. But not only that. His storyline was the least interesting of all, combined with the audience – well, I for one felt that way – distancing themselves from him, this new Mike that wasn’t relatable anymore, and suddenly Graceland was no longer about the laughs and the action sequences. It’d become a dead serious portrayal of a man who was losing his way. Therefor it was such a fitting ending, when the season 2 finale saw Mike die in a hospital bed.
It was the ultimate price; giving his life, sacrificing himself for everything he’d done. It was the first (and last) noble thing he’d done in a long time. But you can’t kill off the star of your show, an old Hollywood rule prescribes, so he was brought back. He wasn’t an egomaniac anymore (season 2), and the time he used to be an ambitious, decent but gutsy new kid on the block was long behind him (season 1), no, he came back to life a junkie (season 3). An addict, or should I say puppet, with Briggs pulling the strings.
The third season quickly wrapped up all the loose ends the writers forgot about resolving, and turned its attention to the Sarkissian mob family and Briggs’ undercover sting operation. The show changed its tune again, and drew inspiration from Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City (the episode ‘Aha’) and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (‘No Old Tigers’).
This tune changing might be an explanation for the declining viewership. If you were to compare the pilot and the series finale, the difference should be obvious. Now, that’s not a bad thing, per se. Evolvement can only be applauded. But maybe it went too fast to keep up for most people, who knows.
It’s just sad, when the last episode promised so many opportunities for great stuff if a fourth season had been greenlit. As we’ve mentioned before, one of the coolest things that could happen is one of the Gracelanders turning on his or her former team mates. Like Tony Almeida (24, season 7). The season three finale set it up nicely, with Jakes leaving the band, choosing a life as a fugitive. Then again, I guess the best finales make you imagine what could’ve been. Although, just a lousy three seasons of Graceland, 38 episodes in total, just isn’t enough.