August 11, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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For those who like Six Degrees of Separation-ish linkages:  the protagonist of ABC’s busted pilot GRACE is Michael Grace, an aging, womanizing choreographer who bears some resemblance to Bob Fosse–or at least to Joe Gideon, the center of Fosse’s semiautographical All That Jazz.  The actor playing Grace is Eric Roberts–whose own signature role was in Fosse’s final film Star 80, as the husband/manager and ultimately murderer of Dorothy Stratten.  Did Roberts model his performance on Fosse?  We’ll never know, as Grace has deservedly gone to the busted pilot scrapyard.

Like NBC’s Smash, Grace was intended as a quasi-musical, a drama set in a venue where musical numbers could fit with some degree of naturalism–in this case, a dance company.  But Smash this wasn’t.  (My rave for NBC’s show is here.)  The show was basically trying to be a hipper version of Brothers & Sisters, also centering on an extended family that was troubled but loving.  Although Michael was the spoke around whom all the plots revolved, the main character of the pilot is actually his daughter Sarah (Abigail Spencer, best known as the teacher who had an affair with Don Draper in Mad Men).  Sarah was brought up in her father’s dance company and was a talented dancer herself, but opted for a safer lifestyle by going to law school and opening a firm with her husband Adam (Elon Bailey), who may or may not be having an affair; her avocation is getting her father and other family members out of scrapes with the law.  Sarah’s half-sister Shayna (Sherri Saum) has an ex-husband who’s trying to get back in her life now that he’s sober, and a 14-year old son who needs to stay out of trouble.  Adding to the family complications is the pilot’s main plot development (and the one most like a Brothers & Sisters storyline):  the revelation that Sarah and Shayna have yet another half-sister that they never knew about, Eden (Anabelle Acosta), who–guess what?–is an aspiring dancer who’ll join Michael’s company.
There was certainly enough going on to give Grace plenty of soapy story, but the pilot doesn’t come together.  Despite the plotlines from  Brothers & Sisters, the pilot was actually written by a Grey’s Anatomy veteran, Krista Vernoff, and quite a bit of the dialogue sounds like it’s out of the Grey’s playbook, especially when Sarah goes off into the kind of rambling, emotional, meant-to-be-lovable monologues that Shonda Rhimes does so well.  Michael just isn’t as charismatic as he needs to be, and the fragmenting of scenes to present his subliminal bursts of choreographic inspiration–as he watches a banner waving in the breeze, or a couple arguing–gets filed under Must Have Seemed Like A Good Idea.

Grace might have improved with time and tinkering, but it’s a less promising pilot than ABC’s Revenge or Pan Am, which aimed at the same audience, so there’s no second-guessing the network on this one.  A show about a dance company can’t afford to do too much stumbling.

The Sked’s Verdict:  The Network Was Right
Read more about TV’s new shows at THE SKED PILOT REPORT.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."