“Graceland’s” creator, Jeff Eastin, is also responsible for the USA hit, “White Collar,” and though “Graceland” has a grittier and perhaps slightly more complex premise, both shows fixate on style before substance. Over the past few months, “Graceland’s” publicity team sent what seems like several tons of heavy-stock portfolios of Herb Ritts-like photographs of its cast, palm trees, power lines, graffiti, ocean waves and the California sun glinting off concrete. All that this accomplishes is to remind me once more that someone needs to come up with a way to combine crime novels and fashion magazines. People in airports would read nothing else.
Thursday’s pilot episode is duller than the crispier episodes that soon follow. Mike is duly hazed by his unconventional new housemates, while the viewer is made to suffer extended scenes meant to portray the culture shock that “Graceland’s” writers assume a guy from Virginia would experience when he moves to Santa Monica. (Grab a surfboard, bro.)
Eventually, Mike is sent out on an undercover job, and we get down to the business of determining how much of “Graceland” will fixate on procedural cases and how much of it will be devoted to the longer story arc, which is this: Not only is Mike working with Briggs and the gang as an undercover agent, but he’s also supposed to report back to his FBI boss, who suspects that Briggs has gone rogue.
Tveit is kind of an underwhelming Officer Opie here, while Sunjata brings a menacingly ambivalent character to life. “Graceland” occasionally visits some of the same visual and emotional terrain that viewers enjoyed in FX’s short-lived “Terriers” and TNT’s under-appreciated “Southland.” Both of those were also set in Southern California with an eye for a certain, sun-blasted criminal realm. “Graceland” has this look, too, but that’s just about all it has.
‘In the Flesh’
One way or another, we’ll eventually conquer this zombie glut. BBC America’s doleful but deeply captivating “In the Flesh,” a three-night miniseries also premiering Thursday, offers the hope of a cure.