Last night was the season finale of Saving Grace, a TNT original television series starring Holly Hunter. Here's the website.The nutshell plot is this: Grace is a hard-living Oklahoma City police detective who is visited by an angel named Earl, who is struggling to save her soul. I originally didn't like the series very much, but have come around to a positive view, for the following reasons.1. It's set in Oklahoma City--not in Utopia--the sets look real, and gritty, and it's not all glamorized. Most of the people seem real, not Hollywood. And the Oklahoma City bombings --sin, evil, and the permanent loss it can cause -- still haunts the characters. Like real life.2. Religion is integrated into people's lives. Grace comes from a big Catholic family; they go to Church, go to first communion, get confirmed. People in the office mention God, belief, church as if they are facts of their lives (sometimes a bit awkwardly, but the writers have to get used to the new area).3. I sense an attractive religious vision here--at first I was skeptical. Grace's seems to be a very generous and selfless person, risking her life for others, especially the defenseless. Her big sins are her very active --one could say promiscuous --sex life and her drinking. Originally, I thought, here we go again, stereotypes about Catholics, God and sex, and not enough knowledge to know that drinking isn't really a Catholic hangup. But I've been pleased--as the show has gone on, it has become apparent that Earl wants Grace to curb this behavior because it's not good for her--not because it's subject to some arbitrary prohibition. The clear theme is God wants whats best for us.4. Grace's issue, of course, ends up being that she was abused by a priest. But even that, in my view, is rather well-done. Her beloved brother is a good priest-an honorable man. So it's clear that not all priests are abusive. And even the abusing priest shows signs of guilt; his humanity comes through too. Brokenness generates brokenness. We all need redemption.5. Grace's best friend==played by Laura San Giacamo. She's a happily married nerd--she's a doctor who's a crime scene investigator, and a devout Catholic, but not a goody-goody. And she's fascinated, as a scientist, with Earl--asking Grace to get her evidence of the angel that she can analyze (a wing would be good). There's no sense that there is a conflict between science and religion.6. Religion isn't only the province of the perfect--and God isn't concerned only with the perfect. God and the angels of God aren't easily shocked.So in the end, a thumbs up. BUT this show isn't for television-watching neophytes. There is a lot of crudeness, some pretty explicit sex scenes, and partial nudity. You can't go straight from Brideshead Revisted to Saving Grace. Spend some time in Seventh Heaven first.

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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