President Graves: Making Conservatives Compassionate Again
“Creator of Graves, cast and crew discuss how Graves is the perfect response to the current political climate.” ~ EPIX
Over the weekend, I belatedly discovered the 2016 TV series Graves, starring Nick Nolte. (Thank you Netflix.) While the Democrat Party is still struggling to comprehend that American voters have gone populist, the producers of Graves were happily onto that phenomenon at least two years ago. Graves is a great TV series.
Political Correctness and Expediency Targeted
Series premise in a nutshell: Nolte plays Richard Graves, who is a former Republican president from a time period somewhere between Reagan and Bush. 25 years later, Graves is awash with regret for what he did during his term of office. He now wants to set things right. Thus, the stage is set for both comedy and social drama.
In the first four episodes of Season One (2016), which I have watched so far, Graves touches on the political issues that surround cancer research, immigration, and gay marriage. Somewhere along the way, a news anchor character quips that former President Graves is “making Conservatives compassionate again.” People are thrilled; the current administration is not.
Expect the show to target the underside of political correctness and expediency. Also expect to see cameo appearances by real-life political figures. For viewers, this creates a kind of cognitive disconnect, as each cameo appears to innocently believe that he or she is above the political quagmire. It’s good-natured comedy.
If and when the series deals with the corruption of Big Money in politics, I will be extremely pleased.
Characters with Good Instincts
In contrast to that other TV series about a U.S. President, House of Cards, we find that the main characters in Graves are not too damaged to exhibit positive impulses.
The former First Lady Margaret Graves, played by Sela Ward, has political ambitions of her own. I expected her character to be cold and ruthless. Refreshingly, however, Maggie is no Ice Queen. She actually loves her husband. And while greatly inconvenienced, she does not reject his social epiphany and change in moral direction.
The younger Graves are spoiled, insecure, and self-centered. Olivia Graves (Helene Yorke) was recently dumped by her Rockefeller husband. Jeremy Graves (Chris Lowell) has just returned from his tour in Iraq, where he worked in food service. Still, underneath, they seem to have good instincts. You get an inkling that they will persevere, and perhaps thrive one day.
The Graves family is in the process of developing a stronger, better character.
Then you have Richard Graves’ idealistic and proper aide, Isaiah Miller (Skylar Astin), and his lovely young authenticity mentor Samantha Vega (Callie Hernandez). These two characters are an equally-weighted set of paradoxical sanity anchors.
A Nonpartisan Political Dream
Graves is the fictional manifestation of our nonpartisan political dream. It’s about could-be leaders who grow and change. It’s about would-be policies that embrace the big picture. It’s about fictional characters with good instincts. And for most real-life viewers, that’s something we can identify in ourselves and other people.
Whether Conservatives become compassionate again, turn into economic Progressives, or regain a traditional Conservative stance (i.e., able to withstand some corporate pressure), Graves artfully uses the Conservative Establishment to spring open the door to a stimulating political discussion. We are all countrymen, not enemies, after all — maybe Conservatives can represent stability, and maybe Progressives can represent growth — we do need both. We should talk more, while appreciating that the “other side” also has fine ideas and good instincts.
You may catch “Graves” on the EPIX cable TV station. Season Two will air in the Fall of 2017.
Watch good TV.