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'Saving Grace' and 'HawthoRNe': Did you watch last night?

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TNT rolled out two new hours of TV last night: the third-season premiere of Saving Grace and the debut of the brand-new hospital drama HawthoRNe. I’ve always liked Holly Hunter’s performance in Grace, even though I find her “last-chance angel” Earl to be a tiresome character, a frequently lame plot device.

But last night, in an episode written by show creator Nancy Miller, Saving Grace was particularly good. The series has moved Grace closer and closer to her colleague-now-lover Ham in a believable way, and to start off the season with Grace telling Ham about Earl was a big deal in the Saving Grace universe. Among other things, it shows how much Grace’s character is growing — she’s trusting Ham enough to believe he won’t laugh or run away from her if she confides in him about her otherwordly, winged pal.

I was going to begin this next paragraph by writing, “in contrast,” but there is no contrast between the new HawthoRNe and Saving Grace: It fits TNT’s new winning combination for their dramas. Like Grace and The Closer, it features a strong female character as its lead (in this case, Jada Pinkett Smith as a Chief Nursing Officer at a big hospital), who breaks the rules and stands up to authority (the latter includes Alias‘ Michael Vartan as Chief of Surgery).

Like Hunter in Grace and Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer, Pinkett Smith’s Christina Hawthorne occasionally bends her iron will, but only for the comfort of the innocent and the afflicted. She’s a good caregiver, but this character just isn’t as interesting as the ones in those other two series. It’s not because this is the umpteenth hospital show — there were umpteen crime shows before Saving Grace and The Closer — it’s because the dialogue in the premiere was pretty trite and the plot twists predictable.

How about you? Did you watch both Saving Grace and HawthoRNe? What did you think of them?