Under the Radar

Home Video: A Former President Tries to Fix His Mistakes in 'Graves'


Graves (out now on DVD and Digital HD) stars Nick Nolte as former President Richard Graves, a conservative icon who's been out of office 25 years and now putters around his New Mexico ranch. He has a crisis of conscience and decides to make up for what he decides were destructive policies during his administration. Except this is a comedy and he's still the same guy who made those policies and his true nature keeps interfering with his efforts to act more like a progressive.


Sela Ward plays Margaret, his supportive wife and the only person who knows how to calm him down. She's also being recruited to run for U.S. Senate as a mainstream Republican candidate against a Tea Party bomb thrower/veterinarian, hilariously played by Chris Elliott. The Graves' adult children Olivia and Jeremy (Heléne Yorke and Chris Lowell) have their own issues and both end up living at home, Jeremy after he completes his military service. Skylar Astin plays the former president's idealistic conservative young assistant and he gets sucks into all of the family's misadventures.

Richard Graves is 100% a fictional ex-president. He's supposedly been out of office for 25 years after serving two terms and the show specifically refers to Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama. Maybe he served one on Reagan's terms and George H.W. Bush's term. The character is sort of George Bush, a little Bill Clinton and a lot of growling Nick Nolte. The show just rolls with the impossible timeline and doesn't act like it's a big deal. Because it's not: the show is a fictional satire.

If you've watched enough TV in your life, you can probably guess what kinds of trouble the family gets into. In an era where shows think they have to keep creating twists and turns to keep viewers committed to the show, it's okay to see a show that's kind of predictable but hits its marks on the jokes. The satire isn't as sharp as what you get on VEEP, but it's not exactly toothless either.

For readers concerned about politics, the show is far less liberal than the premise might suggest. Margaret is a solid mainstream Republican (she wouldn't have supported Trump in the election) and she's consistently trying to pull her husband back from his somewhat irrational attempts to trash his legacy. She also curses like a sailor, so anyone who enjoys upright Southern women with a foul mouth will especially enjoy Ward's performance.

Graves is the first original series from premium cable network EPIX, the movie channel that most of us don't get, and it's definitely a cable TV series. Everyone cusses up a storm, plus every major cast member under the age of 30 has a sex scene with plenty of nudity.

The 10 episodes are 30 minutes each, so this one's good for a weekend binge. EPIX has already renewed it for season 2 so the very mild cliffhangers at the end of this run will get resolved. Maybe these are the times for gentle, middle-of-the-road political satire, but Graves just might be a show that the whole (adult) family can agree to enjoy.


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