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On TV tonight: USA's 'Graceland'

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  • Graceland - Pilot

    Aaron Tveit and Daniel Sunjata star in the new series, which airs at 10 p.m. Thursdays.

Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013 1:00 pm | Updated: 9:18 am, Fri Jun 7, 2013.

Just think of USA’s “Graceland” as “The Real World: Cops.”

At times, the new series, which premieres at 10 p.m., plays like a fictionalized version of the MTV reality show. But instead of seven strangers picked to live in a house, you’ve got an assortment of undercover FBI, DEA and customs agents, living it up in a beautiful beachfront property called Graceland.

When they’re not out catching bad guys, they’re catching waves, or doing shots of tequila in their spacious living room, or toasting each other around a beachside bonfire.

Supposedly, a house like this really did exist; USA press materials say it was seized by the government in the early ‘90s and operated as a residence for the feds until 2001.

Here, we are introduced to Graceland — named after Elvis Presley’s estate because its former owner was obsessed with the crooner — through the eyes of its newest resident, FBI agent Mike Warren (the charismatic and likeable Aaron Tveit).

From there, the set-up progresses like most cop shows and movies.

Everyone is mean to the rookie at first. DEA agent Lauren (Scottie Thompson, best known around these parts as the star of the Smith Mountain Lake-set movie “Lake Effects”), whose injured partner Mike is essentially replacing in the house, tells him not to unpack or get too comfortable.

Customs agent Dale Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) gives him a hard time for drinking his orange juice, while FBI legend, and the house’s de facto leader, Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata, “Rescue Me”) orders him to do the dishes, noting he should “think of it as a whole wax on/wax off thing.”

But they soon start to see that Mike’s got chops — if you’ll forgive me using a cliché, too — and suddenly, they’re affectionately calling him “kid” and smiling approvingly as they listen in on his undercover work.

To pile cliché on top of cliché, Briggs is given a dark back story: He, like Mike, used to be buttoned-up and by-the-book. But then something mysterious happened and, after a leave of absence, he came back with a much more devil-may-care attitude.

He also says really cheesy things, like when he explains why surfing helps their undercover work: “This is about learning how to control your energy, understanding your body’s connection to the things around it.”

Unfortunately, nothing about this show is connecting with me on any level.

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