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Pierce: 5 things to know about 'Granite Flats,' BYUtv's first scripted drama

By Scott D. Pierce

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 03 2013 03:46 pm • Last Updated Jul 07 2013 11:31 pm

Here are five things you need to know about the new series "Granite Flats":

1. It is BYUtv’s first scripted drama.

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2. It’s a period piece set in small-town Colorado at the height of the Cold War.

3. It’s trying to appeal to the "Touched by an Angel" audience.

4. It is not religious; it is appropriate for family viewing.

5. It’s good. Really.

"Granite Flats," which debuts Sunday at 4, 6 and 9 p.m. on BYUtv, looks good. It’s nicely written. There are good performances, for the most part.

If you are flipping channels and come across "Granite Flats," there’s nothing about it that feels preachy or — yes — Mormon.

Executive producer and BYUtv general manager Derek Marquis described it as "a cross between ‘The Wonder Years’ and ‘"The Goonies’ " — and he’s right.

It begins as recently widowed Beth Milligan (Annie Tedesco) and her 12-year-old son, Arthur (Jonathan Morgan Heit), who move to the small town of Granite Flats after their husband/father was killed in an Air Force crash. And not all is as it seems. Are there UFOs? Are the Soviets planning an attack? What is the FBI up to?

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It’s filled with likable characters. And parallel, often intersecting storylines involving the kids and the adults.

There’s also no sexual innuendo or R-rated language. But that doesn’t mean this is a kiddie show. Kids will like it, but so will parents and grandparents.

"I, for a long time, had a bad taste in my mouth when someone would say, ‘Oh, it’s a family-friendly show," said producer/director Scott Swofford. "That usually meant I could sit my children in front of it but then I would have to leave the room because the plotlines were oversimplistic and uninteresting — but they were certainly clean. But it shouldn’t have to be subdivided like that. And so that’s the experiment that is ‘Granite Flats.’"

In terms of quality, the experiment is a success. I see it all, and this series — while not flawless — is better than a lot of shows that cost three or four times as much.

And "Granite Flats" is not a low-budget production. These are Hollywood actors working with professional writers, directors, set decorators and more.

This show is a step on what Marquis calls BYUtv’s "trajectory" to establish itself as a destination for viewers who want family programing. "Granite Flats" is not trying to convert you to a new religion, it’s trying to convert you to watching BYUtv. And research showed that scripted programs are the way to establish a cable network.

"It’s about creating a television network that families will want to watch," Marquis said. "We’re creating a channel that has content that will compete with any other network out there that’s aimed at families."

So far, so good.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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