You can't shoot a chrome-plated, pearl-handled .45 at your television set these days without hitting some show involving a cop, a lawyer or a doctor. So, when a new show involving one of those three crops up, it's pretty hard to work up much enthusiasm. Last month, TNT premiered its new cop series “The Closer.” The show is a well-crafted affair, both behind and in front of the camera, and deserves a closer look from crime-o-philes jaded by one too many “CSI” spin offs.
“The Closer” stars Kyra Sedgwick, a well-regarded actress who has starred in several films--The Woodsman, Personal Velocity, Born on the Fourth of July, Phenomenon and Something to Talk About--but is probably best known for being married to Kevin Bacon. The show is produced by the assorted folks behind such shows as “Nip/Tuck,” “The D.A.” and “NYPD Blue.” Not a bad pedigree. And if that wasn't enough, former Los Angeles district Attorney Gil Garcetti is a consulting producer on the series.
Sedgwick stars as Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson, a CIA-trained Atlanta detective who finds herself suddenly transferred to Los Angeles. Seems that the police chief there (J.K. Simmons from HBO's “Oz') is tired of losing a number of high-profile cases involving celebrities and rich people. (Hmmm. Sound familiar?) A brand new squad, handling only high-profile, media-saturated murder cases is formed with Brenda as the leader. Unfortunately, this doesn't sit well with a lot of the old-school police detectives, who don't cotton to no slow-talkin' Southern gal comin' in and stickin' her powdered nose in their business.
The office place tension is expected, but the show pulls it off fairly well, with the hodgepodge of detectives under Brenda's command played a bit like the flawed tough guys from FX's “Rescue Me.” In time, of course, the department warms a bit to Brenda. See, she's a legendary interrogator, capable of getting anyone to confess to anything. (Hence, the show's title.)
The show's punchy interrogation scenes are exciting little mind games, but they do play into the show's one flaw. Like Dr. House over on FOX, Deputy Police Chief Johnson is one of those infallible TV geniuses. Faced with mysteries that would stump Sherlock Holmes, these heroes come up with the most preposterous solution on Earth. No one believes them, of course--but damned if they aren't 100 percent correct.
Just a guess here, but most doctors and most detectives probably don't know the answer to every single case simply by looking at one minor piece of evidence. A piece of cat hair? Clearly the perpetrator was an Estonian hermaphrodite who murdered his victim to get revenge for his grandfather's stolen pension fund.
The overly dramatic (and basic-cable grisly) cases aside, “The Closer” has got a comfortable feel to it. Sedgwick seems at ease in her character's skin, making Brenda a tough nut cop as well as playing up the little character quirks designed to humanize her (in body-obsessed, babe-filled Los Angeles, our fish-out-of-water heroine has a weakness for doughnuts). “The Closer” isn't anything you haven't seen before; but, on a good night, it may be the best female-centric cop show since “Cagney & Lacey.”