Sociable

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The value of dependability: Reviewing the new season of "The Closer"


Dependability is an undervalued quality in a TV show. It's certainly not a sexy quality. No writer, producer or actor would thrill to have his or TV show assessed as "dependable," "reliable," or "consistent." They'd prefer "gripping," "original," or "ground-breaking."
But there's nothing wrong with being dependable. For instance, whenever I tune in to "The Closer," (returning for its new season Monday at 9 p.m. on TNT), I know what I'm going to get: a solid (but not terribly complicated) murder mystery, spiced with some decent melodrama and/or a little wacky comedy. I know Kyra Sedgwick, playing sassy deputy chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, is going to drawl and mug, and probably scarf down a boatload of chocolate. I know what to expect. And that's not really a bad thing.

Yes, I've bagged on some shows for being cliched or predictable (see my review of "The Glades" for evidence of that), but I'm willing forgive those qualities in "The Closer," because the show is solidly made. The mysteries are compelling enough; the jokes are funny and the performances are excellent. Sedgwick, for all her hamminess, does create an interesting, three-dimensional character in Brenda. Last season, when she was forced to put down her beloved cat Kitty, I actually cried, because her grief felt so real. This season, she has less intimate problems -- a new "state of the art" building she's having trouble navigating, and some political power struggles -- but I still keenly feel her frustration.
The rest of the cast is equally strong, particularly J.K. Simmons as Brenda's beleaguered boss and G.W. Bailey and Tony Denison as surly veteran cops. The season's second episode also features the return of the always welcome Mary McDonnell and some guest work by such familiar faces as Catherine Dent ("The Shield") and ol' Smokey himself, Titus Welliver.
No, "The Closer" doesn't offer a lot of surprises (though the screener of the second episode had the final scene cut off so as not to spoil a promised "twist" ending. Hmm. Intriguing). But it offers solid entertainment, week after week. And that's kind of enough for me.

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