|The Closer: The Complete Second Season (2006)
Starring: Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds, Robert Gossett, G.W. Bailey, Jon Tenney, Anthony John Denison, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz
When “The Closer” premiered on TNT in the summer of 2005 alongside “Wanted,” an action-drama about a team of various law enforcement officers – FBI, ATF, and so on down the alphabet – teaming up to track down the 100 most wanted criminals, most bets would’ve been on “Wanted” lasting longer, if only because the premise sounded cooler. Here we are in 2007, however, and history reveals that, despite a cool concept, the poor execution of “Wanted” resulted in quick cancellation; meanwhile, “The Closer” has just begun its third season.
Let that be a lesson to you gamblers: once in awhile, the long shot pays off in a big, big way.
Kyra Sedgwick stars as Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson, who, when “The Closer” began, had just arrived in Los Angeles from Atlanta to take over the LAPD’s Priority Homicide Division, a special unit which handles the department’s more high-profile cases. Johnson spent the first season of the show learning the differences between how they do it in Georgia and how they do it in California, as well as honing her people skills while trying to adapt to the diverse personalities within her team of detectives. As the second season begins, it’s clear that her abilities have earned her the respect of her squad, if not necessarily that of Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett), who continues to resent the fact that he worked his way up through the ranks but lost out to heading Priority Homicide when Johnson was hired. It’s not the easiest thing for Johnson herself to deal with, either, given that she once had a relationship with the man who hired her: Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons, a.k.a. J. Jonah Jameson in the “Spider-Man” flicks).
Okay, that’s probably enough back story for those who aren’t familiar with the show, so let’s dive into why a police drama like “The Closer” continues to stand out above so many of its peers. It’s a one-word answer, really: characterization. The crimes that take place within each episode of “The Closer” aren’t why viewers continue to tune in to the show; it’s how the personalities of the characters are developed, and how they interact with each other.
Kyra Sedgwick has, with the assistance of the writers, created a remarkably nuanced character in Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson. Although it takes a few episodes to get used to her Southern drawl, that’s only appropriate, since it’s not exactly easy for her subordinates to deal with either; there’s a tendency for those who first meet Johnson to think of her as a Southern belle who gets by on common sense rather than “book-learning.” But they learn that she’s not a woman to be trifled with. She’s also a very complex woman from a psychological standpoint; we see that her difficulties with being a “people person” extend into her personal life as well, resulting in a romantic relationship that would’ve ended long ago if her significant other – FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard – wasn’t so tolerant of her eccentricities. Even so, he’s only willing to put up with so much, and a regular point of contention is the relationship between Johnson and Pope. (Pope’s marriage is ending, and he makes it clear that he’d be quite happy to pick back up with what he and Johnson once had.)
There’s more development of the Priority Homicide team as well. Unlike “Law & Order” or even the “C.S.I.” franchise, we get to see a fair amount of the personal lives of these detectives. One episode begins with Detective Lieutenants Provenza (G.W. Bailey) and Flynn (Tony Denison) heading to a baseball game, only to find a body in Provenza’s garage. The two wrestle with what to do, then decide, “Eh, we’ve got skybox tickets, and she’s still going to be dead when we get back.” (Of course, she isn’t.) It’s also revealed this season that Sergeant Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) and Detective Daniels (Gina Ravera) have become an item, which Johnson isn’t thrilled about but, ultimately, tolerates.
The writing on “The Closer” is impressive in the way that it deftly blends the real-life humor of a workplace with the drama inherent in a homicide case. In both this manner, as well as the interaction of its ensemble cast, it highly resembles “NCIS.” It would be a tightrope walk for any predominantly dramatic series to incorporate a vaguely slapstick subplot like Johnson hiding from her mother the fact that Howard is living with her. The episode ends, however, with a woman killing her daughter-in-law because she was trying to convince her husband to put his mother in an old-age home. It’s easy to buy Johnson’s change of heart about telling her own mother. (It also results in a great line when Johnson asks her mother if they should tell her father: “Oh, LORD, no!”)
It’s hard to believe that this show only came about because TNT wanted to develop a companion show to run alongside its “Law & Order” reruns. It’s not full of the gritty action of a show like “The Shield,” but, with its characters and performances, “The Closer” is one of the best original dramas on cable today.Special Features: Clearly, Warner Bros. is aware of the growing fanbase of “The Closer” and wants to keep them on their good side. In addition to a really nice original featurette entitled “Breaking Down ‘The Closer,’” which includes interviews with the show’s cast and creators, there are unaired scenes provided for the majority of the episodes, plus a short gag reel.