TNT's The Closer returns for season six tonight as a trailblazing, still compelling series
On the surface, it's a well-done cop drama, centered on the kind of quirky crime solver today's TV audiences love — in this case, Kyra Sedgwick's Southern belle-turned-ace Los Angeles deputy police chief Brenda Leigh Johnson.
But as it starts a sixth season tomorrow, The Closer also stands as an impressive mix of unassuming talent and good luck; an appealing grab bag of half a dozen television trends we now know viewers love, thanks in part to this show's blockbuster success.
Back in 2005, it started as the story of a quirky crime solver plopped into the L.A. police force, a smart woman stuck in a male-dominated workplace who was as dysfunctional at home as she was scarily effective on the job.
Five years later, the Closer characters have become a tight-knight family producers must find new ways to knock off balance every season. This time, it's the possibility that Johnson's boss, Assist. Chief Will Pope, may be promoted to chief, as Johnson and her detectives struggle to deal with a new headquarters and new squad room.
NPR asked me some questions about the show after visiting the set; click here to check out their story. See a scene from tonight's debut of the sixth season, airing at 9 p.m. on TNT, by clicking here.
Here's my list of three reasons why I still love The Closer, five years in:Created a haven for women of a certain age: Glenn Close's Damages, Holly Hunter's Saving Grace, Mary McCormack's In Plain Sight and Jada Pinkett Smith's HawthoRNe all followed The Closer's success, which proved actresses who might be aging out of contention for big film roles could find greater challenges on cable TV.
Delivers great mysteries: Some cop shows make the crimes so obtuse, you can't tell what happened even after they slap the cuffs on the bad guy (yes, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, I mean you). And House's medical mysteries are so formulaic, you can set your watch by them (a seizure or attack in the first 15 minutes, solution falls about 10 minutes before show's end). The Closer keeps serving up interesting but not outlandish crimes, along with all the cool character stuff.
Has a wonderful relationship at its core: The bond between Johnson and her now-husband FBI agent Fritz Holland ( Jon Tenney) is another delicious touch. Starting as the perfect boyfriend — supportive and sensitive when necessary, but willing to challenge her if necessary — Tenney's Holland has revealed an alcoholic past and a new career success that may lead to conflict with his wife.
Can't wait to see where that goes this season.