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TNT throws ‘Closer’ fans lifeline with new offshoot

BY ROB HEDELT

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

SO HOW do you follow a show like TNT’s “The Closer,” which has developed perhaps the most faithful fans of any detective series on TV?

In the case of “Major Crimes,” which kicks off Monday night after the final episode of “The Closer,” you keep most everyone but lead star Kyra Sedgwick and keep doing what you’ve been doing. You add two minor characters and change the name to “Major Crimes.”

Sedgwick, who tired of being away from her family for long stretches every year and decided to leave, presented TNT with a unique challenge.

One of its best-performing series had developed a solid connection with its stalwart fans, and the network didn’t want the loss of one person—even if she was the show’s core character—to wreck that.

And calling it quits wasn’t a palatable option for executive producer–creator–writer James Duff. He was eager to dig deeper into what motivates this team of LAPD detectives, and with one of the best supporting casts in television.

As you’ll see Monday night, in the final episode of “The Closer,” Duff creates a believable and dramatic way for Deputy Chief Brenda Lee “Thank Yew!” Johnson to part from the squad she’s put her unique mark on.

How to fill that void?

The show does so nicely with two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell as Capt. Sharon Raydor, an LAPD internal affairs officer who’s been on the show as a foil of sorts for Sedgwick’s Johnson.

Slowly but surely, loyal fans have seen what started as a combative relationship between the two grow into one of mutual respect and even caring and concern.

When Johnson’s “Major Crimes” division suddenly finds itself without its quirky but dynamic leader, its image damaged by lawsuits and controversial cases, the brass decides Raydor’s by-the-book approach is just the ticket.

The best thing about the change is that it gives the show a new thread to follow while preserving the back story and structure developed over its seven seasons.

The first outing of “Major Crimes” begins with a grocery store shoot-out that soon has the unit wondering why the crime scene details don’t add up.

The tension and conflict that crop up are just as interesting.

At the investigation’s start, Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) is calling the shots.

Capt. Raydor arrives, and the team learns on the spot that she’s the unit’s new commanding officer.

Provenza is indignant about losing the top spot, and other people resent the new captain because she used to be in internal affairs.

Other tension-builders include an antagonistic young witness (Graham Patrick Martin from “Two and a Half Men”) who’ll be a regular character, and a new female detective who admits to being a suck-up.

The unit is also grappling with a new strategy. Instead of always going to trial and seeking the death penalty when it’s possible, the brass wants Raydor and the unit to pursue less-expensive and more-expedient plea agreements.

It’s a notion these detectives find as welcome as screen doors on a submarine.

McDonnell, who first burst onto the national scene as the American Indian love interest of Kevin Costner in “Dances With Wolves,” does a nicely restrained job with her character.

If the show stays true to form, we’ll slowly learn more about this police veteran as different facets of her character are revealed.

It’s a shame that Sedgwick is heading for the exit. But what a relief that it doesn’t mean the end of one of the better series on television.

WANT TO WATCH?

“MAJOR CRIMES”

When: This Monday at 10, then Mondays at 9

Where: TNT

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/features/2012/08/20/tnt-throws-closer-fans-lifeline-with-new-offshoot/

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