'The Closer' begins with Kyra Sedgwick
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY Mon Jun 13, 6:56 AM ET
If you're going to try to sell us another cop show, you'd better have someone as special as Kyra Sedgwick to close the deal.
Without Sedgwick, The Closer would be a standard-issue police procedural - a decent bit of TV entertainment, but nothing more. With Sedgwick's unforced charm and her witty iron-fist-meets-velvet-glove performance, The Closer rises to the top of TV's summer bill.
Monday's commercial-free premiere introduces Sedgwick as Los Angeles deputy police chief Brenda Johnson, a Southern,
CIA-trained interrogator with a reputation for being a "closer," a cop who can get people to confess.
She operates on one guiding principle: As hard as it is to uncover a secret, it's even harder to keep one.
By now, of course, we've seen just about every interrogation technique cop shows have to offer, along with every gruesome makeup trick and every forensic marvel. Wisely, The Closer offers a more reliable pleasure: an intriguing lead character.
What the show and Sedgwick give us is sort of an American version of Prime Suspect's Jane Tennison, a smart but not completely secure middle-aged woman with a passion for junk food and an ability to switch from down-home sweet to tough-cop brusque at the drop of a Ding Dong.
Plus, as a Southerner in L.A. and a female in a male-dominated department, she's a fish out of water times two - and that's something TV has never been able to resist.
Brenda has been brought to Los Angeles to head up the "Priority Murder Squad." Her first case involves a victim who can't be identified and a suspect who may not exist. But her first priority is to get some support from her rebellious squad while keeping the support of assistant police chief Will Pope, played by a somewhat underemployed J.K. Simmons.
"They may dislike me because I'm new, or because Captain Taylor (Robert Gossett) doesn't want me here," she tells Pope. "But relax, Will, because once I get to work and they see me in action, they'll have a whole list of other reasons to hate my guts."
As is common with pilots, The Closer does attempt to instantly jump-start character development by laying things on a bit too thick, from Brenda's accent to her food fetishes, to her body-image issues. Though that kind of quirk fest is acceptable for an opening hour, it will grow tiresome if the writers don't watch out.
As the title indicates, the plot is designed to resolve itself in an interrogation/confessional climax. The pilot's finish doesn't disappoint, thanks to a clever solution, a good guest performance by the prime suspect, and a nicely modulated final push by Sedgwick, who dominates the scene without sucking all the air out of the room.
By the time she's done, her team is won over. And so was I.
Thanks to Sedgwick, this is one summer show that will be worth watching. You could even say closely.