Angie Harmon last starred in a show titled “Women’s Murder Club,” and “Rizzoli & Isles” could easily pass as a rerun of that ABC also-ran. In this case, she’s the tough, sassy, fiercely single Boston detective, and Sasha Alexander is the coroner with the mostest — one who wears fabulous outfits even to autopsies and crime scenes. Derived from Tess Gerritsen’s books, the show fits neatly with TNT’s meat-and-potatoes niche, but even Harmon and Alexander’s well-cut figures will be challenged not to look dated in such a well-worn pattern.
The pilot, at least, gets off to a rather grisly start, involving a serial killer who rapes women while their bound husbands are forced to watch before murdering both of them. The unsettling part is that the crimes mimic those of a killer who Rizzoli (Harmon) helped put away after considerable messiness, requiring a prison visit to consult with her very own version of Hannibal Lecter.
He’s played, with characteristic venom, by favorite TV bad guy Michael Massee, adding an element of gravitas to what’s otherwise a pretty moribund premiere. Although she’s best buds with Alexander’s coroner, we spend most of the time getting to know Rizzoli, who when not circling chalk outlines hangs with her cop kid brother (Jordan Bridges) and protective Italian mom (Lorraine Bracco, falling an awfully long way after listening to Tony Soprano’s problems).
Harmon remains as physically striking as the day she first said “Fry ’em all” on “Law and Order,” and TNT is clearly betting fans of “The Closer” will be receptive to another attractive femme cop. But in the pilot, anyway, her career-driven detective exhibits more bravado than brains, which doesn’t bode terribly well for the show as a procedural.
Adapted by Janet Tamaro (“Bones”) and directed by “The Closer’s” Michael M. Robin (also a consulting producer here), the show has assembled a first-rate supporting cast (some of whom affect a New England accent), including Lee Thompson Young as Rizzoli’s green new partner and Bruce McGill as her gnarled old one. There are also glimpses of nice interplay between the leads, especially when both seem attracted to an FBI agent (Billy Burke) horning in on their case.
Aside from the lurid nature of the crimes and some salty language, though, “Rizzoli & Isles” is just what the title sounds like — a place for second-hand goods at reasonable prices. Actually, that’s not a bad description of TNT’s guiding formula, which — even hooked up to crime-solving firecrackers — generally feels less than combustible.