At first glance a nothing-special copshow, “The Closer’s” ad-free premiere actually proves surprisingly entertaining, with Kyra Sedgwick as the much-resented, newly imported star crime-solver in a special L.A.P.D. murder squad. Despite a slow start, the hour finishes with a nice twist, and Sedgwick’s Scarlett O’Hara, “lil’ ol’ me” belle act actually grew on me. While hardly groundbreaking, TNT’s return to original series at least feels like a well-tailored fit for a channel awash in “Law & Order” reruns.
An Atlanta transplant, Brenda Johnson (Sedgwick) is brought to L.A. by Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons, using about 30% of his talent), with whom she shares a bit of personal history. Openly antagonistic toward the new hire, the detectives assigned to work with her stage a near-revolt, led by the prickly Capt. Taylor (Robert Gossett).
Amid the office politics, Johnson faces a baffling case, as a dead woman with her face blown away is discovered in a missing con man’s ritzy home — one of those high-profile slayings that have the media jackals barking and the brass feeling anxious.
So will Brenda break down a prime witness in the case (Allison Smith, in a nice guest turn), solve the crime and earn the grudging respect of her peers? Has Kevin Bacon been in a lot of movies?
Anyone harboring even fleeting doubts as to the answers has clearly tuned in the wrong program. Still, once her Southern accent settles down and she gets over cooing at colleagues, Sedgwick provides a solid enough presence, augmented by series creator James Duff’s sharp dialogue — “As hard as a secret is to uncover, it’s even harder to keep,” Brenda notes — and welcome moments of humor.
The producers also have assembled a topnotch cast, which bodes well for the future even if most of them have little to do in this inaugural hour other than look on admiringly as Brenda goes about her business.
Clearly, this is a lower-key enterprise than TNT’s ambitious limited series “Into the West,” but at least this drama is better executed and possesses a strategic logic for a network so heavily invested in off-network crimeshows.
As a footnote, former L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti serves as a consultant on the series, which is notable given that failing to “close” high-profile prosecutions such as the O.J. Simpson case shortened his tenure. By contrast, it doesn’t require a master sleuth to ascertain that whatever obstacles arise, “The Closer” will live up to her name.