For viewers, the real mystery in “Major Crimes” is why this spinoff of “The Closer” — which officially closes its books leading into the debut, in what amounts to a smooth baton pass — even warrants a new name. Other than the permanent addition of Mary McDonnell as a replacement for Kyra Sedgwick’s Emmy-winning crime-solver, there’s barely a dime’s worth of difference between them, down to the holdover cast and stylistic similarities. On past copshows (think “Law & Order”), people left and life went on. Here, it’s really just serving old wine with a new label.
Granted, McDonnell’s understated, schoolmarmish approach to the role of Capt. Raydor, who thanks to Dep. Chief Brenda Lee Johnson’s exit and department politics winds up taking over the Major Crimes Unit, proves to be an acquired taste. Frequently speaking in hushed tones, she’s a source of calm amid the day’s crisis, yes, but also risks lulling viewers into a kind of trance.
Most of the fireworks, rather, come from her holdover squad, many of whom do not take kindly to the shift in stewardship, particularly the crusty Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey), who snarls his disapproval at new-fangled methods of doing things during every available opportunity.
Raydor responds to this brazen insubordination with detachment, to the point where McDonnell at times seems to be channeling her character from “Battlestar Galactica,” who had the excuse of being gravely ill.
The procedural aspects of these shows is such that even Brenda spends most of her swan-song working on finding a serial killer, and Raydor exposes dollops of character as she works a grocery-store robbery and shooting during the premiere, with a murdered personal trainer in the second episode. She also picks up a surly teenager (Graham Patrick Martin) who needs to stay with her while hoping to find his missing mom, which is every bit as much fun as that sounds.
In short, the business questions related to “Major Crimes” (starting with whatever financial considerations went into tackling Sedgwick’s departure by rebooting in this fashion) are generally more interesting than the show itself.
Those who enjoyed “The Closer” will still find something, if probably not as much, to like about this closer, too. Or really, “Closer 2.”