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New This Week
Now this is slightly curious. The text on the “Breaking Bad” box set hitting shelves today clearly says “The Fifth Season” but I’m pretty sure it only contains the excellent first eight episodes of the fifth season that ran last summer. AMC, last I heard, is still billing the final eight episodes launching this August as the latter half of the fifth and final season.
“Major Crimes” is the sequel series to “The Closer,” which ended its long run on TNT the night “Major Crimes” premiered. Mary McDonnell’s character, LAPD captain Sharon Raydor, takes center stage in the new project, which also stars at least six more members of the “Closer” supporting cast (but not J.K. “We Are Farmers” Simmons, who joined Kyra Sedgwick out the exit -- in his case to join the cast of ABC’s quickly cancelled sitcom “Family Tools”).
... Here’s one thing you don’t do: replace the star by making the dullest character from the old show the central figure of the new one. Yet that’s what TNT and the writer and executive producer James Duff have done … Pleasant in its details but hollow at its center, “Major Crimes” could argue in favor of a much-derided TV practice: the traditional network development process. It could have benefited from a year or two spent working on a pilot.
... this is substantially the same series, maintaining the tone and the pace and the places and many of the faces of its predecessor. As before there is a nice balance between social drama and personal business, the tragic and the comic, exaggeration and authenticity. … if "Major Crimes" lasts, and it ought to, I predict they'll come around. As should you.
... By the end of the second episode sent to critics for review, I was beginning to accept the change at the top of the cast list. No matter how many seasons the new show lasts, though, Sedgwick made an unforgettable mark as Brenda Leigh Johnson. …
... Fans of "The Closer" are likely to warm to "Major Crimes" as long as they don't pay too careful attention and get resentful. After all, by-the-book Raydor frequently slams the approach of loose cannon Brenda Leigh Johnson, noting, "Major Crimes has a history of ignoring LAPD policy and leaving others to deal with the consequences." …
... The first two cases, involving a gang of murderous thieves and the death of a personal trainer (Aug. 20), are ho-hum. McDonnell, a fine actress, finally has a chance to inject some dry wit into her stoic investigator. … Brenda cared about victims. Her replacement, despite being saddled with a teenage boarder who despises her, still seems like a bureaucrat with a badge.
... I’ve liked McDonnell on “The Closer,” with her aggressive purr. She makes Raydor so controlled in her demeanor, it’s both entertaining and unnerving. Is Raydor interesting enough to hold the center of attention? Is she more than just the killjoy we’ve come to know on “The Closer”? Will she get through the hazing by her crew as well as Brenda did? Will the writing of the crimes continue to be as strong as it was on “The Closer”? I’m cautiously optimistic.
... that's the problem: When you lose that star and that character, you lose what made The Closer special. … What threatens to remain a drag is the format itself, with its weekly focus on plea bargains — and, so far, weekly speeches defending the new focus. That real-world defense of plea bargains is quite logical; they are how many, if not most, cases are settled and they do save time and money. But dramatically, they're neither compelling nor emotionally satisfying, which is why Law & Order inserted them after the trial had started and The Closer generally avoided them. They were right. Major Crimes is wrong. And that's a fairly major mistake.
... 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. …
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