THE SHOW "The Closer"

WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on TNT

REASON TO WATCH Beginning of the seventh -- and final -- season.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT As the seventh gets under way -- and after a brief hiatus, it'll actually wrap up for good next winter -- Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) and her team are facing one of those dreaded "departmental shake-ups," in which office politics play a little bit more of a role in how things will settle out than office competence.

Brenda is under fire (again) for a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by a gangbanger's family; a new organizational chart finds assistant chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) in a role hardly considered a promotion, and Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) finds a new opportunity for himself, too.

Who has thrown this deck of cards up in the air? Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell), who's investigating the investigators under the watchful eye of LAPD chief Tommy Delk (Courtney B. Vance). Monday night, an aspiring rap star and his posse are gunned down in the mansion of his record producer.

MY SAY "The Closer" may be the most comfortable old shoe on all of television; slip it on and be assured of no blisters. In fact, the cast (and not just Sedgwick) is so competent, the characters' tics so familiar; and the format and formula so firmly etched in "ceeement" (as Brenda might say) that it all feels almost too comfy. That departmental investigation? How many hundreds of times have we seen the methods of "unorthodox" detectives scrutinized by the soft-spined bureaucrats only to see said detectives ultimately investigated? That seems to be where "The Closer" is heading, as it (ummm) closes out one of the great runs in cable TV history.

But . . . beware. This old shoe may have a few big surprises left in it yet. Last year, Sedgwick finally won a lead actress Emmy after I-lost-count-of-how-many nominations while the show has been honored in many other forums, too, most notably the court of public opinion, as cable's long-running ratings champ. You don't get to this point by being too predictable.

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BOTTOM LINE Good start to The End and a major twist.