THE SHOW "The Closer" (series finale)
WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on TNT
WHAT IT'S ABOUT LAPD Deputy Chief, Major Crimes Division, Brenda Leigh Johnson arrives at the crime scene in an official capacity for the last time. As she stares out the window while the car slowly moves past longtime colleagues, viewers see the reflection of their faces on the window, almost as if as her life is passing before her eyes. In a way, it is. She will leave Major Crimes shortly for a new life and job, but first, the capture of a serial killer who has planted his victims on a wooded bluff. There is a witness to the most recent crime -- a 16-year-old male prostitute, Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin, of "Two and a Half Men"). Could the killer be Brenda's own great white whale -- Philip Stroh (Billy Burke)?
MY SAY Sedgwick's Brenda has been one of TV's most celebrated characters of the past decade and "The Closer's" closer establishes why -- she's worth celebrating. She's cerebral, passionate, silky smooth and sharply abrasive; her well-defined exterior has long masked a less-well-defined interior. She loved junk food, had health scares, broke rules, eschewed family ties -- save a cat and Fritz (Jon Tenney) -- but esteemed her Georgia roots, and mom (Frances Sternhagen), who died recently.
Brenda was complicated, messy even, and from that tangled knot a living breathing TV personality emerged. All credit, or certainly most credit, is due Sedgwick, who so deftly located that human core over seven seasons. "The Closer" morphs to "Major Crimes" and another fine actress, Mary McDonnell, will take over. Sedgwick can't be replaced, but at least her successor has someone to aspire to.
BOTTOM LINE A terrific run comes to an appropriately dramatic end. Brenda, take a bow.
GRADE B+ (for finale)
THE SHOW "Major Crimes"
WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 10 on TNT (moves to 9 p.m. Aug. 20).
WHAT IT'S ABOUT A security camera outside a supermarket captures a group of masked men converging on the store, then suddenly, their firefight with a force of undercover cops who have tracked them. Det. Louie Provenza (G.W. Bailey) later takes charge of the crime scene -- and in his own head at least, takes charge of Major Crimes, too. What an unpleasant surprise then, when Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) LAPD Captain, Force Investigation Division, turns up at the supermarket, too. She wants to be filled in. Provenza tells her to buzz off.
MY SAY And so begins one of the most important spinoffs in cable TV history -- by an order of magnitude -- with these obvious questions begging the obvious answers: Will fans embrace "The Closer 2.0" and its prickly, by-the-book new chief? Even her name (pronounced "raider") suggests an interloper whose role has been to screw up the lives and livelihoods of the Major Crimes squad. Fans know Raydor well, sometimes too well. But producers now have to turn an (occasional) antagonist into a full-time protagonist. Let the metamorphosis begin. Raydor arrived a few seasons ago to rein in the cowboys -- and one cowgirl, in particular. But she's also the mother of two grown children who don't really have much to do with her anymore. (Motherhood, she explains, is a job you get fired from just after you've learned how to do it.) We know there's a shrewd mind behind those black horn-rimmed glasses; we're all about to find out whether there's a beating heart beneath that neatly pressed suit as well.
Monday night's opener sharpens the contrast between old-school LAPD's demand to get a conviction and new-school Raydor's desire to get a plea bargain instead. (Hey, it's cheaper.) As such, fans aren't about to wander into a new show but the same one, still mostly populated with the old cast of characters and some of the old battle lines comfortably in place.
BOTTOM LINE A sharply written, acted and directed start that will hook fans immediately.