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Ready to say goodbye to "The Closer"

THE SHOW "The Closer"

WHEN|WHERE Monday night at 9 on TNT

REASON TO WATCH The first of five new episodes set to air this winter as the show's final season continues to roll out, with more to come in the summer. (Be sure to check out next week's episode -- the 100th -- which features a scene-heisting Fred Willard as a bibulous Santa.)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A high-school principal is dispatched by ... oops, can't tell you, but be assured, LAPD Major Crimes Division deputy chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) will figure this one out, too. There are any number of suspects, but then, there always are. Meanwhile, Brenda is now the target of a federal civil rights lawsuit, while Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) tells assistant chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) that she's fed up with her ongoing internal investigation of the investigators. Or ... is this really a shrewd gambit by Raydor to find the source of the departmental leak she's been looking for?

MY SAY After winning a Golden Globe (2007) and Emmy (2010) for the role she could retire on, Sedgwick is more than ready to head on to the next phase of her career (movies -- what else?). TNT is not even close to saying goodbye, which is why this final season will be strrrrrrrretched into the summer.

This farewell tour is beginning to resemble Oprah's. There will be a few episodes now, more episodes next summer, and (who knows) maybe even a few more tacked on. This is a TV version of separation anxiety. In fact, if the network had a choice in the matter, it would keep "The Closer" on until doomsday. Not only blessed by outrageous fortune -- more than 8 million viewers -- this is also the kind of series that could chug along forever, as long as there are victims and Brenda Johnson's genial support crew in place to find the bad guys.

When Johnson goes, she'll be replaced full-time by Raydor in a new spinoff series called "Major Crimes," so maybe "The Closer" really is immortal after all. Nevertheless, worldweariness has crept in. Pleasant and unchallenging, "The Closer" is inextricably bound to formula while Brenda's eccentricities now seem like affectations. She's really ready to move on, too.

BOTTOM LINE The farewell tour continues ... and continues. ... Nice, but you've seen it all before.

GRADE B-

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