When a new procedural created by James Duff about a detective famed for her deductive abilities debuted on TNT seven years ago, there wasn't much initial reaction. It was called The Closer and featured Kyra Sedgwick as former Atlanta police chief Brenda Johnson. Sedgwick had a solid reputation as a film actress, but few anticipated she would create an iconic, beloved character.
Johnson was equal parts tough and vulnerable, highly intelligent, but also often brash and impulsive. She had a weakness for chocolate, was a workaholic, and always put solving the crime ahead of observing protocol and diplomacy. Johnson assumed a high-profile position within one of America's most politicized police departments (Los Angeles) and had to win over a squad room full of skeptics and doubters.
During the show's tenure, Johnson's neurotic tendencies and insecurities became as much a part of the thematic fabric as her brilliance at reading clues and outwitting criminals. Johnson also continually struggled to balance personal and professional conflicts with eventual husband Fritz (Jon Tenney). But she amassed a conviction rate right just as impressive as Columbo or Kojak.
Tonight, what's became a fan favorite will end. The Closer's 8 p.m. finale on TNT wraps a turbulent year for Brenda Johnson. Among things to be resolved include a last clash with a longtime nemesis, and the discovery of just who has been the information leak in her office for months. Johnson must also deal with the unexpected death of her mother, and decide the next chapter in her life.
Sedgwick let everyone affiliated with the program know from the beginning she wasn't going to be on The Closer forever. She nearly quit at the five-year mark, and gave Duff ample notice during the sixth season that the next was her last. It's anticipated Monday's concluding episode might match the record ratings the show enjoyed for opening episodes in seasons two and three.
The Closer won't disappear, since it is now in syndication at local and independent stations. Reruns also remain part of the TNT daily lineup. But there will be no more fresh shows featuring marathon interview sessions, with Johnson faking out suspects and getting confessions through frequently questionable tactics and maneuvers. Unlike Law & Order, which ran for 20 seasons, or CSI (now in its 13th), seven was enough for The Closer.
But that doesn't mean Duff's ready to abandon a good thing. Immediately after tonight's Closer finale, he introduces the spin-off show Major Crimes at 9 p.m. It features Mary McDonnell as Capt. Sharon Raydor, who's familiar to audiences from the past two years on The Closer. Her character's repeatedly tried to be a bridge between Brenda Johnson and upper management. Now she's been promoted to the major crimes unit, just as the police department suffers some sweeping cuts. She's in the same predicament Johnson was seven years ago, except she's not an outsider or unknown quantity.
Neither is much of the cast. Several characters from The Closer have moved over to Major Crimes. There will also be episodes that provide backstory on Raydor, including one about her early days on the force. But the biggest question is whether Major Crimes can retain the large audience that made The Closer one of cable's biggest and most consistent hits.
Grimm gets early start
When you've had a year like NBC's in 2011-12 — only one program in the top 20, and that's Sunday Night Football — you take full advantage of any opportunities. The Olympics have been an extraordinary success, setting ratings marks for any sporting event held outside America. This past week NBC took seven spots in the Top 10. That happened despite loud and widespread grumbling about the network tape-delaying live events, and withholding them until prime time. Even angering segments of the audience hasn't hurt the huge Olympic audience. NBC will easily win the summer ratings race, something that hasn't happened for quite a while.
So it's not a surprise NBC is using that momentum to hype and drive its regular-season lineup. Toward that end, they're giving the creature fantasy show Grimm a head start on the competition. Grimm's second season begins 9 p.m. tonight WSMV-4 with homicide detective and Grimm descendent Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) under heavy pressure. Vicious killer Marnassier (Mike Dopud) has been hired to dispatch him. Marnassier morphs into a saber-toothed tiger and rips his victims apart. As he searches for Burkhardt, the body count mounts.
Grimm's producers plan to intensify the gore and horror, as well as intrigue and suspense, in year number two. Among new foes will be a porcupine man (Kevin Shinick) and a minister (Jonathan Scarfe) who's far from what he seems. Burkhardt must also deal with a girl friend (Bitsie Tulloch) now in a coma caused by another opponent. Plus the mother he thought was dead is very much alive (and played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Grimm is going "bigger and meaner and more badass," co-creator David Greenwalt recently told TV Guide. "The series started on a micro level, where the big bad wolf was the neighborhood child molester, but now it's moving into a greater picture, where the threat from the Wesen (creature) world is huge.
"We going to find out that the members of a secret foreign cabal — we're calling them the Royal Families — are behind all of the political turmoil and strife that goes on in the world. And they are VERY interested in Nick Burkhardt." Stay tuned as Grimm goes global — and bloody.