This 4th season release of The Closer would become my first exposure to the rather good series from TNT. I don’t have time for network television these days, so the cable shows often fall by the wayside in my schedule. Of course, I’ve made time for some of the better ones over the years, but The Closer never seemed to find its way onto my radar. It should have. Of all of the cop or detective shows I’ve seen over the years, I can relate to this one better than any of them.
You see, years ago, I was a detective. I wasn’t a cop and mostly did internal investigations for a large Florida retail chain. While I was a fair detective in most areas, I did eventually develop a specialty of sorts. When other detectives ran into a brick wall interviewing their subjects, they’d often call on me to get whatever information they were trying to extract. No, I didn’t beat it out of them. I was never a physically intimidating guy. I was just good at getting them to talk. I guess I was a little bit of a con artist who was working for the good guys instead of preying on hapless marks. I never lied to a subject and never threatened violence. It was a battle of wits, and I always won. That’s exactly how you would describe Brenda Johnson (Sedgwick) in The Closer. While the series was, in many ways, your standard procedural police drama, each episode would end with Brenda getting some reluctant perp to spill their guts. She relied on Southern charm. She looked and sounded harmless enough that she could get the person to lower their guard and fall for some rather simple trick or another. Case closed.
Brenda Johnson was brought to L.A. from Atlanta, where she had a reputation of getting things done. She was brought in to help the department deal with a bad reputation when it came to murders. Chief Will Pope (Simmons) hired her to get the department back on track. She was given the title of deputy chief and a team of elite investigators. The Priority Homicide Unit investigated high profile or particularly difficult murder cases. The team included veteran detective Lt. Provenza (Bailey) who wasn’t above bending a few rules to get the bad guy. Lt. Michael Tao (Chan) was the tech savvy guy in the group. Commander Taylor (Gossett) is often her biggest critic in the team. He believed that he should have gotten her job. Sergeant Gabriel (Reynolds) and Detective Irene Daniels (Ravera) are an on again off again item in the office, providing for some extra tension. She’s engaged to FBI Agent Fritz Howard (Tenney) whom she marries at the end of this season.
The show is a basic procedural. Each week a new case is brought in, and the team attacks the various angles. But there would be some serious changes this season. The press would attack the department over how it assigned “priority” to a case so the unit would change its name to Major Crimes. Now they no longer deal strictly in murder, but any case the department feels could benefit from the team’s expertise. There really isn’t anything unique about the show’s cases. Is it me, or are a large number of perps building contractors? I think someone on the staff has a chip on their shoulder due to a job gone bad or something. What makes it work is the chemistry the team has and the ease with which they can work. But unlike many such shows, this isn’t all a collection of yes men. There are internal politics, and not everyone likes everyone else. The standout character has to be Lt. Provenza, played by MASH’s G.W.Bailey. The character is actually a lot like that show’s Rizzo. Just pretend that he finally got out of the Army and got into law enforcement. He’s always complaining and getting into trouble, but he’s smart and his instincts are often dead on. The Brenda/Fritz relationship is very much a distraction to the show. Whenever we’re involved in their domestic lives, we can’t wait for her to get back to work. It’s not that it’s a very touchy feely relationship, because it’s not. But Fritz is the only character she doesn’t appear to share any chemistry with. The scenes together just fall dead. Finally J.K. Simmons from Law & Order and the Spider-Man films is wonderful, yet again, as Brenda’s boss.
Each episode of The Closer is presented in a pretty sweet television 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The production standards here are very high, and it shows in this presentation. Colors are pretty much natural looking throughout. Black levels are also quite impressive, offering good detail and shadow definition. Flesh tones look pretty natural. No real compression problems to speak of. I didn’t see the broadcasts, but I suspect this is a pretty faithful presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is everything it is intended to be. There isn’t much in the way of ambient sounds outside of some musical cues. This is a very dialog strong series, so you should expect most of the sound to be in front. Dialog is clear and placed correctly. What else do you really need here?
To Catch A Lie: (10:09) FBI agents talk about various methods used to detect deception in an interview. Boy, did this one bring back memories.
Reflections Of A Homicide Detective: (11:59) Corey Reynolds connects with real life L.A. detective, Mike Berchem. We get taken on a ride along where the detective revisits scenes of some of his most memorable cases.
Gag Reel: (5:39) Typical stuff here.
One of the best parts of this job is that often something arrives on my doorstep that I’ve really not had the chance to explore before. Certainly there are times that means suffering through some series or film that was obscure because it was terrible. Other times I get to enjoy something I would not otherwise have taken the time to check out. The Closer is one of those times. I don’t think I’d recommend you start on the fourth year, like I did. But I will say that you can fall into the series rather effortlessly from this point. So, if it’s the only set out there, don’t worry about catching up with these characters. “Let’s go watch some TV.”