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 one 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. There are some new characters for the 5th season. Mary McDonnell arrives for only three episodes, but it’s a big part. She plays the captain of the internal affairs unit. It’s a very irritating part. In fact, the last few times I’ve seen McDonnell she’s been annoying. She played a similarly grouchy character on Grey’s Anatomy last year. Sosie Bacon is pretty good as Charlie. She’s Brenda’s troubled teenage niece who has been passed from her parents to her grandparents and now Brenda. She’s actually the real-life daughter of Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon.
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.
There are some stellar episodes this season:
Walking Back The Cat: Brenda spends the day carrying around Kitty’s ashes in a Tupperware container. The team is temporarily made FBI agents so they can work on a joint case and solve a murder. Provenza shows off his 29-year-old girlfriend, creating some amusing character moments. Finally, Stargate’s own arrogant McKay, David Hewlett, guests as Fritz’s partner on the case.
Tapped Out: The victim’s name is Intrigue, and he’s the master of a pick-up artist system. That means there are a lot of chicks that wouldn’t mind seeing him dead. Pope and the guys get scammed at the crime scene by a detective Dick Tracy, who may not be a real cop. Unfortunately, he has all of the evidence, and is one step ahead of the team in solving the case. It’s the lightest episode yet of the show. I’d like to see more like this one.
Waivers Of Extradition: A serial killer is working between L.A. and El Paso Texas. The team works with a Texas detective to catch the guy. This one has one of the best television car chases I’ve ever seen.
Make Over: How about Beau Bridges in drag? Provenza has called on his old legendary partner to get the team out of a jam. A lab that did the evidence on an old case has lost its certification, and George is the only one who can testify to the killer’s confession. Except George is now Georgette and not considered a reliable witness by the DA. Provenza is taking it pretty hard as Georgette sticks around to try to save the case.
In all there are 15 episodes over 4 discs.
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?
There are select episodes with deleted scenes.
Seen At The Crime: This is an interactive map and episode list. You can pick any episode and see a behind-the-scenes short feature for that particular episode. They range about 3-5 minutes each. Unfortunately, there is no play all.
Gag Reel: (5:51) Typical stuff here.
This series actually keeps getting better. I missed the first three seasons and really need to find a way to catch up. This one flew under my radar for far too long. If you have missed out on this one as well, don’t wait to get on board. Fortunately, you can start anywhere and not feel like you’re missing anything. The characters are wonderful, and that’s what sells the show. There is continuity, but each episode is a complete case. If all goes well, we should be seeing episodes of The Closer for years to come. “The good news is everything is going well.”
THE CLOSER – SEASON 5 is now available to own in HD via Download with Seasons 1-4 arriving in HD starting July 5th including on iTunes: http://bit.ly/HD_TheCloser