Always Be Closing

Illustration by Paul WilloughbyPhoto: Andrew Eccles/Courtesy of TNT

It occurs to me that Kyra Sedgwick—scattered affect, steel-trap brain, secret wound—might make for a fine Joan Didion should Vanessa Redgrave ever flag in the forthcoming stage version of The Year of Magical Thinking. Granted, Sedgwick’s welcome return for a second season of The Closer as Brenda Johnson, deputy chief of the LAPD’s priority homicide division, suggests all manner of equivalents and correlatives. Because she specializes in interrogation, we are naturally reminded of Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series. Because she puts on the mint-julep charm, we are reminded of everyone from Blanche DuBois getting off that streetcar to Flannery O’Connor and her peacocks. Because she is a closet sugar fiend, with snacks stashed in her desk drawers like vodka or a crack pipe, we recall Italo Svevo’s great novel Zeno’s Conscience, about cigarettes and psychoanalysis. And because she is Kyra Sedgwick, we expect to be charmed even as we are outsmarted.

I’ve been charmed with Sedgwick since 1992 and a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Miss Rose White, in which she starred as a daughter of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe who, in order to acquire the brand-new self that seemed to be the chief manufacture of her brand-new country, changed her name from Reyzel Weiss and clerked in a department store. In a cast that included Maximilian Schell, Maureen Stapleton, Amanda Plummer, and Gina Gershon, she was the nonesuch jewel.

As she is in The Closer. She’s surrounded by a remarkable ensemble that includes J. K. Simmons as her boss, Robert Gossett as her nemesis, Jon Tenney as her FBI lover, and Corey Reynolds, Tony Denison, G. W. Bailey, Michael Paul Chan, Gina Ravera, and Raymond Cruz as division detectives who spent last season learning to stop resenting and start respecting the way Brenda wiled confessions out of miscreants, even as she remained dangerously indifferent to office politics. This season, no surprise, they are fiercely loyal. Now if only she’d rescind her ban on sugar in the squad room; they slip her cake to calm her down.

During a complicated second-season opening episode that has to do with the murder of a cop who went into a warehouse without backup, an informant who must be dragged back from Las Vegas, and a DNA test that upsets everybody, Brenda will have to fend off advances from her about-to-be-divorced boss while she decides whether or not to nest with the FBI. Although we’re promised plots involving money, gangs, and sexual pathology, we’ll really be sitting still on Monday nights for the variations Sedgwick rings on Brenda, the neurotic whose very compulsive tics assist in the detection process—like Sherlock Holmes, a shaman, or an exorcist.

Saved, with Tom Everett Scott having a surprisingly good time as a paramedic in Portland, Oregon, asks us to admire the slacker as hero. Scott’s Wyatt Cole dropped out of medical school as if to spite his surgeon father, David Clennon. He has, at least temporarily, lost his girlfriend (Elizabeth Reaser), who is already an ER doctor. And he has a gambling problem, owing $10,000 to a sinister former classmate who may or may not be HIV-positive. And yet, at the wheel of an ambulance on the wet night streets, responding with Omari Hardwick, Michael McMillian, and Tracy Vilar to emergencies involving DUI accidents, abused children, drug overdoses, cardiac arrest, and expectant mothers in sudden labor, he is a happy man, most exuberant when wholly engaged.

I’d have thought pop culture had said good-bye to slackers, along with Kurt Cobain. Isn’t everybody now either working three jobs, fighting in Iraq, or hiding out in business school? But Cole arrives at the same time as jury verdicts in the Enron case. Just look into the faces of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Isn’t it clear we desperately need an alternative to corporate greedhead culture? If this alternative comes accompanied by Miami Vice production values—a pomo-arty smorgasbord of cop show, music video, and car commercial—all the better. When Cole and his buddies race to snatch back life, to record a “save,” while Johnny Cash is singing “Hurt,” we are encouraged to believe that there’s another way to keep score besides money.

The Closer
TNT. Mondays, 9 p.m. Premieres June 12.

TNT. Mondays, 10 p.m. Premieres June 12.

Always Be Closing