October 16, 2012



MAJOR CRIMES has been doing for TNT what it was created to do–that is, fill the hole left by the departure of the network’s long-running hit The Closer–and it’s earned the Season 2 renewal it’s already received.  Putting aside a bump for last night’s season finale, it’s been getting around a 0.7 rating in 18-49s and over 4 million total viewers, about 30% below The Closer‘s typical 1.0 and nearly 6 million viewers, and for a spin-off that lacks the original star, those are very acceptable numbers.

The show itself has remained considerably less distinctive than The Closer, although every effort has been made to keep the template as similar as possible.  Most of the supporting cast, including G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz and Philip P. Keene remained after the transition (and some cast members like Robert Gossett as Assistant Chief Taylor and Jon Tenney as FBI agent Fritz Howard, while not regulars, have returned as recurring characters), and the old Closer sets are still in use. The main difference between the shows is the obvious one:  Major Crimes revolves around Mary McDonnell’s prim, often expressionless former Internal Affairs Captain Sharon Raydor, instead of Kyra Sedgwick’s sly Brenda Leigh Johnson, whose turns from flirtatious charm to furious aggression were razor-sharp.  Raydor wasn’t the most engaging character on The Closer, and she still isn’t; in addition, because Raydor lacks Brenda Leigh’s interrogation skill that gave The Closer its title, the emphasis of Major Crimes had to shift to more conventional crime-solving (and also, although not in the season finale, plea-bargaining deals in lieu of clear wins for the police).

Aside from that lack of a plea-bargaining component, a return to Major Crimes for the first time since its early episodes showed little difference from the style of its pilot.  The story, written by Supervising Producer Michael Alaimo and directed by Sheelin Choksey, concerned a mysterious sniper assassin hired by a drug cartel to bump off anyone advancing the cause of legalized pot (if it’s legal, prices go down and the cartels go out of business, one of the reasons those who support such changes do so)–in this case, a Los Angeles judge.  Most of the episode was concerned with the race between Raydor’s squad and the assassin to track down the shooting’s only witness, the undocumented son of a building handyman who had originally been a Juarez cop before his wife and the witness’s siblings were killed by the cartels. After a certain amount of unconvincing plotting (the assassin magically knew the sewer system in an area of town he would have had no reason to visit before), the sniper was dead and the witness was safe.  The father, however, was killed, which was meant to resonate with the episode’s one personal story.  This, as it had been since the start of the series, concerned Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin), a teen ex-street hustler who witnessed a murder and was taken in as a foster child by Raydor.  In the previous episode, Rusty had met his birth father, who lashed out with his fists when Rusty was rude to him.  Here Raydor, working as always strictly within the rules of the system, convinced the father to relinquish his parental rights rather than be arrested, presumably so Rusty and she can maintain their surrogate mother-and-son relationship in seasons to come.  This plotline clearly exists in an attempt to humanize Raydor, and after a full season, it’s still done little to accomplish that.

Major Crimes isn’t the equal of The Closer, and McDonnell’s character isn’t nearly as memorable as Sedgwick’s, but the show is slickly put together and professionally executed.  Most Closer fans have clearly been content with the substitution, and since networks will always prefer success to excitement, TNT and the series’ creative staff have accomplished their aim:  another forgettable, but easily digestible, TV cop show.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."