August 14, 2012



MAJOR CRIMES:  Monday 9PM on TNT – If Nothing Else Is On…


As soon as plans for the Closer spin-off MAJOR CRIMES were announced, the central question was always how a series could work whose main protagonist was going to be Internal Affairs Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell), the least likable, most humorless and unsympathetic of all the regular Closer characters.  Raydor’s job on the show was to shake her head in dour disapproval at whatever outrageous tactic Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda Leigh Johnson was hatching, pedantically reminding everyone of the rules, the rules, the rules.  She was, in two words, no fun.

Now Major Crimes has had its post-Closer finale premiere, virtually guaranteeing it, if nothing else, a huge tune-in for its launch, and the decision to take the franchise in this direction is still exceedingly odd.  Even though Raydor has been transferred out of Internal Affairs to take over Major Crimes, she isn’t just unexciting, she’s anti-exciting.  Basing a crime series around her is like making a medical show about someone who works in the hospital’s billing department.  She’s a bureaucrat, and smugly proud of it.  At least in The Closer, as she moved from Brenda Leigh’s adversary to frenemy, Raydor had a cunning knowledge of the LAPD’s internal politics and how to finesse them–here she even seems passive to the changes going on around her.

Worse yet, the show has had to work backwards, changing its very concept to accentuate what are supposed to be Raydor’s strengths.  So instead of Brenda Leigh’s nose-to-nose confrontations in the interrogation room, driven by her willingness to do anything to win a confession, we’re told that the entire focus of the Major Crimes unit has changed, and now the squad exists to promote plea-bargains, which will save the city money on trials and appeals.  Which is, you know, good news for those of us who live and pay taxes in LA, but again–yay, accountants! The climactic sequence of the pilot is a conference where the Assistant District Attorney and the killer’s lawyer dicker over what charge his client will agree to plead guilty to, while Raydor mostly looks on.

The first episode, written by series (and Closer) creator James Duff and directed by Michael M. Robin, tries to humanize Raydor a bit with an absurd contrivance:  the sullen teen hustler/murder witness we met in the Closer finale (Grahan Patrick Martin) is more or less adopted by Raydor as a foster child while the cops search for his absent mother.  The need to shoehorn this character into a procedural seems likely to become tiresome quickly.  The rest of the cast is mostly the Closer ensemble:  cranky Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey), who’s set up as the cop most resistant to Raydor’s command, along with Lt. Flynn (Tony Denison), Detectives Tao (Michael Paul Chan) and Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) and video technician Buzz (Philip P. Keane).  They’re all fine, as they always have been, but not capable of carrying the series on their own.  In the pilot, Brenda Leigh’s FBI liaison husband Fritz (Jon Tenney) and Assistant Chief Taylor (Robert Gossett) were billed as guest stars, so it’s not clear how much involvement they’ll have going forward.  The squad has also added one new member, ambitious young Detective Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni).

The plots of Closer episodes were never much more than routine procedural stories, and the Major Crimes pilot is no exception, involving a gang of supermarket robbers whose links and knowledge of police procedure are the only mysteries, and neither of them (“video games!” eurekas the young detective) for long.  On The Closer, the plots were acceptable as excuses to get Brenda Leigh into the interrogation room for some heavy-duty acting, but Major Crimes doesn’t offer that, nor much else in compensation.

It’s going to take 2 or 3 weeks to know where Major Crimes will stand in terms of viewership, thanks to the enormous rating it’s likely to do in its premiere.  The show itself, however, doesn’t offer much cause for optimism.

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."