The Closer - Season 1 (2005)
'The Closer' starring Kyra Sedgwick is one of my favourites from the stuff I've been watching over the last few months. Which is quite odd, given that taken at face value it's just a formulaic police procedural.
The story revolves around Sedgwick's character, Brenda Johnson, who moves from Atlanta to Los Angeles to head the new 'Priority Murder Squad' of the LAPD. She's brought in because of her track record for getting results (she 'closes' cases, hence 'The Closer') through her phenomenal interrogation techniques. The season wide arc of the story involves Brenda acclimatising to her new environment while dealing with the hostility towards her from her colleagues (who don't like the fact that she's an abrasive outsider placed in a senior position within the department), her friendship with the Assistant Chief of Police Will Pope (J. K. Simmons), and her romantic involvement with an FBI Agent, Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney). The typical episode starts with a murder, which leads to an investigation and rounding up of suspects, and a series of interrogations where Brenda manipulates and breaks people down to get at the truth and to get the culprits to admit to their crimes.
While it sounds formulaic, I found pretty much every episode to be gripping from start to finish. It's a very well made show from top to bottom, and the writing - both plotting and characterization - is excellent. The mysteries are varied and interesting, and are well plotted even when they're far fetched; they rarely tax suspension of disbelief. The stories also touch upon various cultural (and racial) aspects of society and raise ethical and moral issues, but never in a heavy handed way. The show appears to adhere to the realities of procedural work and the legal issues involved, which is always a huge plus in my book. The show's hook, the interrogation scenes, really seal the deal; they are terrific and are usually the highlight of every episode. Sometimes it's possible to see what's coming in advance, and sometimes it isn't, but the way Brenda plays people is always fascinating to watch.
All of this is fine but would be for naught without a strong cast. And the one here is uniformly excellent, from top to bottom, but the one I want to talk about is Kyra Sedgwick, who is simply phenomenal in the central role. Superficially she comes across as a quirky, sweet, oddball character with an incongruous Southern accent and strange idiosyncrasies. But she's also a tough and uncompromising firebrand and it's easy to see why she aggravates people, but at the end of the day the viewer (and the other characters on the show) are left with little doubt as to her sense of justice and her genius when it comes to getting results. I guess the fun part is that the character of Brenda Johnson really is these seemingly disparate personalities rolled into one, and Sedgwick does a terrific job making her both believable and likable right from the get go. The interactions between her and the various cast members bring a lot of levity to the show and act as a perfect counterweight to the gruesome crimes.
'The Closer' took me by surprise by being so good - I seriously can't think of one element of the show that I don't like or see as a flaw. It's fantastic and absolutely compelling, and I can't wait to catch up with the next two seasons.