[07/12/10 - 12:29 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Rizzoli & Isles" (TNT)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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(Mondays at 10:00/9:00c beginning tonight)

The network's description: "RIZZOLI & ISLES, starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, is based on Tess Gerritsen's popular mystery novels. It comes to TNT from Warner Horizon Television and is being executive-produced by Janet Tamaro and Bill Haber's Ostar Productions (TNT's Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, TCM's upcoming Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood). Michael M. Robin (TNT's The Closer) directed and executive-produced the pilot, which was written by Tamaro (Bones, Lost) and co-executive-produced by Jeff Hayes."

What did they leave out? The project originally went by just "Rizzoli," adding the "& Isles" after its series pickup.

The plot in a nutshell: Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), like most cops in movies and television, is both a professional wunderkind and a relationship pariah. The latter facet is of particular interest to her mother Angela (Lorraine Bracco), who's none too thrilled by her single status. "Because I meet so many great guys at work," Jane fires back. "Too bad they're all dead." You see, she - as always - has bigger concerns, in this case a brutal murder of a suburban couple, one which seems to replicate the work of infamous Boston serial killer Charles "The Surgeon" Hoyt (Michael Massee, in full creepy mode). It of course can't be Hoyt as he's in prison, having been put there by Jane - an ordeal which left her with stigmata-esque scars on her hands. Her theory: he's trained an apprentice to continue his "work," not to mention take his revenge on her.

And so Jane and company - weak-stomached Barry Frost (Lee Thompson Young), grizzled veteran Vince Korsak (Bruce McGill) and stylish medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) - turn their attention to tracking down Hoyt's contacts over the years, hoping to find the copycat. Meanwhile, the FBI arrives - in the form of dreamy field agent Gabriel Dean (Billy Burke) - citing an unspecified interest in the case. And with that we push through the usual procedural mechanizations, but after Hoyt improbably escapes from prison, all eyes turn to Jane's safety. Whether it's her overprotective brother Frankie (Jordan Bridges), her intrusive mother, her burgeoning flame Gabriel or her kindred socially-stunted/professionally-talented spirit Maura, everyone's got Jane's back. But when Hoyt and his squire strike again, Jane has no choice but to propose a risky gambit that puts her at odds with Maura.

What works: It's very much in the mold of "The Closer" as "Rizzoli" likewise tracks an almost superhumanly efficient cop who's burdened by overly showy personal foibles. To that end I'm sure it will be welcomed with open arms by said audience...

What doesn't: ...which unfortunately isn't me. "Rizzoli" almost unabashedly covers pretty well-worn territory, from the aforementioned character elements to old crime solving staples like noting "we didn't release that detail to the papers" (a phrase which can't get retired soon enough). They're relatively forgivable transgressions - after all, that's why they're called procedurals - in light of the show's more grating traits, namely its stilted characterization of the leads. "Rizzoli" practically pauses the show for you to point out when it's dolling out Jane and Maura's quirks, whether it be how they both eat cat food, Jane's less-than-subtle ringtones for her associates or Maura's pet tortoise.

Not helping matters is the show posits that the first thing these successful, independent women do when they're alone is literally lay in bed and talk about boys (Maura, on their mutual attraction to Gabriel: "Should we draw straws?" Jane: "Couldn't we just show him our tits and let him decide?"). Said developments make Jane and Maura come across as Lifetime movie-of-the-week amalgams rather than full-fledged characters, again making its warts in general all the more apparent. That's not to say the title characters don't have chemistry (Jane: "You'd tell me if you were a cyborg right?" Maura: "No, I don't think I would."), it just comes across as awkward and forced, facets which aren't exactly brushed under the rug by Harmon and Alexander's performances. All in all, it's definitely not among the top tier of crime dramas...

The bottom line: ...even the summer ones.

  [july 2010]  


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