Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Suspense & Stilettos

This week, Amber West and I review two female-driven dramas on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday—the short-lived Whedon series, Dollhouse, and TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles

What do we get when a Boston detective and her best friend/medical examiner solve crime together?  Two strong, female characters and plenty of laughs.  To be clear, these women aren’t perfect—they both have issues and insecurities—plus they are nothing alike.  But regardless, they make for one fun hour of television viewing.

First we have Detective Jane Rizzoli, played by Angie Harmon.

Detective Jane Rizzoli

Rizzoli hails from a working class family: her dad’s a plumber; her younger brother (Colin Egglesfield) has just been released from prison; and her other little brother (Jordan Bridges), who idolizes Rizzoli, is following in his sister’s footsteps, much to the dismay of their overbearing mom (the fabulous Lorraine Bracco).  She has been stalked, tortured, and scarred by serial killers; she doesn’t have much luck in the love department; and she’s trying to fit into a man’s world.  I know, I know; it’s 2012 and there are plenty of female officers on police forces across the country; but in Rizzoli’s case, her squadron is full of men.

Rizzoli & Isles – Jane and lil’ bro’ Frankie

Then we have Medical Examiner Maura Isles, played by Sasha Alexander.

Dr. Maura Isles

Isles was raised by her adopted parents (her mother is played by Jacqueline Bissett), where she learned to focus on her studies and adapted a fabulous sense of style.   How many medical examiners do you know who examine dead bodies and perform autopsies in stilettos?  Her biological father (John Doman) is a Boston mafia boss, a fact she learns after discovering that a corpse on her morgue table shares her DNA and was later identified as her brother.  Her biological mother (Sharon Lawrence) is a world-renowned doctor, who has invented scientific techniques to help identify victims.  But here’s the kicker—Isles’ biological father told her biological mother that baby Maura died at birth.  Of course, he did it for their protection, but still…

Friends Forever…

Regardless of their differences, the girls have each other.  Or at least they did—season two ended with Rizzoli shooting Isles’ dad.  Even though Isles has a difficult time admitting her true feelings for her biological father, he’s still her father.  Will their friendship survive?  Of course it will… it already has.  Sorry for the spoiler…

Frost & Korsak in pursuit…

The series, based on the novels by Tess Gerritsen, also stars Lee Thompson Young as Rizzoli’s new partner, Detective Frost, and Bruce McGill as Rizzoli’s former partner/senior detective, Vince Korsak.  Frost and Korsak are like salt and pepper—they complement each other beautifully,  but like Rizzoli and Isles, they are nothing alike.  Here lately, Frost spends most of his time in front of the computer and leads Rizzoli’s little brother, Frankie, around (he’s dying to get out of the uniform and become a detective), while Korsak works most of the cases by Rizzoli’s side.  Throw in Dr. Isles and Rizzoli’s mom, Angela, and this group really meshes together well.

Mamma Rizzoli…

If you liked Crossing Jordan, you’ll also like Rizzoli & IslesIf you liked Angie Harmon on Baywatch Nights, Law & Order, and/or the short-lived Women’s Mystery Club, you will love her as Jane Rizzoli.  If she wasn’t an actress, I might actually think Angie was in law enforcement.

The episodes are particularly fun when Rizzoli & Isles go undercover together…

So how does Rizzoli & Isles officially rank?  If I were rating the show in comparison to Dr. Maura Isles’ lifestyle, I’d say GTV.   But Rizzoli isn’t fine wine and gourmet meals… she’s more of a beer and sandwich kinda girl.  So, I’m going with the MacTV rating—pop open a beer, make a pastrami sandwich with au jus on the side, and boil some Shells-N-Cheese.  It’s probably not great for our cholesterol, but it sure tastes good goin’ down.. am I right?

The girls like their rating…

What do you think? Do you watch Rizzoli & Isles?  How would you rate it?  Who’s your favorite character?  Have you read any of Tess Gerritsen’s books?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and see what she thinks about Joss Whedon’s short-lived series, Dollhouse.

Come back next week when Amber and I review something..it’s summer time and the heat is taking a toll on our planning ahead.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

And, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle!

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Tele-Tuesday – Down Memory Lane: 1996

The 1990s – A Decade known for the massive growth and popularity of the Internet, gaming, and cell phones, also saw tumultuous times including The Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing, which created two of the most hated men in U.S. history – Saddam Hussein and Timothy McVeigh.

In the ’90s, the world also experienced perhaps one of the most popular scandals involving United States President Bill Clinton and White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The ‘90s generation watched as music and television took over the fashion world with women flocking to the salons for the “Rachel” cut, while the men raced to the barber asking for the sideburns of Jason Priestly and Luke Perry.  One of our favorite must-have items of the decade were the plaid and flannel shirts we all purchased by the dozen.

Top entertainers in the ‘90s included: the television ensemble casts of Friends, Seinfeld, Beverly Hills, 90210, ER; the popular grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam; the pop-rock acts such as the Spice Girls; and other musicians like The Offspring, Green Day, and No Doubt.

Movie theaters saw great blockbuster success with the films Titanic, Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs (an upcoming Boo Factor installment), Home Alone, Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, Independence Day, The Lion King, and Pretty Woman.

Now, let’s shift specifically to 1996. What do I remember about that year?

The city of Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, and amidst all of the swimming, gymnastics, and track and field, Eric Robert Rudolph killed two people and injured over a hundred more when he attacked Centennial Olympic Park with homemade pipe bombs filled with shrapnel.

Despite the tragedy in Atlanta, the United States won 44 gold medals, with a grand total of 101 medals – more than any other country.

What else?  Television programs, of course!

Today, let’s take a look back at some of the great crime dramas of 1996.

Nash Bridges (1996-2001)

Nash Bridges follows two of San Francisco’s elite investigators:  Nash Bridges (Don Johnson) and Joe Dominguez (Cheech Marin).   Bridges has a photographic memory, and battles the difficulties of living with his aging father (James Gammon) and daughter (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe).   As far as the police work, Nash and Dominguez team with Harvey Leek, a Grateful Dead fan (known as a “Dead-Head), and  Evan Cortez, Nash’s daughter’s eventual fiancé.

A Don Johnson television show wouldn’t be complete without his character driving a super-charged sports car, and of course, Nash drove a 1971 Barracuda convertible.

Fun Fact: Johnson’s Miami Vice co-star, Philip Michael Thomas, and Marin’s cinematic co-star, Tommy Chong, guest-starred in a 1997 episode, “Wild Card.”

NYPD Blue (1993-2005)

NYPD Blue aired over a decade on television, a feat that’s rarely accomplished anymore.  Perhaps the series lasted because of the story-telling, or perhaps it was because of the fabulous characters.  I’m going with characters.

Who will ever forget New York City Detective Andy Sipowicz, played by the great Dennis Franz?  Sipowicz may have been plagued by the interchanging partners throughout the seasons (John Kelly played by David Caruso, Bobby Simone played by Jimmy Smits, Danny Sorenson played by Rick Schroder, and John Clark, Jr. played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), but audiences still tuned in on a weekly basis because they loved Andy and his relationships, something that was very difficult for him.

Sipowicz managed to be one of the most intense detectives on the squad, maybe even in television history, while also raising his young son alone following his wife’s death.

Over the years, the precinct consisted of other fine detectives and district attorneys played by Gordon Clapp, Amy Brenneman, Nicholas Turturro, Garcelle Beauvais, Henry Simmons, Charlotte Ross, James McDaniel, Currie Graham, Esai Morales, and Dana Delaney to name a few.  Undoubtedly, after more than ten years on the tele, NYPD Blue survived because of its spectacular ensemble cast with Dennis Franz taking the lead.

Law & Order (1990-2010)

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

Sound familiar? Television viewers heard this narration by Steven Zirnkilton for twenty years on NBC during the opening credits of Law & Order.

Reigning as television royalty for two decades, Law & Order ranks as one of the best police procedural and legal dramas in television history.  The series, now turned into a franchise, has spawned four spinoffs: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and Law & Order: LA.

The format of Law & Order focused the first thirty minutes of the hour-long program on the detectives solving the crime, and the final thirty minutes on the district attorneys taking their case to court.  Many television and big screen greats have called Law & Order their home at one time or another, including Chris Noth, Richard Brooks, Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, Benjamin Bratt, Jill Hennessy, Sam Waterston, Jesse L. Martin, Angie Harmon, Dianne Wiest, Fred Thompson, Jeremy Sisto, Dennis Farina, and Anthony Anderson.

Abruptly cancelled in 2010, the Law & Order fans can only hope that some network out there in the television universe will one day grant the closure the dedicated fans deserve, with maybe a two-hour made for television movie?

Profiler (1996-2000)

Perhaps the success of Profiler was due to the fact that Dr. Samantha Waters (Ally Walker) was one of the first forensic psychologists on network television.  Up to this point, viewers met a ton of cops, detectives, and private investigators on their favorite TV shows, but Profiler introduced a team of FBI agents that focused on criminal behaviors to find their suspects.

Samantha is haunted throughout the series by “Jack of all Trades”, the serial killer who took the life of her husband.  Her team consists of a detective (Julian McMahon), a computer hacker (Peter Frechette), and a forensic pathologist (Roma Maffia), and is led by Sam’s longtime friend and mentor (played by the great, Robert Davi).

Ally Walker’s character eventually retired, and Jamie Luner joined the cast as a new forensic psychologist in the fourth and final season of the show.

Fun Fact Trivia – What television hit did Julian McMahon and Roma Maffia star in, together again, from 2003-2010?

What do you remember from the 1990s – the politics, the entertainment, or the technology?  What are some of your favorite crime shows from the ‘90s? Did you enjoy any of these 1996 television series? I’d love to hear from you!

Stop by #teletuesday in Twitter so we can chat about these shows and many more!

Tele-Tuesday #4 – Summer Fun Part One

Remember when all of the good television programs only aired September thru May?  Not anymore!  TNT and the USA Networks have fabulous summer programming!  This week, I’ll introduce our must- sees on TNT, and next week, the USA shows. 

Here are just a few slices of TNT’s summer fun to sample:

Leverage – A group of criminals turned do-gooders utilize their specialized skills to avenge those harmed by the wealthy and/or powerful.  Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton), the con-man, leads this team of misfits: Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), the grifter; Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), the muscle; Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), the hacker; and Parker (Beth Reisgraf), the thief.  Each character has his or her own flaw which helps the viewers understand their passion for the individual cases they accept.  Nate battles alcoholism, while trying to recover from the death of his son & the end of his marriage.  Sophie has a secret — a secret that even the audience is trying to figure out: is she royalty? Is she married? Or is she just a great actress? Eliot, well, he has a bit of an anger-management problem: he loves to punch and kick, but he refrains from using guns as much as possible.  Hardison and Parker don’t really fit into any social circles, and are slowly starting to share a budding romance.  Speaking of romance, last season ended with Nate & Sophie in bed.  They’ve hinted at romantic interludes in the past, so what will this bring?  Leverage returns Sunday, June 26th.

 

Rizzoli & Isles – A Boston detective, Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), and her best friend/medical examiner, Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), solve crime together.  The two friends couldn’t have less in common — Rizzoli hails from a working class family; her dad’s (Chazz Palminteri) a plumber, her younger brother (new character this season) has just been released from prison, and her other little brother (Jordan Bridges), who idolizes Rizzoli, is following in his sister’s footsteps, much to the dismay of their overbearing mom (the fabulous Lorraine Bracco).  Meanwhile, Isles’ biological father is a Boston mafia boss, a fact she learns after discovering that a corpse on her morgue table shared her DNA and was later identified as her brother.  Isles was raised by her adopted parents where she learned to focus on her studies, and adapted a fabulous sense of style.   How many medical examiners do you know who perform autopsies in stilettos?  Regardless of their differences, the girls have each other.  Maybe we’ll see some love interests in season 2?  If you liked Crossing Jordan, you’ll also like Rizzoli & Isles (returning Monday, July 11th).

Memphis BeatJason Lee stars as Dwight Hendricks, who fights crime by day, and performs Elvis and other Blues’ greats by night.  Everyone loves Dwight, and he leads his fellow Memphis detectives (Davey Sutton, DJ Qualls; Whitehead, Sam Hennings; and Reggie Greenback, Leonard Earl Howze); but, when his new boss (Lt. Rice played by Alfre Woodard) comes to town, she tries desperately to operate the department like other police precincts.  Knowing the rest of his fellow detectives look to him, Dwight does his best to oblige, but continues to maintain his unorthodox detective methods forcing Lt. Rice to slowly adjust her attitude toward the Memphis way of doing things.  The supporting cast in Memphis Beat shares the spotlight with the music and local cuisine.  If you haven’t ever really been interested in visiting Memphis, I think you will be after watching the show.  Memphis Beat returns Tuesday, June 14th. 

A new show to watch for this summer on TNT that we are very excited to check is Franklin &Bash (Wednesday, June 1st) starring Breckin Meyer as Franklin, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Bash – they are “totally lawyers”.

And don’t forget Brenda Lee Johnson, aka The Closer, returning Monday, July 11th. 

What television show are you most looking forward to this summer?  Who is your favorite character? Or ensemble cast?  I’d love to hear from you!

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