Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Closing Cases with Southern Charm

This week, Amber West and I review two crime dramas on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday—the BBC’s Luther and TNT’s The Closer. 

The Closer follows Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) and the Major Case Squad as they solve L.A.’s worst crimes, while her FBI-agent/husband (Fritzy or Fritz Howard, played by Jon Tenney) provides his and the Bureau’s expertise to her team.

Brenda Leigh hails from the south, if not already evident by her accent, and has a very hard time hiding her emotions.  When she’s having a really bad day, she opens her desk drawer full of chocolate and digs in.  She possesses that southern charm we’ve grown to love over the years, and having been born and raised in Texas, I can personally attest to what Brenda Leigh actually means when she says, “Thank you, thank you very much.”  Kyra Sedgwick perfects the sarcasm so many southerners use in our daily vocabulary.

So how does a southern belle from Atlanta score the lead of an all-male major crime squad in Los Angeles?  Of course, there’s the fact that she had an affair with her boss way back in the day (Chief Pope, played by J.K. Simmons), but I’d like to think it’s because of her skills in the interrogation room—tactics that have proven to be better than anyone else, but that have also gotten her into a bit of trouble here and there.

Speaking of trouble… a few seasons ago, the L.A.P.D. issued a new mandate written in Brenda Leigh’s honor called The Johnson Rule, which states that no witness or suspect can be released from police custody without the proper protection if it is believed that his or her life may be in danger.  This came after Major Case, specifically Brenda Leigh, dropped a gang member suspected of murdering a local business man off in front of his house.  Moments later, an angry mob of other gang members waiting on the street killed him.  The murder led to a lawsuit against Brenda Leigh and the City of Los Angeles, thus the creation of The Johnson Rule, and Brenda Leigh’s constant shadowing by Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell).

Regardless, Brenda Leigh has proven herself in case after case after case.  No one can convince a criminal to confess the way that Brenda Leigh can.

In addition to the drama, each show promises humor, and I find myself smiling at each episode’s end regardless of how gruesome their case.  Most of the fun centers on the interactions of her team: David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds), Louie Provenza (G.W. Bailey), Andy Flynn (Tony Denison), Michael Tao (Michael Paul Chan), Julio Sanchez (Raymond Cruz), Buzz (Phillip P. Keene), and Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett).

So why are we reviewing and recommending a show that just aired the first of its final six episodes this week?  Because in the age of the digital world and specifically Netflix, The Closer is definitely worthy of a marathon-style viewing party.  And with what we’ve seen over the past seven seasons, I fully expect these closing shows to go out with a BANG!

Brenda Leigh has faced many a foe in the past, but only one has escaped her grasp—lawyer, Philip Stroh (played by Billy Burke).  She has already been ordered by Chief Pope to drop all investigations into the alleged rapist, but those of us who know Brenda Leigh know she’s not going to stop until she gets her man.  This may cost our favorite Deputy Chief her job—and with only five episodes left, maybe that’s exactly what will happen—but politics have never stopped her before… so why would they now?

Get him, Brenda!!

And let me just say the scenes between Burke and Sedgwick are intense—some of the best tension on television today.  I felt similar about the cat and mouse game between Sedgwick and Jason O’Mara (arsonist Bill Croelick) in seasons one and four.

Despite the fact The Closer will not be airing new episodes much longer, I can’t help but award the GTV rating to Brenda Leigh and her team—grill a filet; bake a potato; steam some veggies; and open a glass of Champagne—relish all of the flavors of your meal and The Closer characters at the same time.

I will miss the drama of the Major Case’s cases; I will miss the goofiness of Provenza and Flynn; I will miss the dry humor of Sanchez; I will miss the wittiness of Tao; I will miss Gabriel’s trying to keep everyone in line; I will miss Buzz and his electronic equipment;  I will miss Pope’s and Taylor’s tendencies to only cover their own butts; I will miss Brenda Leigh’s ability to close; and, lastly, I will miss Brenda Leigh and Fritzy—one of the best love affairs on television today.

The way Fritzy “gets” Brenda Leigh just melts my heart every time…

However, most of these characters and character’s traits won’t be missed for long…

Following the conclusion of Brenda Leigh’s story, Captain Raydor takes the lead in Major Crimes.  For the past few seasons, we’ve tolerated Captain Raydor while she terrorized Brenda Leigh, leading all of the officer-involved investigations (kind of like Internal Affairs).  But we’ve also witnessed a softer Captain Raydor who has stood by Brenda Leigh and done everything in her power to protect the Deputy Chief.  How will Captain Raydor do leading Brenda Leigh’s team?  That’s right – almost the entire cast of The Closer returns for the new series, including Provenza, Flynn, Tao, Sanchez, Buzz, Taylor, and even Fritzy on occasion.

So, here’s to The Closer *lifts Champagne glass*.  We will miss you and will forever recommend you to our readers…

What do you think? Do you watch The Closer?  How would you rate it?  Who’s your favorite character?  Do you plan to watch the spin-off later this summer?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and see what she thinks about the BBC’s Luther.  You know Amber loves her British television series…

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.

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

Friday FabOoolousness – Living with a Wicked Stepfather

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake – this month, we discuss The Stepfather.

First, I must applaud Catie’s homemade summary for the 1987 thriller:

Jerry Blake is in search of the American Dream.  Somewhere out there is a house surrounded by a white picket fence and a family who will live up to his expectations. And if Jerry’s family doesn’t live up to his expectations, he’ll murder them and start over again.

And in keeping with Catie’s style, here’s a taste of the most recent, The Stepfather (2009):

When I first watched the trailer, I had no idea this film was a remake.  I saw the stars of the movie (each from past and current day television programs that I highly enjoy) and the premise of the movie, and I was hooked!  Not to mention, you know you’re aging when you have just as much of a crush on the dads of the film as you do the young actor playing the teenage son…

Now for a few differences between the original and the remake:

Jerry Blake is now Grady Edwards, or David Harris (played by Dylan Walsh, Nip/Tuck).  We can’t be sure of his real name because he has changed it each time he has murdered his family and attempted to move on with his life.

David is definitely no Sean McNamara...

David meets Susan (Sela Ward, CSI: NY) in a grocery store where he discovers his next opportunity — his next American Dream — a single mother with two young children, a boy and a girl.  He introduces himself, she invites him to dinner, and the happiness commences.

Susan just wants to be happy...

That is until Susan’s oldest son, Michael (Penn Badgley, Gossip Girl), returns home from military school.  Apparently, Michael didn’t respond well to his mother and father’s (Jon Tenney, The Closer) divorce, so Mama sent him away to give Michael time to contemplate whether or not his acting out was the best way for him to deal with his life changes.

Michael is ecstatic to be home, but he’s not thrilled about David — he doesn’t like the speed with which David has courted his mother; and David makes him uncomfortable when he invites Michael down to the now padlocked basement for a shot of tequila for the two to bond over.  But Michael’s girlfriend (Amber Heard, Playboy Club) convinces him to give David a chance — after all, his mother has been so happy since David came into her life, and she doesn’t want Michael shipped back to military school.

Don't do anything stupid, Michael!

Everything in David’s new world is perfect — Susan’s sister (Paige Turco, Person of Interest) hires him at her lucrative real estate agency; he and Susan will soon marry; and it seems he has successfully escaped his life as Grady Edwards.

That is until the neighbor sees a man resembling David on America’s Most Wanted.  Of course this neighbor loves to gossip, so Susan laughs her off.  But not David.  No, he can’t have a nosy old woman sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.  So he does what he does best — he murders her.

It’s also about this time that Michael and Michael’s father begin questioning the new man in Susan’s life.  And they aren’t the only ones…

Mom, are you sure you can trust David?

Why is the basement padlocked now that David lives in the house?
And since the basement door is already padlocked, why are the brand new shelving units that David built down there also padlocked?
Why does David call his deceased daughter by two different names?
Why doesn’t he have any form of identification to provide to his boss for his required government tax documents?

Stepdaddy is CRAZY!!!

Catie mentions in her post that including the POV of the brother of Jerry’s dead wife saves the predictability of the 1987 film.  The same can’t be said for the 2009 remake.

What’s not predictable?  The fact that David escapes at the end…  I honestly didn’t see that one coming.  Of course, had I known at the time that there was an original and subsequent sequels as I watched The Stepfather (2009)  for the first time, perhaps the ending would not have surprised me the way that it did.

But here’s the best part — The Stepfather movies are loosely inspired by actual events.  Has anyone ever heard of John List?  John List murdered his entire family and then walked away — vanished into thin air.  For more on List, click over to Catie’s blog today and read all about him on her Freaky Friday post.

David can change his appearance, but he can't change the crazy!

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of The Stepfather?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

Tele-Tuesday: The Long Lost Family Drama

Last week, we reminisced about the popular family sitcoms of the 1980s including favorites Who’s the Boss?, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, and The Wonder Years.  The Ooo Factor viewers remembered even more with shows like Alf and The Hogan Family – weren’t these sitcoms great?  These television shows allowed real-life families to join around the living room TV set and watch television families work through the dysfunction in their “make-believe” lives while making us laugh.

But the family oriented thirty minute situational comedy isn’t the only thing missing from television programming today – where’s the one hour family drama?  We touched on Life Goes On and Our House last week – two one hour dramas that focused on family units resolving difficult issues like dealing with a brother’s disability or a father’s death.

The 1980s provided many great honest-to-goodness family dramas that were safe for children of all ages to watch alongside their moms and dads such as:

Highway to Heaven

Quantum Leap

We also cherished the ABC after school special in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Remember those?  Kids learned valuable lessons like: handling the difficulties surrounding blended families after moms and dads remarry; understanding the dangers of drug use, drinking, and unprotected sex; as well as learning how to cope with molestation and rape.

Perhaps one of the most brilliant aspects of the after school special was the network’s casting of young TV heart-throbs like Scott Baio (Charles in Charge), Billy Warlock (Days of our Lives), and Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) to play vital roles in the made-for-TV movies.

Speaking of the ‘90s, this decade didn’t take a complete detour from family programming and produced multi-year hits like:

 7th Heaven

Party of Five

Once and Again

One of our favorites was the short-lived Get Real starring Jon Tenney (The Closer), Deborah Farrentino, Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries), Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA), and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as the Green family.

Looking back, what a fantastic cast!

Mom and dad Green had their issues (for example, mom suspected dad of cheating), and the teenagers definitely had their issues (the usual sibling rivalry, secrets, and coping situations).  The Greens resembled what we’d consider a normal family today – they struggled, they loved, and they learned.  The program walked its viewers through the family decisions, as they hoped to reach a positive outcome, but didn’t always succeed. Unfortunately, this series failed after twenty episodes.

But mostly, the ‘90s began what we now know as YA television with dramas appropriate for teenagers, but perhaps not children under the age of twelve with programs including:

Beverly Hills 90210

My So Called Life

Television airs many of these YA programs today such as The Vampire Diaries, The Lying Game, Pretty Little Liars, and The Secret Circle to name a few.  While great TV, watching these shows is a tad risky for the younger audience, mostly due to the high volumes of violence and sex.

In 2010, ABC tried their hand at a family friendly drama similar to those we watched in the ‘80s and ‘90s that was appropriate for all ages, but No Ordinary Family was pulled from the air waves after a short first season.  Why didn’t this show make it?  Apparently it lacked viewers.

Why weren’t families watching No Ordinary Family?  The series started when mom (Julie Benz) and dad (Michael Chiklis) take the kids on a much needed vacation to strengthen their family unit, and they return with superpowers: the mom has super speed, the dad has super strength, the teenage son has a super brain, and the teenage daughter has telepathic abilities.  No Ordinary Family had the ever-important family dynamic, was full of motion-picture-esque action sequences, and taught morals like the importance of not cheating in school no matter the reason, yet this program fell victim to the network’s axe after twenty episodes.

 

Instead, shows like the Secret Life of the American Teenager, a drama that focuses primarily on teenage sex and pregnancy, last for multiple seasons.

Just something to think about…

Obviously, family television has changed over the years – is it for better or worse?  What ’80s and ‘90s family dramas did you enjoy?   Which one-hour drama does your family watch today?  Is it considered a family drama?  I’d love to hear from you!

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