Monday, July 12, 2010

Rizzoli & Isles

The various crime procedurals that TNT cranks out are generally innocuous, sometimes entertaining and rarely annoying. The Closer was actually pretty great in its early seasons, although it's grown rather repetitive, and I'm on the verge of giving up on it. No TNT drama, no matter how formulaic, has put me off as much as Rizzoli & Isles, the new procedural being paired with The Closer. Based on a series of novels by Tess Gerritsen, R&I features the title characters, a Boston homicide detective (Rizzoli) and coroner (Isles), as they solve various grisly crimes. It's a fine concept, and it's refreshing to see a drama with two female leads (although Angie Harmon's Rizzoli is really the main character). The problem, at least with the pilot, is in the lurid unpleasantness of the storytelling, something that always bugs me on shows like Criminal Minds.

From what I can tell from reading Wikipedia, the pilot is a condensed version of Gerritsen's first two Rizzoli novels, and maybe cramming all that violence and nastiness into one episode is what creates the problems. But the tone is just so jarring, shifting from cutesy bits about Rizzoli's family and love life (the supporting characters are all connected to her, leaving Isles kind of adrift) to lame serial-killer cliches and Rizzoli being stalked and kidnapped by an escaped murderer. It comes off like some second-rate straight-to-DVD thriller, not the start to an engaging TV series, and it lays way too much baggage on the characters right at the start. Isles only gets to be supportive and expository, but maybe she'll get her own focus down the road (she did have her own spotlight novels).

Sasha Alexander is fine as Isles, but it's Harmon who's really wasted here. Watching her guest spot on Chuck a while back, I was struck by how charming she was, and hoped to see her back on TV on a regular basis. But her sense of humor is misused here, and her Texas twang keeps creeping through the New England accent she's trying on as a Boston cop. Rizzoli is punished so much right away that I just felt sorry for Harmon. This should be a show that celebrates strong female characters, but it's getting started by treating them with abuse and contempt.

Premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on TNT.

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