Created by James Duff and the Shephard/Robin Company which also produces Nip/Tuck, The Closer centers on Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), who was brought from Atlanta to Los Angeles by Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) to lead up a new special murder investigation task force; Priority Homicide. Pope selected Johnson because of her uncanny ability to ‘close’ a case by getting confessions others could only dream of.
Despite her tremendous skills, her subordinates resented her for being a female and not a product of the L.A.P.D. system. Brenda doesn’t worry much about making everyone else feel comfortable. She has a tough personality and her main concern is solving the latest homicide. Her biggest skeptic is Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) who developed the Priority Homicide Division under the assumption that he would one day head it up. It irritates him to no end that not only did they bring in an outsider, but she outranks him as well.
One of the best aspects of the early seasons of The Closer was the writers opted not to take the easy way out. Brenda had to spend much of the first season proving to her subordinates she was worthy of her position. The men did give her the cold shoulder and didn’t respect her after just one episode. In the second season, she still had to convince other members of the L.A.P.D particularly Commander Taylor, that her ability to get confessions was due to more than just tremendous luck.
Though she has a special ability to break down criminals, the writers of The Closer have given Deputy Chief Johnson a habit that makes her seem all too human. The woman has one of the most serious sweet tooth’s you’ll ever see. Seemingly always in need of a Ho-Ho or other chocolate confection, she always keeps something in the top draw of her desk at work, in the oversized shoulder bag she carries, makes regular visits to the vending machine and has a secret stash of sweets at her house.
Season three finds Deputy Chief Johnson finally achieving the respect of her subordinates and colleagues, but struggling with a whole new set of issues. Her biggest problem this season is departmental budget cuts. Chief Pope orders Brenda to either transfer one member of her staff to the counter-terrorism unit (which is getting plenty of money from the federal government) or convince one of her officer to take early retirement, which means Detective Provenza (G. W. Bailey), because he is the only one who qualifies. Pope also declares that there will be no overtime, which sends Brenda into an understandable tizzy. After all, criminals don’t commit murders on a tidy 9-5 schedule, five days a week. While I wouldn’t ordinarily consider budget cuts a tantalizing storyline, The Closer’s writers found a way to use the story arc to highlight Brenda’s relentlessness and to create a bubbling conflict between her and Pope. Their ongoing verbal exchanges create moments of comic relief.
Budget cuts aside Brenda still has lots of difficult cases to deal with; The season gets off to a strong start with “Homewrecker,” an episode involving the brutal murder of an entire upper middle-class family except for the teenage son, who is found high on Ecstasy and hiding in the attic. Its gruesome crime scene (as seen from the perspective of Buzz’s handheld camera) and tangled web of lies make it one of the best episodes of the season.
Another standout episode titled “Rudy,” has the squad investigating the disappearance of a ten-year-old girl who never returned home from school. There is evidence that she was in the van of a convicted sex offender, but no matter what Brenda and her staff do, he refuses to talk. Lt. Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) decides to beat the location of the girl out of the suspect, putting his career and close relationship with Deputy Chief Johnson at risk.
Each week The Closer manages to offer solid one hour mysteries, sprinkled with a bit of humor to break the tension. From the discovery in a landfill of the body of a street gang member murdered in the early ’90s, to a case involving a serial murderer of young black girls, to a disliked (with the notable exception of Chief Pope) Department of Homeland Security auditor found partially eaten by coyotes at the bottom of a ravine, to suspicious goings on at a nursing home, Brenda Johnson and her team manage to snag the guilty. In one of the seasons lighter moments, Brenda scuffles with a stuck-up young bride on the steps of a cathedral that became a crime scene moments before the wedding was to begin; When a video of the fight lands on You Tube, the L.A.P.D. experiences a barrage of publicity, prompting Chief Pope to remark, “Congratulations, Chief Johnson, you’ve become the most downloaded fully-clothed woman on the internet.”
Season three also finds Brenda dealing with a host of personal issues. Brenda has to face her fear of commitment, as she and her boyfriend, FBI Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney), search for a house spacious enough to allow them to fully integrate their lives. She also has to face a mysterious illness that pops up, mid-season. I don’t usually enjoy police dramas where the characters’ personal lives are a big focus of the show, but once again, the writers have used it to the shows advantage. It serves to show the stark differences in her personality–Brenda is tough and headstrong, yet sweet and vulnerable. Sedgwick and Tenney have a palpable chemistry that makes the ups and downs of their relationship seem very real.
The quality of the writing, acting and engaging storylines makes The Closer one of the best series on television today. Anyone who hasn’t seen the show should take the opportunity to watch previous seasons on DVD before the fourth season premieres July 14, 2008. For fans, this is a great chance to revisit Brenda and her team.
The Closer – The Complete Third Season contains 15 episodes on four DVDs. The 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced image on the DVDs is excellent. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
The set isn’t loaded with extras, but has a few. Each disc has a set of deleted scenes referred to as “Police Files” Disc one contains a gag reel and a featurette called “The Art of Interrogation” in which police officers nd legal experts discuss the methods of interrogation both pre- and post-Miranda v. Arizona.