It’s called Saving the Best for Last. And it works sometimes – dinner, say, at one of your favorite aunt’s when the woman happens to make the best peach pies in the Western world. Dessert heaven is in the offing.
With TV shows? Not so much.
You don’t expect series finales of successful TV shows to be all that much more than occasions for the writers to wrap up a lot of stuff and for the actors to do a little on-camera wallowing in sentimentality.
A tiny little bit of history then: Monday’s finale of TNT’s ratings bell-ringer “The Closer” may be the best single episode of the series I’ve ever seen. I could be forgetting some, but it’s awfully good.
I wasn’t crazy about the coda in which departing Major Crimes Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson gets to smother her staff with overdone steel magnolia endearments and sentimental bushwah about just moving “down the block.” (True in the show’s fictional world, but not so in reality; Kyra Sedgwick, who plays Brenda, has gone on to other things.) And then she walks off to the elevator and is seen diving face first into a Hostess Ding Dong, i.e. the kind of foil-wrapped chocolate covered mess that New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is probably trying to make illegal even as we speak.
That particular “Closer” gimmick – that the chief just loved her candies and sweets and could always be counted on to stuff her face when things went south – was one of the show’s phoniest and most dispensable inventions. Or would have been if those in the ick and goo and candied sweets business hadn’t recognized a lovely opportunity to get their products out there when it hit them in the snout.
Talk about product placement.
Those of us who have nothing but respect for Kyra Sedgwick the actress can’t help but be thrilled that the next time we see her, it won’t be in something where ersatz Georgia peachiness sticks to every word like chocolate sticking to all her favorite munchies.
But if you have to go out, “The Closer” does it right. It’s a strong episode that does a masterful job of setting up the show’s successor and spin-off, “Major Crimes,” which debuts immediately following the finale of “The Closer” on Monday night.
So far, so good.
I do hate to be a spoilsport, but “Major Crimes" is more than a bit of a mess on its opening episode.
“The Closer,” though, for those who’ve followed the series, ends things in Brendaburg with all the startling complexity and even humanity one could wish for. All of the departing chief’s fellow suits in the L.A. police force walk around in major bureaucratic CYA mode as she leaves – especially Commander Russell Taylor (Robert Gossett), one of weekly television’s finer creations in the science of on-the-job backstabbing, sanctimony and all-around weaslery.
“The Closer,” at the close, turned into an appallingly acute portrait of bureaucratic breakdown and all the suits running for cover with as many new titles and as much new authority as they can stash in their fanny packs to prevent them from being downsized.
It’s been splendidly horrific to watch – especially the emphasis on making deals with miscreants so that even the biggest monsters don’t waste taxpayer money by hanging around too long on death row while all those pesky lawyers drain government coffers trying to keep needles out of their clients’ arms.
Make a deal now or watch the monsters cling to life forever, fighting in court for tomorrow morning’s breakfast. That, we’re told, is how the Major Crimes division needs to run from now on.
Unless, of course, there is Brenda Leigh Johnson’s major enemy among the monsters of the world, a man who really does need to be taken out – and as decisively as possible – so that he’ll stop murdering young girls and burying them in deserted canyons.
So that’s what you get at the close of “The Closer" – the jaws of bureaucracy clamping ever tighter around the already aching ankles of our heroine while she finally has a chance of catching and dispatching her bête noire.
Which leads to a fine dramatic moment in an elevator.
The writers of “The Closer” finale do like elevators.
There was even a truly fine moment in the show’s next to last episode last week when regular watchers found out who the departmental mole was – the law student girlfriend of one of squad detectives Sgt. David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) who befriended him in the first place at church at the behest of L.A.’s scummiest and shadiest lawyer.
In other words, every on-the-job complaint Gabriel innocently shared with the woman in his life had immediately gone to a slime ball suing his colleagues.
However unintentionally, then, Gabriel owed his colleagues an apology. And he made it from the heart. One by one, slowly, each said “apology accepted.” All except for Detective Julio Sanchez (played by Raymond Cruz). He sat mute and unappeasable. Silently still fuming no doubt.
Nice touch that. I’ll miss a show complex enough to give us a moment like that.
(And the last colleague who responded – played by Tony Dennison – added “and now put in for a transfer.”)
On the evidence of its opener, “The Closer’s” successor and spin-off is a mess so far. Even for those who aren’t fond of all that thick Georgia mush dripping from every word out of Johnson’s mouth (did we need a 21st century Scarlett O’Hara?), the news that the department is now headed up by Mary McDonnell as Capt. Sharon Raydor is not especially good, either.
This is an actress who, so far on the show, has performed in every scene as she though she was hypnotized by “The Mentalist,” sleepwalking through every line.
And too, the bureaucratic backstabbing and elbow-throwing is so thick on the “Major Crimes” opener that you’d swear you were watching Veto Night on “Big Brother.”
All is not lost, not by a long shot. Any show that still has G.W. Bailey playing Lt. Louie Provenza (“even my grandchildren call me ‘Lieutenant’ ”) has a way out of hopeless cast congestion rushing obscenely to fill a nonexistent vacuum. All they need in an episode that gets too messy is a maximum of Provenza and a corresponding cutback of everyone else and the new “Major Crimes” will be fine.
Which, sad to say, is not the case with its opener.