ABW’s TV Corner: The Closer

Someone asked last week if there were any shows I felt did well on the gender or race front. Though they are few and far between, some exist. One of them is TNT’s The Closer, which I just love to watch. Unfortunately (or perhaps this is a good thing) the show only comes on during the summer. The seasons are 13 episodes long. And you have to wait through the Fall/Spring season to get more Closer goodness. It’s worth it, though.

The Closer’s lead character is female–Brenda Leigh Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgewick, who is awesome. The ensemble cast only has one other female, sadly, but many minority actors:

The Closer cast

Irene Daniels (Black & Latina) played by Gina Ravera
Julio Sanchez (Latino) played by Raymond Cruz
Commander Taylor (Black) played by Robert Gossett
Michael Tao (Chinese-American) played by Michael Paul Chan
David Gabriel (Black) played by Corey Reynolds

Of the 10 main characters, five are ethnic minorities. Pretty impressive.

I love The Closer because the creators they don’t just pay lip service to diversity by throwing some brown people in the cast. It’s an ensemble and the group is very integrated. Each team member is important and the writers don’t take shortcuts and don’t go for negative racial stereotypes. That’s not to say that all of the minority characters are good and golden. They have flaws, like everyone, and Commander Taylor is Brenda’s biggest nemesis in the first and through part of the second season. The writing allows the audience to not have to focus on the race of the characters without acting as f the characters don’t have a particular race at all. They do, and it’s commented upon but not put in neon lights.

Like in real life!

Though I love all of the characters in The Closer, I do wish they’d get some more female detectives in there. Brenda is wonderful, and Kyra Sedgewick can carry a show in her sleep. The only other female in the squad is Irene Daniels. While she is written just as competently as the others, I’ve noticed that she doesn’t often get to shine in the foreground as much as Detectives Flynn and Provenza or Sgt. Gabriel. Gabriel is understandable since he’s Brenda’s favorite and sort of her right hand man. Flynn & Provenza are hams and excellent at providing comedy relief, so it’s not a stretch to understand why they get forefront attention a lot. Still, I wish they would bring in another female and give Daniels more time in the spotlight.

Season 3 is almost over at this point, but you may be able to catch some episodes on TNT OnDemand, or watch them at TNT’s website, or you can buy episodes from all three seasons for $2 each on AmazonUnbox. Seasons 1 and 2 are out on DVD. It’s definitely something you should check out if you like crime dramas.

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7 Responses

  1. Oh, thanks for the note on The Closer! I’m definitely adding that to my Netflix queue now.

  2. Oh I love The Closer! Wonderful show. Also enjoyed its predecessor, Prime Suspect, which sadly lacks the racial diversity but has a tougher, grittier female detective in the lead (and she’s played by Helen Mirren!!!)

    The Closer Season 2 lost some of the focus on Gabriel, which is a shame because I like him. Still, it’s a great show. The episodes don’t shy away from serious subject matter, either.

  3. I love The Closer! Thanks for writing this positive post about it. Thankyew! Thankyew so much!

  4. I’ll be the dissenting whiner again here: why is it that the only shows that ever have even close to proportional representation are cop shows? I guess it’s increasingly reflective of big city police forces, but I find it disturbing that the only time people of color get to be heroes is when they play Law And Order (as it were) agents of the state. Esp. since (in real life) DAs, prosecutors and police are as often villains as they are heroes in the lives of people of color (look at incarceration rates, racial profiling, dispropotionate sentencing, etc).

    Arabs are starting to go through this now: we used to just be faceless bullet sponges for Chuck Norris, Ah-nold, et al. Now, once in a while (and I suspect increasingly), we “get to” be USA-loving 2nd-stringer federal agents and lackeys (see Jamie Foxx’s upcoming The Kingdom) who help lock up and kill — you guessed it — other Arabs. Ambiguous progress, to my mind.

  5. Saladin, your second paragraph reminded me of the movie The Siege. That’s the flagship movies for this phenomenon. (even though it was a good movie and quite prescient considering it was made well before 9/11)

    It may not be that cop shows are the only ones with proportional casts, just that there are an asston of cop/crime shows on right now. Law & Order and CSI have been around forever, but it feels like every new drama is some kind of business about solving crime. It’s what people are in to right now. I agree, though, that it’s annoying because there are very few balanced portrayals of cops in these shows. The cops are always or mostly the good guys and, as someone mentioned over on the CS thread, way more careful and non-prejudiced than real life would indicate.

    I don’t have a TV, though, so rarely see any shows that aren’t the ones I watch, so you may be right that mostly it’s cop shows.

  6. My only issue with the show: another New Yorker attempting a southern accent. (((cringes)))

    If you ain’t somebody like Frances McDormand or Kathy Bates, please don’t.

  7. @ ABW:

    The Siege — there was lots offensive about that movie, but it is fascinating as a pre-9/11 movie. I do give the guy some credit for trying, even if he wrote awful lines like “My first boyfriend was Palestinian. My father liked to say, they seduce you with their suffering.” Plus Tony Shalhoub actually plays an Arab — his own ethnicity — for once!

    I think that military and police dramas are some of the most “integrated” genres on TV and in the movies. Think of how many of Denzel’s roles, for instance are him playing an FBI agent, a military officer, or a cop. Part of this must be because, sadly, the demographics of the military and law enforcement are more brown and black and yellow than many other fields. But I do think part of it is also a subtle bit of brainwashing: if you serve the government (by getting shot at, no less!), you can be “a star” “even if” you’re not white.

    And why are legal dramas always on the side of the prosecution? We need a show about public defenders…

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