Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pilot Review: Rizzoli & Isles

Rizzoli & Isles (TNT)
Premiered July 12 at 10pm

TNT is shaping up to be more than just a network that knows drama and threatening to truly rival USA’s character brand with some token personalities of its own. Turner Network Television has been applauded in the past for showcasing a strong female lead character on lead-in series “The Closer,” and this show, regardless of any creative issues, should garner similar praise. Angie Harmon’s return to television gives the network another tough, respectable law enforcement officer to anchor one of its series. The pilot follows in the footsteps of other shows like “The Mentalist” and “Profiler” by setting up its lead cop with a serial killer nemesis with all-too personal vendetta against her. The difference with this show is that it actually features a repeat encounter with said nemesis in the very first episode, and resolves that storyline by having Harmon’s Rizzoli rid herself of her enemy by episode’s end. It’s a ferocious start to a series that likely won’t be as deadly or severe each episode, but it helps kick it off properly. For those who think that this show, with its somewhat tongue-twisting title, is merely a halved version of Harmon’s previous TV series, the underrated “Women’s Murder Club,” that’s not the case at all. For one thing, cop Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles hardly get along famously, as even in the first episode Isles withholds information from her friend rather than put their close relationship above the law. The major disappointment of the first episode is that Isles seems so sidelined and barely features into the storyline, especially compared to her costar, who dominates the pilot. Part of the reason this is a concern is that it’s absolutely wonderful to have Sasha Alexander back on television, five years after her exit from “NCIS.” I do love Ziva, but it was still hard to replace Kate, and it’s fantastic to have her part on a show, even if Tony DiNozzo is nowhere to be found. Harmon’s return is a welcome one too, and while her character seems a whole lot more stressed out and humorless than her previous role, Lindsay Boxer, she’s just as effective as a lead. The supporting cast includes two terrific cops played by Bruce McGill and Lee Thompson Young, late of ABC’s cancelled “Flash Forward.” They’re both quite different and should provide Rizzoli with ample support via their varied areas of expertise. “The Sopranos” therapist Lorraine Bracco is also a member of the credited cast, received the coveted “and” billing, as the immutably Italian mother of Rizzoli. Her role should be much like that of Kate Mulgrew on last year’s “Mercy,” an occasionally welcome though hardly necessarily distraction from the main plot. The pilot shows some expert casting, taking the secondary villains from season one and two of “24” and positioning them as Rizzoli’s nemesis (Michael Massee) and a mysterious federal agent (Billy Burke). This show is definitely off to a positive start.

How will it work with a series? Based on the first episode, it should be a fairly generic cop show, but the twist is that we get the medical point of view as well as the police one. The pilot didn’t make Isles seem too prominent, though I suspect that will change in episode two, enabling this to be very similar to its lead-in – an above-average procedural aided by sharp casting and great characters.
How long will it last? Unsurprisingly, TNT’s new show now boasts the title of cable’s #1 commercial-supported series launch of all time. There isn’t much more to say – that should translate to a renewal within the next few weeks, if not right away. TNT wants more good shows, and this is one people are actually watching, so they’ll want to hang onto it for sure.

Pilot grade: B+

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