Sunday, September 26, 2010

TV Series Review - Rizzoli and Isles

Whether she's playing a hard-as-nails assistant district attorney on "Law and Order" or a homicide detective on "Women's Murder Club," there's something about Harmon that undeniably captures the archetypal image of the tough but lovely enforcer. Her appeal was not enough to save ABC's "Women's Murder Club" but it might just make TNT's "Rizzoli & Isles," based on the books by Tess Gerritsen, a light, bright addition to the network's cadre of female cops.

Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) are two mismatched lone wolves with some social issues whose friendship is just beginning to bud -- a working-class gal (Rizzoli) with a tough demeanor who vacuums when she's thinking and a glamour gal (Isles) with a pet tortoise who grew up dying to dissect. The two still are tiptoeing around their connection but have a mutually admiring, believable chemistry.

In an interesting decision, the series kicks off with a plot that's more season finale than pilot: A serial killer who once held Rizzoli captive escapes and, along with an apprentice slasher, goes after her again. The gore count is high -- this is cable, after all -- but so is the character development; there's more here in just one hour than many series get to in a season's worth of episodes.

To top it all off, there's the comic relief of Rizzoli's over-involved family. Her mother (played brilliantly by Lorraine Bracco) and brother (Jordan Bridges) are deeply invested in her police work and safety, and it's nice to see a cop whose job hasn't ruined her family. (Although where their Boston accents have disappeared to is another mystery altogether.)

So there is much to admire in the first hour of "R&I," but it ends oddly. Having spent most of the episode building to an important resolution in a primary character's life, the show backs away from the crisis ... leaving Rizzoli focused on cleaning up her apartment. The abdication of repercussions from the earlier goings-on is strangely off-key in a show that otherwise hits all the right notes. But perhaps this is where Episode 2 begins. Let's hope so, because "Rizzoli & Isles" is a beat that's well-worth walking.

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