While it’s true that older actresses can’t find good film parts to save their lives, they thrive on television. What to do with Kyra Sedgewick, an actress who came on with a spark in the ‘90s, got some good ink and a few great character parts but, too soon, her career, like so many before her, seemed to evaporate with the changing times. – Younger audiences require younger women. Not only that, but the good parts in American movies these days tend to be going to English actresses who suppress their accents. No one has yet come up with a good reason for casting them perhaps because they reveal less about themselves and aren’t as emotionally available as Americans. Whatever the reason, there is a great surplus of our own who, frankly, need work.
Here comes cable television to the rescue – a place where women with stale careers go in and are remade into another more versatile and alluring shape. Sedgwick’s “The Closer” is also among a slew of female-driven cop shows that are proving more interesting than the male-driven ones, even though most of the top shows these days usually co-star a man and a woman (“CSI,” “Law and Order”). CBS’s “Cold Case,” ABC’s “The Medium” and now, TNT’s “The Closer.”
Of course, no doubt, Sedgwick and crew are hoping for major network play but as it is, the show is far more suited for the laidback quality of cable than the frenetic terror of the majors where your show better involve a lot of violence and sex if you expect to get one of the coveted 10 p.m. weeknight slots. As good as it is, “The Closer” moves to Sedgwick’s character’s pace – like Columbo, she meanders along until, at the very end, she strikes like a rattlesnake.
Sedgwick plays a single woman with lots of emotional baggage, neurosis, and the oft-dreaded “female intuition” – but she also has brass balls and seems to know exactly when to go for the jugular, which is why she is hired away from a potential CIA job to work the high profile cases Los Angeles frequently offers up to the media and public alike – usually involving a celebrity who does something horrible, but gets acquitted by a jury. What else can you expect from the best legal team money can buy?
The juxtaposition of the Southern Brenda Johnson and the superficiality of tinsel town seems a bit cliché – her inability to grasp the length and breadth of Mulholland, for instance, seems a bit condescending. And we who live here know that Los Angeles doesn’t exclusively house beautiful models and movie stars. We have people from all cultures and all walks of life, too. But since Brenda handles high profile cases, she dwells in the more stereotypical version of Los Angeles.
As a fish-out-of-water Southerner named Brenda Johnson, Sedgwick is captivating – not just because she gets to be the smartest person in the room but because she plays it with such complexity – not as a tough woman in a man’s world trying to out-macho the men but as a woman who uses her own unique gifts of connecting with people to get them to confess to murder. It is her ability to break through that makes her so good at her job.
Is it any wonder that many high profile actresses with dead film careers turn to TV when they have whole shows produced to showcase their talent? For the Kyra Sedgwicks, the Patricia Arquettes, and the many other American actresses who revive their careers on television, what waits for them? Can they use their cache to turn once again to film? Or will they make a long life on television and retire on their riches? Who knows. But at least for now, there is somewhere for them to go so that they won’t suffer the same fate as Valerie Cherish played so brilliantly by Lisa Kudrow in “The Comeback.”
“The Closer” is airing original episodes Monday nights at 9 p.m. on TNT.
Thursday, June 23
Rear Window (****), cinematic perfection, 7:30 p.m., TCM.
Primary Colors (***), 7:30 p.m., AMC.
Great Old Amusement Parks, 9 p.m., KCET.
Dolores Claiborne (***), “Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold on to,” 9:30 p.m., AMC.
Friday, June 24
3,000 Miles to Graceland, 8 p.m., UPN.
The One (***), with Jet Li, 8 p.m., FOX.
St. Elmo’s Fire (***), it all started with shoulder pads, 9 p.m., TCM.
A Few Good Men (**), “you can’t handle the truth!” 9 p.m., TCM.
Saturday, June 25
An Affair to Remember (***), 7:30 p.m., AMC.
End of Days (**), 8 p.m., NBC.
Pocahontas (***), 8 p.m., ABC.
Hetty Wainthropp Investigates 4: Family Values, 8 p.m., KCET.
The 4400, 9 p.m., USA.
Sunday, June 26
The Front (****), 7:30 p.m., TCM.
Flashdance (***), what a feeling! 8 p.m., WE.
Changing Lanes (***), 9 p.m., CBS.
Inspector Lynley: In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, 9 p.m., KCET.
Monday, June 27
Notorious (****), with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, 7:30 p.m., TCM.
Air Force One (***), 9 p.m., ABC.
Myra Breckinridge (***), 9 p.m., FMC.
Prime Suspect, the return of the great mystery starring Helen Mirren, 9 p.m., BBCAM.
Tuesday, June 28
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (****), 7:30 p.m., TCM.
Average Joes: The Joes Strike Back, premiere of another embarrassing reality show, 8 p.m., NBC.
Empire, 9 p.m., ABC.
The New Heroes, a series examining people helping people who desperately need it, 9 and 10 p.m., KCET.
Wednesday, June 29
Auto Focus (**), 8 p.m., IFC.
The Lost Boys (***), 8 p.m., SCI FI.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (**), notable for the screenwriting credit of Roger Ebert, 9 p.m., FMC.
Superman, from 1978, 9 p.m., A&E.