There's much less spin to TNT's "Major Crimes" than the average spinoff because, aside from the star, little changes.
Debuting at 10 p.m. Monday after the series finale of "The Closer" (9 p.m., TNT), the story in "Major Crimes" picks up one week after events in that last "Closer" episode.
Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) is out; Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell, "Battlestar Galactica") is in.
And just about the entire "Closer" supporting cast is back -- with a couple of additions, too.
"Major Crimes" begins with a grocery store robbery, shooting and investigation led by Det. Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) who is in charge on an interim basis until Capt. Raydor gets transferred from internal affairs to major crimes, landing in Brenda's old office, which continues to hold some of her mementoes in a nice nod to "The Closer's" lead character.
In some respects this represents a re-set for the Provenza character who was resentful of Johnson when "The Closer" began; now he's resentful of new boss Raydor. Provenza also rages against an undercover police detective, Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), who joins major crimes.
And Provenza disapproves of the new direction of the division, which is working more with prosecutors to cut deals that secure airtight convictions and avoid the expense of a long, drawn-out death penalty case.
"I put a murderer away for life in 48 hours which is not the regular routine," Raydor says when Provenza complains about tactics.
Others detectives also complain about Raydor, including Lt. Andy Flynn (Anthony John Denison), who says, "Every problem we're having is because of you," citing procedures Raydor put in place in her old job. But his accusation deflates when Raydor points out what his observation reveals about a suspect.
Fans of "The Closer" are likely to warm to "Major Crimes" as long as they don't pay too careful attention and get resentful. After all, by-the-book Raydor frequently slams the approach of loose cannon Brenda Leigh Johnson, noting, "Major Crimes has a history of ignoring LAPD policy and leaving others to deal with the consequences."
That tension is a good thing. For a "Closer" spinoff not to feel too much like the same-old, same-old, it needs a lead character with a different vibe. Producers smartly began laying the groundwork for Ms. Sedgwick's departure several seasons back with the introduction of Raydor.
Ms. McDonnell, a two-time Oscar nominee, gained a new respect and following playing a political leader on Syfy's "Battlestar Galactica." She excels at taking on complicated characters and "The Closer" barely scratched the surface of Raydor's background.
A character added in "The Closer" series finale, teen hustler Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin, "The Bill Engvall Show"), seems designed to showcase Raydor's life outside the workplace after she takes in the homeless juvenile in the "Major Crimes" premiere. For some viewers this may play like the addition of Cousin Oliver on "The Brady Bunch" but it makes sense for series creator/executive producer James Duff to want to show viewers Raydor's more human side, which the addition of Rusty allows.
In many ways, the closest analogue to this transition from "The Closer" to "Major Crimes" is the transfer of power on "The Office" from Michael Scott (Steve Carell) to Andy Bernard (Ed Helms). Of course, it hasn't worked out well so far for "The Office," which seems to have lost its ability to make viewers laugh consistently since the changeover. But procedural drama is easier and less reliant on character point of view than comedy. In its first hour, at least, "Major Crimes" appears to be making a pretty seamless transition.
Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published August 12, 2012 4:00 AM