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TV Review: Rizzoli & Isles

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Looking at the promotional artwork for TNT’s newest original drama, Rizzoli & Isles, one gets the impression that the series, while focusing on murders being solved by the police, will be somewhat lighthearted and funny. Much of the artwork (see the image at right for an example) features the two leadPhoto Credit: Darren Michaelss, Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, both attractive women, smiling at the camera and seeming to make light of their job and/or location. As they are with a dead body in many of these images, their lighthearted appearance certainly gives the impression that the show doesn’t take itself very seriously.

One might then be surprised to turn on the series and have the very first scene, in an exceedingly grim fashion, depict a man gagged and tied and forced to watch as his wife is sexually assaulted. The couple represent Rizzoli & Isles‘ case of the week, a case that is personal for Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli (Harmon) as the events with the husband and wife unfolded in a way eerily similar to the MO of a serial killer who is currently in jail but at one point abducted Rizzoli. Scenes within the episode depict Harmon’s being held by the killer and just how close she came to losing her life. It is a dark, dark television show.

Mostly. The show does add some moments of levity; most of them in the pilot belong to Lorraine Bracco who plays Angela, Jane’s mom. Angela is just exceedingly concerned about her daughter’s job and the dangers that arise from it, but shows that concern by henpecking her daughter. Her character works just as well as Sharon Gless’s in Burn Notice, which may not be all that surprising as, from the pilot, it is terribly similar.

Whether or not the artwork for the series makes the show appear as dark as it is, those who can get over the potential initial shock will find a well put together detective show, one that seems to have the ability to spin an interesting tale and deliver compelling characters and relationships. As for the two main characters and their relationship, Rizzoli is the tough-as-nails tomboy cop from the wrong side of the tracks and Isles is the genius know-it-all-but-not-in-an-obnoxious-way medical examiner. The two are the best of friends but don’t mind trying to let the occasional guy come between them.

Harmon, who has a lot of experience in crime-based series, delivers a better than average performance here. It would, in fact, be excellent were it not for her never very good and not always there Boston accent. She would be far better off dropping the attempt entirely, particularly as most of the people on the show don’t bother attempting one.

Also in the supporting cast are Lee Thomas Young as Jane’s new partner, Bruce McGill as her ex-partner, and Jordan Bridges as Jane’s younger brother. Things are certainly skewed towards the Rizzoli side of the relationship, but Alexander’s Isles has some of the best moments in the pilot, particularly with her love of tortoises and incredible depth of knowledge on a breadth of subjects.

TNT has been very successful in recent years launching women-centered programs, notably The Closer and Saving Grace, and almost everything in Rizzoli & Isles makes it feel as though it can continue that burgeoning tradition. Certainly the homicide case chosen for the first episode is a very strong one, and while they all can’t be quite as personal as this one, it certainly does draw the viewer in and gives the audience an excellent idea of Rizzoli’s character.

Out of this summer’s crop of new scripted – or unscripted for that matter – series, Rizzoli & Isles definitely finds itself somewhere near the top of the heap. If you’re looking for a crime show with cases that will draw you in and make you wonder you need look no further. On the other hand, if you’re looking for lighthearted comedy with two attractive women who also happen to solve crimes, you’re going to be out of luck. You could probably get away with just skipping through to Lorraine Bracco’s scenes, but you’d be cheating yourself out of a pretty good hour of television.

Rizzoli & Isles airs on Mondays at 10pm/9c on TNT.

 

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com Nancy

    Nicely done. Do you realize the whole article is written in italics?

  • Lauren

    Though I appreciate the thoroughness of your review,specifically the highlights–Angie Harmon’s better than average performance (minus the bad South Paw jab)and Lorraine Bracco’s welcome two cents–the show needs some desperate help if it is going to stay afloat.

    Having read all of Tess Gerritsen’s books and being a huge fan of Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles I was disappointed. Much in the same way a reader feels when they go to the movies and sees that the big wig producers couldn’t translate the story to the big screen.

    I realize this is–sigh–a difficult thing to do.

    I will say that the dialogue is crisp and given the right direction i.e. someone taking a better look at exactly what Ms. Gerritsen did to create such good storytelling and then…perhaps…you might have a winner on TNT.

  • jersey girl

    I was disappointed – the levity didn’t seem to fit. I too am a Gerritsen fan – her books are well written but on the dark side. It’s the thrill of the mystery that keeps you turning pages – didn’t feel much thrill last night.

  • Marie

    Strong cast but the first episode was disappointing. Great villian, great actor for the mom, excellebnt pair of actors for the starring roles, the show was not smart or quick. Disappointing for the greatr cast that was available.

  • hayley

    does anyone besides me see the blatant similarities between rni and crossing jordan? both leads are alums of law and order, both shows are set in boston and both shows are about the workings of the cops and the medical examiners office. all the actors in both shows are great but no way is rni going to last six seasons like jordan did.