Rizzoli & Isles

| July 5, 2011

TNT has had some identity crises as of late. What started as a home for old movies entered the world of prime time drama a decade ago with both feet on the ground, re-running network shows like Angel, Law & Order, Charmed, NYPD Blue, ER, Without a Trace, Alias, Judging Amy, Las Vegas, and Cold Case after playing around in sports and horror films. Then they ventured out on their own and figured they ought to start dong some original programming. Who can say why?
With shows like The Closer, Hawthorne, and Rizzoli & Isles, TNT’s new leaning seems pretty clear (for the moment). Even male dominated shows like Leverage and Men Of A Certain Age have a sort of female eye view guiding the action. The women in all of these shows are strong. The men are hopelessly flawed. Generally speaking. It’s not surprising the guys have been jumping ship for more testosterone-dominated networks like FX and Spike where they might feel a little less judged and intimidated. Weak.
But as with Hawthorne, the watered down feminist drive seems like little more than a marketing ploy in Rizzoli & Isles. It’s a show about best friends forever aimed at women who want their share of the prime time murder mystery action without all the blood and yelling the boys do. And that’s not giving the girls I know a lot of credit.
The new season starts off with Rizzoli (a superb Angie Harmon in her first worthy follow-up role to her Law and Order work) recovering from a self-inflicted heroic gunshot wound incurred last season. Not seeing what all the fuss is about, she goes to work once again alongside her dependable buddy Isles (a passable Sasha Alexander). The boys tell her she’s not ready but there’s no holding this firecracker back.
The pace is quick and the show is executed with trained precision. The snappy, jokey dialogue is meant to sizzle. The drama meant to push the viewer to tears at times. The outfits are sharp and professional, but meant to look fun and fem. It’s a formula that plays on the successes of other shows and tries to make a statement of it’s own. Alas…
There are too many high heels in this thing. The cops and doctors wear too much makeup to be convincing. The dialogue is stale. The jokes aren’t jokes. The most we ever get is a vaguely CSI style story structure and a lot of medical information spouted from Dr. Isles that no one asked for. Then a pause for laughter that never comes. And lots of dramatic emotional payoffs that fall flat and just seem too unreal and uninspired. And aren’t cops usually assigned cases? Rizzoli and Isles always seem to witness the crimes Murder She Wrote style. Very suspicious.
Tired formulas aside, there is something about the “old friends made good” dynamic that works. You really want to believe in these characters. They seem real enough and you feel like you know them. To the actor’s credit, Rizzoli and Isles feel like they could be people you know. And you do want to root for them. They are strong in ways you want to be strong. They support each other in ways you want to be supported. They have similar problems you have in your life and a bond you wish you had with your friends. And yet it’s all a little too familiar.
If you saw a commercial for Rizzoli & Isles and thought, “That’s kind of like Thelma and Louise” like I did, save yourself some disappointment. Rent that movie. Prepare a few drinks and pop some popcorn. Call up your BFF. Monday night TV buddy bonding doesn’t get any better than that. But if you can’t find it on the shelf, Rizzoli & Isles might hold you over for a while.

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