I’ve been meaning to write about my other tv obsession – the shrewd and completely brilliant The Closer – for a while now. If you haven’t seen it (don’t wait any longer….) The Closer tracks the caseload of Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (a tour de force from Kyra Sedgwick) who’s been brought in from Atlanta to head up LA’s Priority Homicide Division. Although her new colleagues initially resent her saccharine-steely presence, she is a brilliant interrogator who is able to close all of her cases. 

The Closer is a remarkable series for a number of reason. Firstly, I love the fact that Brenda gets her man through clever interviewing. In these days of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, where more and more Americans are lulled into the erroneous belief that torture uncovers usable intelligence, The Closer shows us all a more informed, more humane and more successful way.

Secondly, it opens an amazing window on the madness of a modern mega-city. As the Wickipedia entry on the series says:

Each episode of “The Closer” deals with an aspect of the Los Angeles culture as it interfaces with law enforcement in the mega-city. The show deals with complex and subtle issues of public policy ethics, personal integrity, and profound questions of good and evil. The rather large character ensemble is sophisticated in its own exploration of the human condition, touching on individual faiths, traditional religious influences in the lives and communities of contemporary society, and the breakdown and dysfunction of family systems, work teaming, and government responsibility. 

And thirdly, the ensemble cast of characters is first rate. And I think this significantly contributes to The Closer’s status as a stand-out series, because it marks the (re-)emergence of genuine American heroes. Consider John Bowman’s interesting piece on the death of Movie Heroism that appears in the July/August edition of The American; yes, he says, there may be whistle-blower heroes, or victim-heroes, or loner anti-heroes, and there are plenty of cartoon-esque superheroes. But over the last thirty years there has been a lack of genuine, morally grounded ordinary men and women who fight from a position of strength for the benefit of the community. Bowman says:

Once populated by heroes whose job it was to tangle with and triumph over the villains, the institutions that support the community have now been abandoned to the villains. The hero stands alone against corruption so massive that he cannot hope to do anything more than expose it, not end it.

And I think thats why The Closer resonates so strongly. Although our principal is Brenda Leigh, she’s surrounded by a bright, diligent, talented, dedicated ensemble of equally hard working men and women, who each strive from within the system to make a difference. They are not victims, they are not underdogs, they are not superheroes but they’re saving the world anyway, one case at a time.