I was 11 when Cagney and Lacey premiered, and yes, I watched it because we had one TV and no cable. Still, I knew a strong female buddy-cop dynamic when I saw it.
In TNT’s new series Rizzoli and Isles (22 years after the final Cagney and Lacey episode), I get to see one again.
Watching Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and best friend/medical examiner Maura Isles is a triumph for regular readers of novelist Tess Gerritsen. Rizzoli and Isles are the subject of eight crime thrillers from Gerritsen, beginning with Surgeon in 2001.
While I love thrillers on TV, I’m not a fan of reading them. Luckily, Rizzoli and Isles doesn’t leave me feeling like I’m missing part of the story.
I love well-played, tough-but-sweet East Coast girls, and Angie Harmon nails it as Rizzoli. Sasha Alexander (NCIS) is fantastic as her more proper, studious and better-dressed counterpart, Dr. Isles.
If I wasn’t already happy enough to see Harmon back on the air — she was the best ADA on Law and Order (which is saying a lot, considering there were about 12 — Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos) plays her overprotective mom, Angela, perfectly.
In the establishing Rizzoli family scene, Rizzoli’s off to investigate a murder after breaking her nose playing basketball with her little brother. But not before Angela scolds her for using the good towel to soak up blood and offers her an icepack.
“It won’t be attractive if your nose swells up,” says Bracco in her signature gravelly Italian accent. “You never know who you might run into.”
“’Cause I meet so many good guys at work. Too bad they’re all dead,” Rizzoli replies.
The writing gets slightly better than that, and will hopefully improve as the cast’s chemistry develops. But like Sex and the City, Rizzoli and Isles is about friendship — only with suspense, guns and death. The pretty crime-fighting duo occasionally talks about men, but mostly Rizzoli is marveling at Isles’ spontaneous recollection of trivia, like a beautiful and blonde Cliff Clavin.
“My God, you’re better than Wikipedia!” says Rizzoli.
“No. Wipikedia is frequently incorrect. Very little of what they write is rigorously peer-reviewed,” Isles replies.
While Gerritsen is heavily involved in producing, like any book adaptation it will be tough to transfer the well-crafted nuances of Rizzoli and Isles’ cases and friendship from thousands of pages to a handful of one-hour programs.
(TNT, Mondays, 10pm)
The new spy drama Covert Affairs appears to model itself after Alias, but it’s more naive. Piper Perabo plays Annie Walker, who lives with her sister’s family while hiding the fact she’s one of the CIA’s newest operatives. Expect the pretty, young bad-ass potential to be constantly challenged, but know that the Bourne trilogy writers are involved, so there’s a tested (albeit predictable) formula. (USA, Tuesdays, 10 pm)
After watching dozens of chick dramas, I love to curl up to a bloody war fantasies on Spike. Deadliest Warriors uses real interviews and silly reenactments to predict, through pseudoscience, who might win battles that are historically/geographically impossible — e.g., Mongols vs. Comanche. (Spike, Tuesdays, 10 pm)
The Pillars of the Earth
I meant to read The Pillars of the Earth (all 976 pages) before it became a TV series. Set in 12th century England, the Starz adaptation of Ken Follett’s beloved epic novel weaves a dizzying tale of good and evil. The daughter of a fallen king fights the church for control of the throne, and the engaging and devout monk Phillip decides to build a cathedral. Ridley Scott is an executive producer. (Starz, Fridays, 10 pm)