By Ken Tucker
Updated July 08, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Karen Neal/TNT
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Now in its fifth season, The Closer is looking a tad tired and predictable. When I tuned in to the season premiere and saw Sedgwick’s Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson sighing at recalcitrant suspects she was about to break and drawling lines like ”Ah maaa-ight nawt see her ag-gin,” I thought, this is one TV show that sure knows what it’s doing — and does it over and over and over ag-gin.

There’s nothing wrong with TV comfort food, of course. Some crime-solving/mystery series became the beloved series they are by developing a formula that worked for them, from Columbo to House. And like those shows, a big part of The Closer‘s popularity is due to the way its lead actor inhabits her role so thoroughly. Sedgwick insists on giving a boldly ego-free performance. People love Brenda because she’s an ordinary-looking frump (those anti-glam black-horn-rimmed glasses) who wears her emotions on her cardigan sleeve (all that teary love for her recently passed cat, Kitty) while using exceptional shrewdness to interrogate suspects and solve cases.

My objections to the series in its new season are that the plots tend toward the obvious and the supporting cast has become increasingly clownish. In the season premiere, a family of four is found murdered soon after the husband of the house leaves for work. Tony Denison’s Lieutenant Flynn becomes instantly enraged and pegs the dad for the killings. One: Flynn is enough of a pro that he ought to keep his feelings in check. Two: Anyone who’s ever watched an hour-long cop show knows that the first person the police suspect is never found to be the culprit 60 minutes later. The result: too much time wasted on a subplot about Brenda and hubby Fritz (Jon Tenney) trying to get their sick tabby to eat, and we learn that a different person did the killings.

In another recent episode, The Closer committed the clumsy crime of casting a familiar face in a minor role, then spending much of its time chasing down leads about another suspect, when we knew there was no way Familiar Face (in this case, Miguel Sandoval, who’s been in everything from Medium to Jurassic Park) wasn’t the real lawbreaker. And to take just one example of the show?s now wobbly supporting players: The good G.W. Bailey’s Det. Lieutenant Provenza has become a sad comic figure whose private life gets discussed during investigations in a way that seems ludicrously intrusive. Missteps like these prevent me from becoming involved with Brenda’s crime-solving. Sorry about the cat, Brenda; now get down to business! C+

The Closer

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