July 20, 2009 at 05:19 PM EDT

Tonight there’s a fresh episode of The Closer, featuring the return of guest star Mary McDonnell as a tough, by-the-book, Internal Affairs police captain who gives Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda Johnson a hard time. McDonnell’s appearance a couple of week’s ago had crackling energy: She and Sedgwick played off well against each other, and I’m looking forward to another showdown tonight.

But in general, I think The Closer has slipped in quality a bit this year. As I wrote in my review of The Closer in Entertainment Weekly recently, the series is doing a disservice to some fine actors by increasingly becoming so silly. It’s been a shame to see the excellent G. W. Bailey turn into a clownish cop who’s spending too much time mooning over his new girlfriend and trying to impress her (fancy wardrobe; eating more healthily) rather than concentrating on cases to be solved.

Poor Jon Tenney has been reduced to just looking sheepish and sympathetic toward Brenda during the long arc concerning the poor health and recent death of their cat. I know this was a shrewd move on the part of the producers — all things cat seem to appeal to a broad audience — but it doesn’t help The Closer‘s drama. When I see a first-rate actor such as Michael Paul Chan, so effective in the short-lived 2002 Michael Mann TV series Robbery Homicide Division, barely being given enough to do on The Closer in a similar police role, I wish there was some way to beef up his role.

The Emmy-nominated Sedgwick remains excellent as Brenda. She’s gives an ego-free performance that’s always enjoyable. But she’s capable of a lot more subtlety than the scripts she’s being given these days.

In short, I like The Closer, but I wish it was better.

How about you? Agree or disagree? Will you be watching Segwick and Mary McDonnell tonight?

You May Like