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Ladies vs. Killers: First Look at Rizzoli & Isles

TNT has added to its lineup of crime dramas featuring female leads. Wasn't until yesterday that I really thought about this, but that's quite a trend for the network. The Closer, Saving Grace (ended), HawthoRNe...and now, Rizzoli & Isles, a double-X double-team solving murders in Boston, MA - the series is based on the work of thriller writer Tess Gerritsen, who is part of the show's writing team.


There's not anything particularly original or outstanding about Rizzoli & Isles; its main schtick is having a lead female duo, which is unusual - possibly the only one on TV right now - but not unprecedented (see: Cagney and Lacey). The pair is made up of a hardass tomboy homicide detective, Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), and a brainiac fashionista medical examiner, Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander). If nothing else, this show is awesome just for the fact that it features (excellent performances of) a pair of beautiful, strong, talented women who get along rather than bitch at each other.


That awesomeness aside, the rapport between Rizzoli and Isles could definitely use some work. So far, the show is rather lacking in terms of the quick back-and-forth that usually characterizes shows in this genre. No sign yet of the snappy dialogue typical of, say, Bones (man-and-woman duo), White Collar (man-and-man duo), or even CSI (larger team). (Although, I did learn that after 10pm on cable you can say not only "bullshit," but also "tits" nowadays.) There were some moments of verbal excellence, though - mostly snarking on the part of Rizzoli - so I'm holding out; it's only the pilot after all.


What Rizzoli & Isles lacks so far in witty repartee it does make up in other areas. Casting, for one. I've already mentioned my love of the two leads. The supporting cast, made up of other LEOs with hilarious quirks and some family members, is equally delightful. Lee Thompson Young, most recently of FlashForward, is Rizzoli's new partner Detective Barry Frost, who gets violently ill at bloody crime scenes. Bruce McGill, Rizzoli's former partner Detective Vince Korsak, has a penchant for rescuing animals. And Jordan Bridges, who I always remember fondly as "the hot one from Bionic Woman," plays Rizzoli's younger brother Frankie Jr. Also featured in the pilot episode was Billy Burke, playing (not quite successfully) the attractive and desirable Fed, and Renowned Creepy Guy Michael Massee as the homicidal and terrifying Warren Hoyt, Rizzoli's arch-nemisis.


Another area where Rizzoli & Isles performs admirably is special effects makeup. That is good stuff. The murder victims were gruesome, as one would expect. But the real awesome came at the end of the episode with Hoyt's flare damaged eye (which was marvelously disgusting) and the throat-slitting of Rizzoli (it looked good and, even better, they gave it sound, which was simultaneously gross enough to make me feel a little queasy and fantastic).


Looking at the big picture, I think I need a few more episodes before I can form a solid opinion about this show. Most of the pilot was focused on Rizzoli, her backstory (Hoyt), her family, her scars (stigmata courtesy of Hoyt), her snark, and her quirks (personalized ringtones for everyone!). The audience is definitely wanting for some more development of Isles. From the show, we know she has an encyclopedia and an awesome pet. From interviews, we know that Sasha Alexander describes her as "the Carrie Bradshaw of crime dramas" (paraphrase), and that eventually her "darker past" will be revealed. For now, I'd be content with hearing her speak more than two sentences in a row.


I'm also unsure of the tone of this show. On the 1-10 scale of fun-to-deadly-serious of crime dramas, I'd rate Rizzoli & Isles at somewhere between a 4 and a 7. But it's hard to make a call on that without seeing a few regular (read: non-pilot, non-super-serious background story arc) episodes.


Rizzoli & Isles might be incredibly boring. It might be a great addition to TNT's primetime lineup. I'm honestly not sure what I think, quite yet. At the very least, it is intriguing and well-done enough to hold my interest until the next episode.


(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com.)

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