'The Closer' and 'Trust Me' are both OK - to miss

Viewers do not live by 'American Idol' alone, but there are so many new and returning shows popping up right now, the midseason schedule could be the death of you. So plan your TV time accordingly.

With the return of plot-heavy favorites like 'Lost', 'Friday Night Lights' and 'Damages', and the debut of intriguing newbies like 'Lie to Me' and the upcoming 'Kings', there is no reason to invest in shows that are just OK. And Monday's double bill of 'The Closer' and 'Trust Me' is a double shot of decent. Not great. Not terrible. Just, well, OK.

The last time we saw 'The Closer', LAPD Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) was cradling the body of Detective Sanchez, who was being airlifted to the hospital after being shot in the line of duty.

She was also still waffling over her impending marriage to the practically perfect Fritz (Jon Tenney), who finally told her to pick a date or he was packing his bags.

Monday's premiere deals with both the dying detective and the sputtering engagement, and I won't spoil it by telling you how. And it almost doesn't matter because most of the episode is devoted to a case that is so dull and poorly executed that you might find yourself wishing you were in a helicopter being airlifted to Anywhere But Here.

With the exception of a tart potential-suspect cameo from Amy Pietz of the dearly departed 'Aliens in America' and some sly-fox acting from Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin as Brenda Leigh's parents, Monday's episode is an aggravating reminder of everything that has always been wrong with this show. Which is that almost nothing is as good as it should be.

As a vehicle for Sedgwick, 'The Closer' chugs along efficiently enough. The domestic scenes with Tenney have a sexy, grown-up chemistry, and her weekly confrontations with suspects are usually a juicy mix of front-porch folksiness and killer-shark bloodletting.

But like the workaholic Brenda, 'The Closer' is not good at delegating. Both Tenney and the beautifully curdled J.K. Simmons (as her aggrieved boss) are first-rate character actors, but the show doesn't give them enough to do.

And now that Brenda has won over the formerly macho members of her investigative team, there isn't any conflict there, either. It's like 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' with guns and splatter patterns. Then again, she doesn't need much help anyway, since the cases are about as weighty as a Post-It.

Fortunately, things pick up considerably with the second episode, which features a much stronger case and the introduction of a character that could give the show a helpful jolt. Viewers who made 'The Closer' the top-rated series on ad-supported cable will probably be happy to curl up with this comfort-TV procedural no matter what. But if you're not already a fan, there is no compelling reason to convert now.

After Brenda Leigh's grim murder parade, 'Trust Me' should come as a sprightly breath of escapist air. But if 'The Closer' is thin and flimsy, 'Trust Me' is overinflated. Slick, clever and blessed with a watchable cast, this drama about two buddies in the advertising business starts off with a blast of promise, and then it just bobs away.

Eric McCormack of 'Will & Grace' stars as Mason, the level-headed married guy. Tom Cavanagh of 'Ed' is his partner Conner, the squirrelly single guy. Mason is the art director, and Conner is the copywriter, and they work for a Chicago-based ad firm run by Tony Mink, a seasoned cynic played with rumpled charisma by Griffin Dunne.

In Monday's debut, Mason, Conner and their fellow neurotics are thrown a cosmic curveball that leaves the company in turmoil. Loyalties are tested and name plates are rearranged, but for all the interoffice scheming and out-of-office drinking, 'Trust Me' doesn't settle down long enough to make us care about any of it.

As steady Mason and flighty Conner, McCormack and


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