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Tag Archive: Mary McDonnell


Major Crimes Season 4

It’s pretty rare–we’ve been able to watch the goings on at the LAPD of Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey), Lt. Flynn (Tony Denison), Lt. Tao (Michael Paul Chan), Assistant Chief Taylor (Robert Gossett), Detective Sanchez (Raymond Cruz), and Buzz (Phillip P. Keene) for eleven years now.  Bridging their exploits in The Closer and three seasons to Major Crimes, it’s just remarkable for any series to successfully marry a group of writers and a solid ensemble cast to continue to provide us with more to look forward to each year for eleven seasons.  Tonight, they’re all back, with Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell), Dr. Morales (Jonathan Del Arco), Detective Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), and Rusty Beck (Graham Patrick Martin) rounding out the cast, as the fourth season of Major Crimes begins on TNT.

The bad news is that we hear the spin-off series featuring the S.O.B. (Strategic Operations Bureau) is officially off the table, with what would have been star Laurie Holden off on another series.  But look for Jon Tenney’s Fritz Howard to be back at least once this year, and the return of Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Jeri Ryan, and maybe even Tom Berenger.

Captain Raydor

The network has hinted that we can expect less of the Phillip Stroh threat after last year’s finale, and more of the Flynn and Raydor relationship, but better yet, a focus on Raymond Cruz’s Detective Sanchez as he finally must deal with his anger issues.

Here’s some quick previews of the season premiere:

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Major Crimes clip

When we last left the Los Angeles Major Crimes division at the mid-season break in August, the team was busy closing cases in their own signature style of action-filled drama.  In its third season, week after week Major Crimes continued delivering the unexpected, a police procedural whose crew, now well into their tenth year working together, melds into a seamless ensemble.  Major Crimes returns to TNT tomorrow night with many questions for fans.  The biggest?  Will the producers and network spin off Jon Tenney’s FBI agent Fritz Howard and Laurie Holden’s acting deputy director Ann McGinnis into their own Strategic Operations Bureau (S.O.B.) series?

The core of the series this season revolves around Mary McDonnell’s Captain Sharon Raydor and her live-in teen Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin).  Raydor’s son opposed Sharon’s attempts to adopt Rusty.  Rusty revealed to his friends in the division that he is gay.  Rusty’s mom continued her confrontation with addiction via the jail cell and Rusty must deal with her recurring attempts to manipulate him.  And Fritz began to try to find a balance with his stressful new duties in light of his recent heart attack.

Major Crimes Buzz

Tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Central we’ll find out what’s next, with the new episode “Down the Drain.”  After the break, watch some promotional previews for the coming shows:

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major crimes season 2 dvd cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re keeping up with the third season of Major Crimes on TNT, you’ll have seen last night’s episode, “Frozen Assets.”  Set up with a preposterous plot–a multi-millionaire who has her head frozen and a poisoning that is foiled by returning detective wannabe Dick Tracy (Andrew Daly) from a 2009 episode of The Closer–Major Crimes yet again proves the show knows no bounds as to what the ensemble cast can get sucked into (and suck viewers into).  Like Season Two’s episode with a comedy twist “There’s No Place Like Home,” which featured Marion Ross, Tim Conway, Ron Glass, Paul Dooley, and Doris Roberts in a plot to murder their landlord, “Frozen Assets” shows the lighter side of a series that usually reflects the violent world of L.A. crime.  If you missed Season Two, the DVD release from Warner Bros. is here, and it’s full of plenty of extras for Major Crimes fans.

Creator and executive producer James Duff delves deep into the story development for Season Two in the special feature “Major Crimes: Personal Conviction,” revealing his vision of a season split between stories about “identity” as a theme–who the characters are and who the culprits of the crimes are and how they all got to where they are–and “character,” growth of the main cast members and learning more about these characters we thought we already knew from the prior eight years on television.  Each cast member discusses their view of the characters they play (except the strangely absent Raymond Cruz).  The crew seems to agree that Graham Patrick Martin’s Rusty Beck became the lynchpin and glue holding together the series for the second season, especially his relationship with series lead Mary McDonnell as Captain Sharon Raydor.

Major Crimes Season 2 cast

The series begins with the opener “Final Cut,” directed by Roxann Dawson, who sci-fi fans will know as Lt. B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek Voyager, and who also played Detective Ortega in a 2011 episode of The Closer.  This episode introduced D.D.A. Emma Rios, played by Nadine Velazquez, the prosecutor who constantly clashes with the Major Crimes squad (interspersed with a season full of hilarious flirtations by Detective Sanchez).  Duff acknowledges why viewers proclaim how much they hate the character, and also why she fits perfectly into the dynamic of the show.

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Major Crimes Flight Risk

The tenth season of the Major Crimes team that began with seven years of The Closer, led by Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda Lee Johnson, and continued with two seasons of Major Crimes under Mary McDonnell’s Captain Sharon Raydor, begins tonight with Major Crimes Season Three.  If you haven’t been watching these two series you don’t really have time for a TV series binge before tonight’s season opener (although TNT will air a Season Two marathon beginning Monday morning at 1 p.m. Central/12 a.m. Eastern), but you can set your DVR and put it on your must-watch list and get caught up later this season.

Each member of Los Angeles’s Major Crimes squad is back: G.W. Bailey’s old school detective Lt. Louis Provenza, his able partner in fighting crime Tony Denison’s Lt. Andy Flynn, Michael Paul Chan’s tech savvy Lt. Mike Tao, Raymond Cruz’s Detective Julio Sanchez, who knows the neighborhoods of L.A. better than anyone, Phillip P. Keene’s evidence gatherer Buzz Watson, Kearran Giovanni’s Detective Amy Sykes, the newest member of the squad, as well as Graham Patrick Martin’s informant trying to be a regular kid Rusty Beck, Jonathan Del Arco’s Dr. Morales from the morgue lab, and Robert Gossett’s Assistant Chief Taylor, who helps keep them all on the right track.  And don’t forget G.W. Bailey tied for Best Actor in our own Best of 2013 end of year wrap-up last year.

"MAJOR CRIMES""Flight Risk" / Ep 301TNTPh: Tyler Golden

It’s arguably the best ensemble cast on television.

Here’s some quick promos from TNT for Season 3:

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River Phoenix in Sneakers

Born in a log cabin in Oregon 43 years ago this month, River Phoenix was raised much like the character he played in the acclaimed film The Mosquito Coast.  He was born into a flower child family and grew into a vegetarian, member of PETA, and supporter of saving the rain forests.  He was an activist, a creator, a musician and actor who no doubt would have been a key figure in the mid-1990s American culture had he not died from an overdose of narcotics outside of Johnny Depp’s club in L.A.  He was 23 years old and has been gone 20 years this October.

Like other famous people who died before 40, like James Dean, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Brandon Lee, JFK, Jr, Chris Farley, Karen Carpenter, Andy Gibb, Princess Diana, John Belushi, and–as we revisit the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years after his “I Have a Dream” speech this week–you can’t help wonder what someone like Phoenix would be doing had he not made a wrong life turn back in 1993.

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Major Crimes cast Season 2

By C.J. Bunce

Breathtaking.  Gut-wrenching.  This week’s summer season finale of Major Crimes should underscore for any naysayers TNT’s decision last week to renew the series for a third season.  Major Crimes wrapped its eleventh episode of the second season this week with what may be the best dramatic episode of television this year.  Revealing the murders by a “poster boy” model of several innocent victims, the producers took us on a different path through the Major Crimes typical police turf to a place we didn’t really want to go.  Creepy and disturbing in the way Medium once revealed its violent crimes, the audience was left on the edge of their seats not for any grand climax but simply marveling at how each of the cast members aided in solving the crime.

A good balance of crimes of the week and the key thread of teenage informant Rusty kept this amazing 12th year of this ensemble cast fresh, intriguing, and impressive.  Newcomer Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) made us wonder if he will ultimately be around for his trial or whether he’ll skip out and run away, especially in light of a batch of harassing letters he is receiving that purport to be from The Closer carryover criminal Stroh.

Rios and Sanchez

The big shake-up this season—and the series thrives on shake-ups—was the entry of D.D.A. Emma Rios, played by Nadine Velazquez.  Velazquez is hard to read.  By all appearances she is playing Rios as an incompetent lawyer.  Rios is completely out of her element in nearly each episode as the team ends up in the autopsy room, as she tries to simply communicate with the detectives (poor Det. Sanchez), or operate in a courtroom.  Where last season we had doubts about Detective Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), and before that even Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell) herself toward the end of The Closer, this season Sykes fits right in and we’ve been on Raydor’s side for a long time now.  Rios?  Rios is painful to watch.  What do the writers have up their sleeves?  Are we supposed to hate her as we used to hate the scheming tactics of Assistant Chief Taylor (Robert Gossett)?  The bottom line is we’ve grown to like Raydor, and Taylor, and Sykes, so we’re taking it on faith that Rios will come through for us at some point.  She certainly keeps the crime squad on its toes.

A trilogy of episodes this season featured Tom Berenger as Captain Raydor’s semi-ex-husband Jack.  Berenger hasn’t been better and here he played a failed husband who also understood–and seemed to want to help–Raydor’s live-in Rusty in a way that Sharon noted was something he failed to do with his own kids.  Ultimately Sharon pushes Jack away, but we hope we see him in future episodes.

Jack and Sanchez in Major Crimes

One of the highlights of the season was the completely off-the-wall episode “There’s No Place Like Home,” with a variety of guest stars from classic TV including Tim Conway (McHale’s Navy, The Carol Burnett Show), Marion Ross (Happy Days), Ron Glass (Firefly, Barney Miller), Paul Dooley (Alf, Sixteen Candles, Grace Under Fire), and Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond, Remington Steele, Barney Miller).  The gritty, sometimes gory nature of the L.A. crimes in the series beg for more comedic episodes like this one.  We’re still holding out for the next episode featuring the comedic duo of Provenza (G.W. Bailey) and Flynn (Tony Denison).  We almost saw this as they were accused of bumbling a witness in the episode “I, Witness,” a fun episode that left the guys playing clean-up and catch-up.

Rusty’s fear and angst grew last week with the episode “Backfire,” as the Major Crimes squad pursued the murderer of a young woman who was an FBI informant. The FBI botched its protection of their witness, and as Rusty followed along at his normal after-school haunt he had more reason to believe neither he, nor those around him, are safe as he waits to testify against Stroh.

Major Crimes crew

Where will Rusty end up now that his friend Kris (Madison McLaughlin, Supernatural) has revealed his secret about the letters?

We’ve got a long wait to find out.  Major Crimes returns November 25, 2013, with the mid-season restart episode “Pick Your Poison.”

Major Crimes Season Two banner

TNT’s first season of Major Crimes was the surprise win of 2012.  It accomplished something very rare, taking a series–The Closer–that might otherwise have wound down after seven seasons, and used a change in cast to take the best ensemble cast on TV in a very different direction.  For fans of the series wanting to delve deeper into the decision to move the story of L.A.’s Major Crimes unit from a team bent on getting criminal admissions to settling cases, check out Major Crimes: The Complete First Season, available on DVD, next Tuesday, June 11, 2013.

The DVD set includes the ten season one episodes plus four behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes showing some good acting by the cast that didn’t make the final cut, and a blooper reel.  The best of the features, “Major Crimes: Major Challenge,” examines the big hurdle for this spinoff series, and series creator/writer and executive producer James Duff reveals the challenges, rationale for story arcs, and casting decisions that resulted in the first season of Major Crimes.  Duff is open about the struggle the writers had, ultimately pulling the reality of national economic crises into the series as a key story element that grounded the first season episodes.  Here are three clips from Season One:

Series star Mary McDonnell and the rest of the cast discuss the characters in the feature “Crossing the Tape: Inside the Major Crimes Squad,” touching on Captain Raydor in particular.  Fans of the series actors cannot get enough of these types of interviews, and hopefully future season DVD sets include in-depth interviews with Lieutenant Provenza (G.W. Bailey), Lieutenant Flynn (Tony Denison), Lieutenant Tao (Michael Paul Chan), Detective Sanchez (Raymond Cruz), and Buzz (Phillip P. Keene).  This includes some insightful anecdotes, such as having show writers refer to Detective Tao instead as Mike to personalize the role and cut-through the possible stereotype of Michael Paul Chan’s character as just another Asian on TV.  Instead of focusing on featurettes tied to the characters from The Closer, the DVD set includes two features focusing on the new key roles: witness turned foster teen Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) and the too-eager-to-please Detective Sykes (Kearran Giovanni).

Major Crimes Complete First Season DVD

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If you haven’t voted yet.  Go do it.  Longer than usual voting lines are expected today.  But who knows long lines better than Comic-Con fans?  Today is your day.  You can show the others how it’s done.  And why not drag your comic book-toting friends along?  Heck, bring along a stack to read.  It’s going to be a long day.

If you’re like me, you get a bit annoyed in the weeks prior to Comic-Con with people trying to hand out tips for your first Comic-Con.  Like we can’t figure it out.  So, in return, here’s a list you can send to your non-comic book-lovin’, non-genre-lovin’, the “who the heck is Buffy the Vampire Slayer voters” you’ll be stuck with all day.  Here’s a modified advice list snatched from lists of advice for first-timers at past San Diego Comic-Cons, a list which seems to apply well to your neighbors who think they know long lines but don’t:  Continue reading

Reviewed by C.J. Bunce

The first season of Major Crimes was better than the last season of The Closer.  It even had individual episodes that out-performed several episodes of the entire run of The Closer.  Since the production was working with pretty much the entire cast of The Closer sans the series lead, is that a commentary on Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda Lee Johnson?  Heck no, but the freshman year of Major Crimes convinced me that The Closer picked the right time to end a good thing.  Major Crimes is a good series in its own right that should be judged on its own merits.  Yes, it has its faults, including some clunky writing in its season finale.  Yet considering it was set up for failure from almost the beginning of the last season of The Closer, Major Crimes surpassed the typically lackluster performance of any season one effort.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Monday night, TNT closed the books on one of the most popular series in its history, and began a new chapter that seems well poised to carry on the tradition of great ensemble casting and storytelling viewers have come to love.

In the series finale of The Closer, we saw the conclusion of seven years of great drama, including the wrap up of storylines sometimes two to three seasons in the making, as well as a neatly-handled setup for the new Major Crimes spinoff.  All our questions were answered, in a complex, slightly bizarre, altogether satisfying final installment featuring Chief Brenda Lee Johnson’s recurring nemesis, evil defense-attorney-slash-rapist Philip Stroh.  Johnson’s relentless pursuit of Stroh, despite an infuriating lack of physical evidence, ultimately drives her to extreme lengths–attacking Stroh and planting evidence (featuring a truly brilliant scene with the excellent but underutilized Coroner Dr. Morales (played artfully by Jonathan Del Arco, who once played our favorite borg, Hugh, on Star Trek: The Next Generation).  It’s all a bit edgy and far-fetched, but Sedgwick pulls it off, bolstered by a history of increasing histrionics over the past two seasons.  Her behavior also provides a neat exit from the series: she’ll leave the LAPD for a new job as chief of investigations for the DA’s office, taking disgraced Detective Gabriel along with her.  (Which conveniently also explains Fritz’s carryover into the new series.)

A couple of logical gaffes didn’t distract from the show’s overall impact.  When did serial rapist Stroh change his (painstakingly well-established through at least two previous episodes) M.O. and become a serial murderer instead?  And young newcomer Graham Patrick Martin pulled off a terrific performance as protected witness Rusty Beck, a teenage hustler as adept at making deals as the Department of Major Crimes–a strong showing despite some improbable moments designed to wrangle his storyline into the new series.

The very best moment in the entire episode comes during the action-packed climax–an over-the-top violent confrontation with Stroh in Johnson’s home (with only Rusty as a witness).  No spoilers, but suffice it to say that the writers concocted brilliant ends for every beloved member of the series–including Brenda’s ubiquitous black bag.

All in all, the finale felt logical, well-paced, and not overly sentimental.  With various threads wrapped up in the last several episodes, writers weren’t forced to cram too much into the finale, keeping the focus on taut storytelling and entertaining performances.  The best thing to say is the best that can be said for any series finale: It felt like a darn good episode of the show.

Despite seamlessly picking up where The Closer left off, series producers wisely gave Major Crimes its own original plotline for the pilot, giving the new show a chance to stretch its legs and introduce some of the changes viewers can expect to see, including a greater focus on action and Law & Order-style justice system manipulation.  The challenge for the new series will be to strike a balance between old and new–giving viewers enough of what we love from The Closer, while becoming more than just The Closer Minus Brenda.  I think most viewers would welcome the latter, frankly–but that’s not fair to the new series, which deserves a chance to develop in its own direction.

The cast dynamic will feel familiar to longtime Closer viewers, as the first episode centers around powerplays between Detective Provenza (G.W. Bailey) and new boss Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell).  The two have worked together now for at least the last two seasons, so this aspect felt slightly forced and perfunctory, but no more awkward than average TV pilot growing pains.  Also slightly improbable, yet surprisingly well done, was the integration of Graham Patrick Martin’s character of Rusty, the underage witness introduced in The Closer finale.  In return for his testimony against Stroh, Rusty demands that the LAPD find the mother who abandoned him months earlier at the zoo.  Complications with the foster care system land Rusty in Captain Raydor’s custody–a twist that stretches disbelief.  It’s an interesting move, though, and it’s easy to imagine that the Rusty-Raydor relationship will mirror the zany emotional melodrama of Fritz and Brenda.

With so many familiar faces returning for Major Crimes, and the show in its predecessor’s timeslot, everything should be in place to make the new series a success.  Changes are inevitable, and maybe even exciting–with the focus off Chief Johnson, the series is free to explore new directions with the characters and storylines.  It will be interesting to see what this favorite, seasoned crew serves up with their new project!