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Review – Rizzoli & Isles

July 14, 2010

Rizzoli & Isles – TNT – 10:00/9:00pm Monday – USA

TNT’s latest drama offering, Rizzoli & Isles, is a detective series that’s hoping for one of two things. Either the audience for Rizzoli & Isles has never seen a police procedural in their life OR they love detective shows so much that they’d watch any show that offers them more of the same. Essentially Rizzoli & Isles is a show for people who like their TV to be ‘predictable’ rather than ‘interesting’.

Based on a series of crime novels by Tess Gerritsen, Rizzoli & Isles stars Angie Harmon as police detective Jane Rizzoli, alongside Sasha Alexander as medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles. Harmon you’ll remember from Law & Order, but also gave a pleasing turn as one of the leads from Women’s Murder Club. Alexander, meanwhile, played Pacey’s sister Gretchen from back in the day on Dawson’s Creek. It won’t come as any surprise that Rizzoli is a bit of a tomboy, while Isles is a bit of a girly girl. Or that Rizzoli doesn’t like to play by the book, while Isles doesn’t know any other way. Or that the show even gives the pair of them pets to further emphasise their character traits: Rizzoli gets a scruffy dog, while Isles has a dependable tortoise (seriously). They’re opposites, but they work together.

It probably also won’t come as much of a surprise that the pair of them have a run in with an FBI Agent Gabriel Dean (played by Billy Burke, who was Jack on My Boys… and was also in Twilight), and that both of these sexy single women fall for his rugged good looks. Do I also need to let you know that Rizzoli’s partner is a fresh faced young black man who vomits around dead bodies? Or that her old partner is a fat been-around-the-block cop who once saved her life? Or that her mum is the overbearing type? Or that her little brother looks up to her? Or any of this stuff you could have pieced together from a thousand other detective stories?

The first episode acts as an introduction to Rizzoli, and doesn’t really get into Isles’ character much, but there’s nothing about Rizzoli’s back story that comes as much of a shock. For example, there’s a case from her past that occasionally haunts her in flashback, and that same killer is now on the loose. Even the serial killer is a knock-off from better material. Rizzoli goes to visit him in jail for hints as to whom his copycat might be, and what ensues is a third-rate version of a Clarice Starling/Hannibal Lecter encounter, only with more overacting.

All of this familiarity could be salvaged by a solid script but the show is such a ramshackle collection of poorly written lines and strange moments that it doesn’t rise above mediocre. The witty banter between Rizzoli & Isles needs a good rewrite or two. Lines like: “You’re better than Wikipedia!” “Wikipedia is frequently incorrect.” are too clumsy to be funny; while lines like “It’s not standard procedure to check for evidence of necrophilia” are too funny to be serious.

Rizzoli & Isles even seems to have trouble with tone within scenes. Obviously if your main characters are going to be smart, sexy, single women you can’t let them just do their jobs, they have to be on the look out for men as well, but the show manages to mishandle these scenes too . Often we’ll get a scene featuring buckets of supposed sexual tension between Rizzoli and Agent Dean only to follow it up straight away with a line like “so he raped the wife and made the husband watch.” It’s hard for the apparent romance to seep through with all this talk of rape and autopsies going on.

Rizzoli & Isles has a lot of elements that could, in theory, create a worthwhile detective series. Harmon and Alexander are both fun actresses, who are enjoyable to watch on screen, and they’re surrounded by a capable supporting cast but nobody’s given anything original or interesting to do. I even like the idea of a poor man’s Hannibal Lecter helping out Rizzoli, but he’s disposed of by the end of the first episode. Even the idea of a series set in Boston would be good for some local colour, but outside of an Irish-themed soundtrack there’s nothing to differentiate this city from any other. What we’re left with is an incompetent, flavourless police procedural, and we already have enough of those.

Good, Alright, Bad Or Ugly?

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