In recent weeks, I have complained that Rizzoli & Isles needs to decide whether it is a comedy or a drama. Last night’s ironically titled season three finale demonstrated that there is no hope of it being an impactful drama, and it should abandon any pretense of trying to convey or elicit emotion from its audience. Its current formula is worthy of 1983, and with the quality of other offerings on cable television, it’s a wonder this show was renewed for a fourth season. It should count its blessings and promise to change before it follows Leverage out the door.
Last night, there was a murder at a community theatre and Rizzoli and Isles had to link together the dead actor/maintenance man to defective construction materials and a crooked city councilman. This tenuous plot surfaced every now and then between the side stories of Casey deciding to have spine surgery, and Isles deciding to donate a kidney to her half-sister. The episode culminated in a building collapse that threatened the lives (kind of) of Rizzoli’s brother, Tommy, his infant son, and detective Frost. To sum up, viewers had a paraplegic surgery, organ donation, and deadly building collapse laid out before them. All of these topics were potentially as heavy as the recycled concrete blocks that smashed Frost’s car. On Rizzoli & Isles, though, they had the dramatic impact of a paper cut.
There’s no doubt that the writing is responsible for many of the failed dramatic moments of the episode. Rizzoli summed it up with a cringe-worthy line after everyone was brought out of the collapsed building safely: “It’s just another day at the office.” All it was missing was the “wah, wah, wahhhh” sound effect. In another scene, Isles told Rizzoli about a conversation she had with her estranged mother, Dr. Hope Martin (Sharon Lawrence), and Rizzoli interrupted to change the subject to herself. How are viewers supposed to believe that these two women have a close friendship when one of them confides about her emotional pain, and the other one claps her hands in glee and starts talking about something different?
Sasha Alexander puts on a brave face and does the best she can with what she’s given. She shines in the more serious moments and would be better suited to a more sophisticated show. Angie Harmon, on the other hand, is a scene killer. And not in the “she killed it” way. Harmon’s clunky delivery obliterates all of Rizzoli’s dramatic moments. When Rizzoli told Isles that she was scared to talk to Casey, Harmon’s confession was entirely devoid of emotion and not above what you would expect at a community theatre performance. When Casey told Rizzoli he might end up a full paraplegic if he chose surgery, she responded with an unconvincing, “Oh my god.” Harmon’s face registered absolutely no emotion. Even when Rizzoli thought her brother, nephew, and colleague were in mortal danger, viewers got the Harmon “I’m so sad” face pinch and no tears.
Maybe I am too spoiled having watched some of the more sophisticated cable shows, and I don’t get the appeal of Rizzoli & Isles. I am no stranger to cheesy syndicated shows, and I can appreciate consistent campiness. But, this show takes on too many story lines, and ends up doing none of them well.
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