James Duff, THE CLOSER Creator-Showrunner Explains the Show’s Ending

…No, no, not because there was any confusion (there wasn’t.) But because, or so it seems, he just wanted to express his feelings. (Hey, Duff’s a modern kinda guy, you know what we’re saying?)

Kyra closes, and her character seems to almost get it…at last!

Whatever the reason, this is exactly the kind of info new writers, trying to get insight into how the series process works, need to know, which makes us very glad to be able to present:

The Closer Finale Postmortem: Creator James Duff Talks Brenda’s Final Confession – by Adam Bryant

When it came time for The Closer‘s Brenda Leigh Johnson to get her final confession, she didn’t even want to hear it…Below, series creator James Duff weighs in on just how significant that moment is for Brenda and her future (a Major Crimes cameo?). Plus: He discusses whether he considered an alternate ending, Brenda’s feelings about Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) and the legacy he hopes The Closer leaves behind.

When this six-episode final season began, you told us that you wrote Brenda’s entrance at the beginning of the series with how she’d exit the show also in mind.
James Duff: Her first words in the pilot were, “It looks like love,” and her last words in the series are, “Looks like love.” In the first statement, it is her professional assessment of a murder victim, and her last statement is purely personal. That has always been the tension that we were dramatizing with this character. I’m interested in the ongoing struggle in our lives between pragmatism and idealism, which shows up a lot in the tug between our professional and personal lives. And she was always erring on the side of her professional life, and she finally got to a point where her personal life caught up with her and could no longer be ignored. I was always writing to that moment.

So you’ve known how you wanted the series to end from Day 1?
Duff:
 There were certain things I knew were going to happen. [I knew] that someone was going to volunteer to confess and she was going to say, “I don’t want to hear it,” and that she was going to be tested as to really which side of the law she was on —whether she was answerable to anybody and whether she regarded herself as an agent of a justice system or justice itself. [I knew] that she was going to be attacked, and that she was going to lose her job closing a case. And that she was to going to end up shooting somebody through her purse. [Laughs]

You said Brenda’s personal life finally caught up with her. Do you think that would have been true if her mother hadn’t also recently died?
Duff: [I had] the idea that somebody in her personal life would pass away suddenly and cause her to re-evaluate [her life]. I was building a storyline that showed that putting your heart in your work is perhaps sometimes a glorious distraction from where your heart ought to be. Your heart needs to be with your family and with your loved ones. And if you put your heart in your work you are going to have your heart broken.

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THE CLOSER Creator Spills About MAJOR CRIMES

Out with the old. In with the…almost, kinda, sorta not-so-old:

Hmm, how long before Capt. Raydor stops wearing her glasses? Who’s up for a TVWriter™ pool?

TNT Says Goodbye to The Closer, Hello to Major Crimes – by Adam Bryant

The Closer‘s series finale finds Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) trying to put away slippery defense attorney — and suspected serial rapist —Phillip Stroh (Billy Burke) once and for all. And although the climax of the Stroh storyline heavily impacts Brenda’s future, it’s the introduction of another character — an orphaned teenage hustler named Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) — that may ultimately prove to be most important. So much so that he’ll also be a focal point of Major Crimes.

“Brenda meets a witness … who indirectly changes her life,” creator James Duff tells TVGuide.com. “I didn’t want to necessarily have this character transition, but when this kid showed up… he just did an amazing job. And because he became Brenda’s sort of unexpected doppelganger, a lot of her energy transfers on to him in the show. It was a way of sort of keeping her voice alive even though she was gone.”

And indeed,  after closing the Stroh case, shedding a few tears, and eating one last sweet treat, Brenda will leave the squad room behind. But Major Crimes, which features almost all of The Closer‘s supporting cast and is shot and edited similarly, picks up almost exactly where its predecessor leaves off. The two major differences: Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) is now leading the team and the Major Crimes unit now has a new guiding principle.

“Whereas Brenda wanted to go for the confession, Raydor wants the conviction,” Duff says. “Brenda did not care about the financial costs of what she did, [but] there are serious budget issues inside the California Justice System right now. There’s a limit to how much justice we can afford. There is an incredible pressure to get plea bargains now. …The justice system was not designed to be a bargain, but we have to turn it into one.”

Read it all

So the series goes from one that damns the torpedoes and goes full speed ahead toward satisfying viewers’ feelings of frustration and impotence to one that fills us with rage every week because the most frustrating thing about the criminal justice system – plea bargaining – is now its reason d’etre? Great.

Could this mean one less hour to fill up the TVWriter™ DVRs? We’ll let you know…

Creator-writer-producer James Duff

LB: Second Thoughts About THE CLOSER

by Larry Brody

Yesterday I complained about one of my no-longer-favorite shows, THE CLOSER. I was pretty steamed, and said the following:

…[A] week ago the series came back after a hiatus with a much altered Brenda. A cruel, abusive bitch who was perfectly willing to sacrifice a rape victim’s sanity to get her man.  The Southern charm which sheathed the character’s iron will for so long is gone.  And the iron will is a barbed, pointy razor. It looks like the show is headed for an ending (it’s going off the air at the end of the season) in which Brenda is fired/humiliated/possibly even jailed. As well she should be.

Last night, in spite of my good (or were they bad?) intentions, I watched the next episode, and…erm…um…it wasn’t so bad.

That is, it was bad, but in a classic TV cop show/procedural kind of way: A comedy episode featuring Flynn and Provenza, TNT’s answer to Laurel and Hardy, that went way over the top, bending real reality,  TV reality, and even THE CLOSER’s specific reality in more ways than Hugh Laurie used to violate the Hippocratic Oath on HOUSE.

Which means…sigh…I loved it.

Who cares about overcooked dialog and overwrought acting from an incredibly hammy guest star? What matters is that the basic feeling, the camaraderie that has been an integral part of the series since Episode 1 was back with a vengeance. And I appreciate vengeance. In fact, some of the most enjoyable moments of my life have occurred while exacting it–

 Oops. TMI. So sorry.

To cut to the chase – which the episode I just watched didn’t have – I’ve decided to forgive and forget. To cut Kyra and her support troops (she’s the Executive Producer, you know, which makes her the best-looking showrunner in town) more than the usual slack and watch the remaining three or four episodes. If I’m lucky, Evil Brenda will fulfill her arc with me understanding/empathizing instead of hating her…and there will be more hilariously out of place moments between Flynn and Provenza, and maybe even Provenza’s wonderfully  real (especially considering the script circumstances) First Ex-Wife.

Another Thought to Tack On: Like any True Fan, I’ve been trying to figure out who the mole in Brenda’s Major Crimes Division is. Until now, I was absolutely certain that we would learn it was none other than Chief Pope, who’s been sabotaging Brenda ever since she entered the race for L.A.P.D. Chief.

I’m no longer so sure, though, because Sgt.Gabriel, usually the primo of her detectives and the one who gets the most lines/face time, has had absolutely nothing to do and almost nothing to say in both recent episodes. Why play him down unless it’s to make it easier – structurally -to do a big and heartbreaking end-of-series reveal? He is, after all, the most idealistic of all the cops here, which makes him the one most likely to react to Brenda’s fascist pig (just a generational reference, kids; you can ignore it) the way I would – which is to say to do everything in his power, no matter how much he likes her, to get her to stop.

We’ll see in a few weeks.

Unless the show drives me nuts again and I go away.

LB: Three Shows I No Longer Watch

by Larry Brody

NETWORK’s Howard Beale, the spokesman character for writer Paddy Chayefsky,  famously said, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” I’m not mad, or even angry, but I am frustrated by some recent viewing experiences, so I’m not taking it anymore either.

In particular, three TV series that I thought would serve me well have committed the cardinal sin of irking me to  the point of no return:

  1. THE NEWSROOM
    Yep, this bouncing new baby, which just a few weeks ago I saw as so full of promise, is history to me now. Why? Because I just plain can’t believe in the reality of the characters any longer.Specifically, the three main leads, whose character names I have erased from my mind.An idealistic anchorman willing to go to the wall to prove to his former girlfriend (his producer) that she should’ve stayed his adoring babe? An idealistic “modern woman” news producer whose eyes bug out with jealousy every time said anchorman shows her his latest date? A major cable station News Director who cares more about informing the public than ratings and is clueless about how to manipulate his bosses so he gets what he wants?Every one of those characters is impossible in today’s TV news culture. I appreciate the show’s intentions, but I’m out.
  2. THE CLOSER
    For years this show has featured a protagonist, whose name, Brenda Leigh, I do remember because, hey, shoot me, but I like country music, who fascinated me. She was an idealistic assistant police chief  so dedicated to putting bad guys away that she wheedled and lied not only to her  boss but also to her husband and herself. I could  identify with that kind of self-delusion.  Simple as that. But about a week ago the series came back after a hiatus with a much altered Brenda. A cruel, abusive bitch who was perfectly willing to sacrifice a rape victim’s sanity to get her man.  The Southern charm which sheathed the character’s iron will for so long is gone.  And the iron will is a barbed, pointy razor. It looks like the show is headed for an ending (it’s going off the air at the end of the season) in which Brenda is fired/humiliated/possibly even jailed. As well she should be.If the show intends to show that its lead has crossed the line and become a baddy herself, that’ll be pretty damn cool. But the attitude in the writing suggests that those running it think she’s justified and is getting a raw deal.  So I’m out for now. (But willing to return if they cook her goose to my taste by the finale.)
  3. EUREKA
    This show was a lighthearted science fiction romp every year of its existence – except this one. I watched it for the  “family,” the banter and generally warm relationships between the leads. This season, however, the ties between everyone I cared about have constantly been in  jeopardy, and the unconvincing suspense has  pushed me away from  the series just as the gimmicky dangers have pushed the characters apart.To be sure, the finale tied up everything and brought everyone back together. But it wasn’t merely the end of a season, it was the end of the series, which means the audience isn’t going to get a chance to enjoy the result. As a writer and producer, I’m all for the idea of making things as tough as possible on my heroes – but as a viewer I hated experiencing it. In other words, I’m a wuss.  Shoot me again.

Sheesh, am I am old crank, or what? What about you? Have any of your favorite shows disappointed you lately? How much? Are you still watching them?  I look forward to your comments.

EDITED TO ADD: Speaking of comments, io9 has a very interesting review of the  EUREKA finale. And even though it’s directly the opposite of mine, I found myself nodding in agreement as I read. WTF?