We watch... so you don't have to.

Send This Closer to the Showers

First of all, before legions of Tom Selleck fans crawl out of the woodwork and drown out the venomous screams of Tim Curry cultists with bloodcurdling missives of their own, let's get one thing straight:

I think Tom Selleck is just dandy.

Honestly, and without even the most subtle trace of sarcasm, I can tell you that he is one of my all-time favorite Hollywood people. Magnum, P.I. is one of the strongest links in the chain of Tropical Cops shows that extends from Hawaii Five-O through Magnum to Miami Vice and Acapulco H.E.A.T. Granted, I don't know the man personally, but he is a frequent guest on Letterman, and that kind of approval is good enough for me. I even liked "Quigley Down Under."

But Selleck's career since the loathsome "Three Men and a Baby" and all of that film's ill-begotten spawn hasn't exactly been on fire. Sure, there's "Mr. Baseball," not to mention his role in "Her Alibi" opposite supermodel extraordinaire and Ric Ocasek main squeeze Paulina. He even did yeoman's work in a TNT cable movie a couple years back.

But it wasn't until his extended guest shot on Friends that he was catapulted back into the front burner of America's TV stove.

Capitalizing on his recurring role as the older man in Courteney Cox's life and his widely-praised portrayal of a gay reporter in the Kevin Kline film "In and Out," Selleck put the word on the street: I want more comedy. Supposedly, he was finicky about the projects pitched to him, turning down several high-profile offers before settling on The Closer.

Evidently Selleck simply got tired of looking past the dump truck of money CBS president Les Moonves parked in his driveway, because "settling" is what Selleck has done. The Closer is so tediously mediocre, it makes the incessantly-irritating Friends seem like a breath of fresh air. It's remarkable that someone with as much apparent intelligence and clout as Selleck ended up getting roped into a half-hour that could only be enjoyed by the same people that find America's Funniest Home Videos (or as we're now supposed to think of it, AFV) deliciously spicy and original.

That said, it's important to note that Tom Selleck is not The Closer's problem. Selleck is a terrific comedy presence, a self-effacing big guy with a constant smirk. He's the kind of guy that you meet at boring cocktail parties and stick close to, both because of his sharp wit and his complete lack of pretention. Besides, women are drawn to him like gossip columnists to Brad Pitt rumors, and there's always an outside shot that some of what he's got might rub off on you.

But even someone as charismatic as Tom Selleck is going to fail with material that's been recycled from a thousand previous sitcoms, each one more morbidly banal than the next.

Selleck plays Jack McLaren, an advertising executive fired from his high-profile, high-paying job at a Denver ad agency when he beats the President of the United States in golf. After passing on an offer from a rival firm, he decides to open up his own agency, taking a random collection of people from his old job (including one he met only 5 minutes earlier) with him. McLaren is known as The Closer because of his unparalleled skill in getting tricky deals done. And lest we forget, he has a heart of gold.

Shall we count the clichés? No, there's not enough room -- not even on the Web. But at least we can get the list started.

You've got the soon to be ex-wife; the troublemaking daughter with a heart of gold who's moving back in with Dad; the tough as nails on the outside but an old softie on the inside veteran (played by the man who practically invented the genre, Ed Asner); the naïve yet sophisticated buttoned down accountant with a hidden wild side just waiting to bust loose new girl; the sassy and sarcastic secretary; and the really annoying gofer who can never get a date even though he's really just a sensitive male underneath his wise cracking exterior guy.

McLaren's daughter Alex is the prototypical rebellious youth of family sitcoms. McLaren wants her to go to college; she wants to be a professional snowboarder. For some reason, this involves going to Italy, because Lord knows, there's no place to snowboard in the middle of the Rocky mountains. Early on in the episode, McLaren and Alex have a heart-to-heart about growing up. It is a truly heartwarming moment, one television audiences everywhere will know by heart. Not from their own experiences as parents, but because it's exactly the same one you've seen a hundred times before in every sitcom from Family Ties to The Torkelsons.

Asner's character is Dobbs, the genius creative director who gave McLaren his start in advertising. Dobbs is a diabetic, which just reeks of future Very Special Episode possibilities. How watching Ed Asner lapse into a diabetic coma is potentially funny, I don't know, but it's clear that the brain trust behind The Closer is going to milk it for all it's worth. The first stab at the topic is right there in the pilot: "Excuse me, I have to go inject this stocky fellow with insulin."

Perennial lawn ornament Penelope Ann Miller has a major role as the accountant Erica, transferred to McLaren's Denver office from New York. For some reason McLaren, who is the epitome of an ice-cold, calculating businessman, gives Erica a job at his new place even though he doesn't know her name.

Oh, wait, I forgot--it's because he has a heart of gold.

Bruno, played by David Krumholz, is a character so annoying that I'm starting to understand why Elvis kept shooting his TV sets. Why do television writers, who evidently are trained using the exact same textbook the world over, insist on using these teeth-gratingly awful caricatures? Is the world really better off watching the likes of the maybe-he's-gay-maybe-he's-not lackey on Veronica's Closet? Or the moronic Cynthia, love interest of ER's Dr. Mark Greene? Or the master of the one-note performance, Just Shoot Me's David Spade?

The Closer isn't a horrible blight on the TV screens of America, like America's Funniest Home Videos or World's Deadliest Swarms. It's not going to be responsible for the decline of the Western world or convince kids to burn down their houses. If it was, at least there would be a reason to watch it.

As it stands now, The Closer is nothing more than space filler lodged between commercials, a moving image only moderately more enjoyable than a test pattern. If Selleck really wants to prove he's a businessman with a heart of gold, he'll take pity on the viewers, close up shop on The Closer and get started making those Magnum reunion movies.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *