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IN December of 2010, when Kyra Sedgwick, the Emmy Award-winning star of “The Closer” on TNT, told the show’s producers and network executives that the seventh season of that reliable ratings generator would be her last, little time was spent debating what to do next. “I think everybody assumed that at a certain point that Kyra might decide she wanted to move on,” said Michael Wright, the president and head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies. “So we’d been talking about that possibility for, frankly, a couple of years before it actually happened.”
By the next morning James Duff, who created “The Closer,” was presented with TNT’s solution. The name “The Closer” would be jettisoned, but the fictional world of the series would remain as “Major Crimes,” after the elite division of Los Angeles Police Department detectives once led by Ms. Sedgwick’s transgressive crime solver, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. “I said, ‘O.K.,’ ” Mr. Duff acknowledged in a phone interview, “but I didn’t have a clue as to how I was going to do it.”
Mr. Duff found his answer in Los Angeles, its broke economy and a legal system eager to avoid costly trials by offering plea bargains. The tension of “The Closer” — the only original scripted series to rank No. 1 among basic cable shows for five consecutive years — is how Brenda will wring a confession from even the most reluctant suspect. The high point of a “Major Crimes” episode will have police and prosecutors working together to put a criminal behind bars by way of a deal. In this way Mr. Duff figured out how best to use almost all of the supporting cast from “The Closer” — besides Ms. Sedgwick, the cast members J. K. Simmons and Corey Reynolds are also not continuing their roles — and to showcase them in an ensemble drama.
When “The Closer” fans tune in to “Major Crimes” on Aug. 13, familiar faces typically relegated to reactive status when Brenda was in the room will be taking charge and getting close-ups. In fact the only thing that might confuse viewers is TNT’s label of “Major Crimes” as a spinoff. In the land of narrative television a successor to an original show typically involves a move, like to Seattle (“Frasier”) from the bar stools of Boston (“Cheers”).
“It’s not really what we consider a spinoff historically,” said G. W. Bailey, who over the years has turned his fuming and unfiltered Lieutenant Provenza into a fan favorite. “It’s a new kind of hybrid. I’m at the same desk. I park in the same spot. I haven’t moved an inch.”
Call the show what you will, TNT’s job is to let viewers know that “Major Crimes” will offer everything its predecessor did in terms of a murder mystery solved and a workplace group examined, just without the workaholic Brenda leading the charge. To help ease the transition, TNT is unveiling “Major Crimes” at 10 p.m., right after the series finale of “The Closer.” This strategy provides instant gratification for the curious. A “Closer” fan hoping to reflect on Brenda’s dramatic exit will barely have time to tweet “@Kyrasedgwick thx 4 FUN TIMES” before heading straight into the new show.
“We all felt like we should have a week off,” Mr. Duff said, but Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, saw things differently. “He felt like he would never be able to deliver as large an audience to the spinoff as he would on that night. I didn’t disagree with him. I just felt like, ‘Yes, but you’re also probably setting us up for the steepest second-week drop-off in television.’ But I could be wrong.”
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