Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
As a spinoff of The Closer — TNT’s most popular scripted drama series ever — Major Crimes, which premieres in the summer, has its work cut out to match its predecessor. But the man who created and ran The Closer and now oversees Major Crimes, James Duff, said during a TCA panel this afternoon that the new series has more going for it than simply impressive pedigree. It’s also got many of the supporting players from The Closer, including Mary McDonnell stepping into the starring role left vacant by star Kyra Sedgwick’s departure. “We’re not going to explain to the audience that this isn’t The Closer,” Duff said. “That will be immediately obvious because [Sedgwick’s] not there any more. But there will be a lot of new territory for us to mine. And it isn’t like they’re all running off to Seattle and starring in a radio talk show,” a reference to the way Cheers was spun off into Frasier.” They’re all going back to their desks, doing some version of the jobs that they did before.” Duff went on to stress that in fact the new show promises to open up fertile new territory for the producers and cast. “The Closer was always about getting the confession,” he said. “While that was intriguing, it forced a kind of structure on the show that we will now be able to improvise with more. Because the new format is about going for the deal.”
Fellow execute producer Michael Robin added that the day it was discovered that Sedgwick wasn’t going to re-up for another year of The Closer, there was a huddle among the production and studio braintrust that involved making sure that the essential story and actors from The Closer continued on. “They said, ‘We want to offer you guys a 10-episode commitment to bring the characters forward and keep them going’,” Robin recalled. “We so all gave it a lot of thought — for about 10 seconds — before saying OK. Because we love these characters. TNT loves these characters. And we’re thrilled everyone wanted to create a spinoff vehicle to keep this all going.”