Wednesday, October 12, 2005

TV: Close to Home

Close to Home isn't for me. It's not that it's bad; in fact, it's very well done. So was Judging Amy, which is about the closest analogue to this show I can think of off the top of my head, and it just wasn't for me, either. Hey, I can't watch everything!

I can reduce it to "it's a chick show," but then I wouldn't get to blather on for a while. So let's break it down. (Hammer time!)

The acting is solid, led by Jennifer Finnigan as tough gal prosecutor/new mommy Annabeth Chase. I was surprised by how much I liked her, considering how very, very much I hated her on her previous show, Committed. (Sample line from my review: "This show is bitterest poison. It should be banned by the protocols established by the Geneva Convention. I hate it. I hate everyone associated with it, I hate myself for watching it, and I hate you for reading about it.") And her show before that, Crossing Jordan. It helps that here she's playing a character who's not an idiot or a heinous bitch.

Other players are Kimberly Elise as Maureen, a former equal who has been promoted to Annabeth's superior during her maternity leave; Annabeth's superior's superior Steve, played by John Carroll Lynch, whom I generally like, but whose hair has been dyed a very distractingly unnatural color for this role, for no apparent reason; her husband Christian Kane, whom I liked as the one-handed villain Lindsey on Angel, but he's got both hands here, so there's no need for him to be quite so brooding and flat; and Bruce Davison as the cartoonishly evil defense attorney, who makes Donald Sutherland's character on Commander in Chief look subtle and reasonable by comparison. (It works for him, though.)

The show has an interesting visual flair that doesn't overwhelm the story. Photographs will come to life, or live action will morph into a photograph (just like that one commercial you see all the freakin' time). And the opening sequence is fantastic, simple shots of carefree suburban life which nonetheless fill the viewer with rising dread, culminating in a house engulfed in flames, with a family trapped in the basement.

And I was drawn into the story. At first it appears the mother set the fire to kill herself and her two children. Eventually we discover that the family has been locked inside the house for two years by the normal-seeming but insanely abusive father, and they set the fire in the hopes of rescue by the fire department. Very creepy and original, and well-told.

The ending slides a bit into cloying heartstring-tugging, with everything in slow motion, and Annabeth spinning around dramatically in her chair with her big triumphant grin to give the mother a great big hug. But mostly the show avoids that kind of forced sentimentality. Finnigan balances her fierce prosecutorial impulses and her new mother emotions well; when she briefly breaks down in tears in the bathroom, it feels real for that character, and it's a touching moment.

And yet! It's doubtful I'll ever tune in again. For one thing, I'm not wild about legal shows in general. I don't think there's a single one I watch on a regular basis. And for another... okay, I'll say it: it's a chick show. I can admire what the show does, but I still don't want to watch it. Neither the legal aspect nor the new mother aspect appeals to me. I wouldn't be surprised if Close to Home becomes a hit (especially with powerhouse Jerry Bruckheimer behind it), but it'll do so without me.

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