A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Major Crimes is a spin-off of TNT series The Cl
oser, and is set in the same tense law enforcement milieu of the LAPD's Major Crimes unit, with mayhem occurring frequently onscreen. Guns, gore, and dead bodies are shown, and characters are often in jeopardy, though the main characters are police officers and generally a bit removed from immediate physical danger. A female captain leads the Major Crimes team and is shown working efficiently and effectively in a ethnically diverse group of officers. However, the officers occasionally give ethics the heave-ho in the interest of solving a crime, as in the pilot episode when detectives pretend to be offering a plea bargain deal to a suspect in order to trick him into confessing.
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What's the story?
In MAJOR CRIMES, a spin-off of TNT's popular crime drama The Closer, Mary McDonnell is Captain Sharon Raydor, who has taken over leadership of the LAPD's Major Crimes unit after The Closer's Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) stepped down under mysterious circumstances. Johnson's specialty was extracting confessions from reluctant suspects, but the recession has hit law enforcement, and now the LAPD is trying to save time, money, and manpower by getting suspects to agree to plea bargains, thus avoiding a trial. Major Crime's criminals are wily and nefarious, but Raydor and her law enforcement cohorts have clever and tricky (and occasionally ethically questionable) ways of getting them to accept pleas. Captain Raydor is a tough and powerful woman on the job, but she has a softer side too, particularly when it comes to Rusty, an LAPD witness and foster kid Raydor takes in to protect him from those who would harm him.
Is it any good?
TNT could hardly have found a more magnetic and compelling lead in Mary McDonnell, who is altogether more fun to watch than The Closer's Kyra Sedgwick. As viewers of cult favorite Battlestar Galactica discovered a few years ago, McDonnell makes a powerful center to build a show around, and she's utterly relatable as a strong woman doing her level best in a very difficult job.
The rest of the cast is as uniformly excellent as they were on The Closer, though young viewers in particular may be confused by the fast-moving dialogue and the zippy plot, which doesn't slow down to explain complex legal concepts. Those who don't have a basic understanding of the law and criminal cases will be a bit lost, though fans of police procedurals will be able to keep up just fine. Also excellent: Unlike other cop shows, the crimes being committed are heinous, but not exploitative, i.e. no rape victims shown in torn clothing with the camera lingering lasciviously over exposed body parts. Crime is not glamorized on Major Crimes, nor is police work. Though in real life, Captain Raydor's hair might not look so perfectly blown-out after a long day on the job.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's unusual to see a female cop on television in charge of a law enforcement division in Major Crimes. Are female cast members common on cop shows? How is Captain Raydor alike or different from other female police officers and detectives on television?
Major Crimes is a spin-off of another female-centered crime drama, The Closer. Why do you think TNT chose to build this spin-off around a female officer? What audience was TNT hoping to attract, or keep by casting Mary McDonnell as Captain Raydor?
When you watch Major Crimes, do you notice a difference in the way criminals and law enforcement officers are presented? Does the music, dialogue, or camera angles change? What does that say about the way the viewer is supposed to regard the officers versus the criminal suspects?
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