TNT asked the folks at The Closer to do a Christmas episode this year, and creator James Duff was happy to deliver. But it’s still The Closer, so those looking for big doses of holiday cheer should probably hold out for It’s a Wonderful Life.
"There are light-hearted moments in it, but I wouldn’t call it a romp," Duff says.
Not hardly: The two-hour episode, airing at 8 p.m. ET Monday, kicks off with the robbery of an armored truck and the slaying of two security guards just a few days before Christmas ("I was five brats away from getting a picture with Santa for my grandson," G.W. Bailey’s Provenza grumbles). When the truck’s driver flees, Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) tracks him to Atlanta — and decides that while she and Fritz (Jon Tenney) are there, they might as well pop in on her parents (Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin, reprising their roles).
The Closer did a year-end episode last year, but it didn’t have a holiday theme. Duff says the network asked for such an episode this year — "Since they ask so little of us, really, in terms of would you please do this or do that, I always assume they have a really good reason for it." Doing a Christmas episode, he adds, let the show further explore the theme of family that ran through the past season.
"We decided that one of the great parts of the holidays in America was the chance to make your family feel guilty," Duff says with a chuckle. "It gave us a chance to explore guilt as a theme, which we’ve never really had a chance to do, especially as it relates to family, and put it in a Christmas package."
And there is guilt on all sides. Brenda’s folks aren’t shy about pointing out that their daughter wouldn’t even be in Atlanta were she not chasing a suspect. Brenda herself uses some questionable methods to extract a confession, then suffers the consequences for them. Even the suspect has issues beyond his involvement in the crime.
In other words, there’s a little more going on here than in say, your average network crime drama. The Closer may not be quite as edgy as, say, The Shield, but it still allows Sedgwick to go deeper than a lot of broadcast fare, whether it’s delving into family issues or, as the show did earlier in the season, menopause.
"It was fantastic to play, let me tell you," Sedgwick says of the earlier storyline. "It’s amazing to me that as women, we aren’t privy to a lot of information about it. Somehow it’s swept under the rug, but it happens to every single one of us, and it really is such a huge deal.
"I can’t help but think," she adds, "that if men went through it, we’d hear nothing else."
For the Christmas episode, the holiday trappings are there — in Sternhagen’s festive sweaters, the lights strung in the Priority Homicide offices, and a missing set of Perry Como CDs — but the holiday spirit is not.
"These are hard people. The holidays aren’t a celebratory time for them," Duff notes. "It’s a difficult work period. It’s a balance — finding balance in life is a huge issue, managing what people expect from you and what you expect from yourself. And it’s all heightened during the holidays."
Looking forward to the Christmas Closer? Do murder and mistletoe mix?