There's a new cop on the beat, and she promises to shake things up in a big way on TV's best police drama.
That would be Capt. Monica Rawling (Emmy-winner and five-time Oscar-nominee Glenn Close), who takes over a dysfunctional Los Angeles precinct on the FX cable channel's top program, The Shield, which kicks off its fourth season at 10 tonight.
Close joins a first-rate cast headed by Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner Michael Chiklis, who plays tough, scheming Detective Vic Mackey in the powerfully edgy show, the first ad-supported cable series ever to win a Golden Globe for best drama.
Chiklis' stocky, bald, and brassy character is a study in conflict and contradiction - NYPD Blue's Andy Sipowitz times 10 - and he has become one of TV's most unlikely sex symbols this side of HBO's Tony Soprano. A violently effective rogue cop with his own twisted moral code, he's also not averse to getting himself involved in everything from money-laundering to murder.
To show what kind of man Mackey is, when he watches a surveillance tape showing a suspect beating his son, he arranges to "accidentally" run into the guy in a bar, where he dispenses a little frontier justice.
At the end of last season, Mackey's shady drug strike team was disbanded, and his hated precinct boss, Capt. David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), a career politician, was getting ready to leave to take a seat on the City Council.
As his replacement, Close's Captain Rawling is a stark contrast, a shrewd 25-year veteran of the department who is more concerned with police work than political advancement. She quickly realizes that Mackey could be a key ally in implementing her new plan to thwart drug and gang activity in the area - but can she trust the ethically challenged Mackey?
As played by the talented Close, Captain Rawling is a good, smart match for Mackey - and her sunglasses are every bit as cool as his.
What's an A-list film actress like Glenn Close doing in a TV series - her first ever - and a nonnetwork one at that? In a promotional interview accompanying review copies of the season's first few episodes, the 57-year-old Close answers that question.
"It's so smartly written," she says. "It's like making a feature film every week."
Unlike most TV dramas, The Shield gives its viewers plenty of credit, and you have to watch pretty closely to follow what's going on. But it's not necessary to have watched earlier seasons in order to pick up on Season 4.
"If you've invested in [the characters] in the past and you're a regular viewer of The Shield, it just gets richer and richer," explains executive producer Scott Brazil. "If you're new to The Shield and your entree is Glenn Close you won't be let down."
When it premiered in 2002, The Shield was FX's first original dramatic series. Since then, the basic cable network has established a solid record of original programming. Season 4 of The Shield marks a network first - year-round primetime original programming.
The cop show's 13-episode season will run until mid-June, when Rescue Me, the Denis Leary fireman drama, returns for its second season. In late summer, Nip/Tuck, a drama about plastic surgeons, will be back for its third season.
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