TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” was a surprise hit season one, when it matched and sometimes beat lead-in “The Closer.” The modern day “Cagney & Lacey” held its own season two, too, averaging 8 million viewers a week.
So now, TNT has decided to give the Boston crime-fighting buddies a chance battle it out on their own as an anchor Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. starting June 5. “Rizzoli & Isles” is paired with the network’s other dynamic duo: “Franklin & Bash” at 10 p.m. (Teaser for that show: the attorneys become partners at the law firm and struggle to reconcile their underdog ne’er-do-well personas with the trappings of a big corporate law firm.)
Season three of “Rizzoli & Isles” starts with Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) in a pickle after shooting the biological father of Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander). This causes not only a rift between the two close friends but places Jane in a bit of trouble since said father is also the head of the Irish mob.
It will take time for Jane and Maura to get back to something close to normal. “There’s an awkward tension,” Alexander said in a phone interview last month. “Neither one is saying sorry. They have to earn their friendship back. They’re that much stronger for it. It can’t all be manicures and pedicures. You have to shake things up.” In fact, (SPOILER ALERT!) Maura’s life is placed in danger again in some future episode and Jane (of course) saves her, Alexander said. That kind of makes up for the daddy shooting.
Maura also goes searching for her biological mother, who will be played by Sharon Lawrence of “NYPD Blue” fame.
Alexander is optimistic that the show will do just fine on Tuesdays. “Our loyal following will follow us any time,” she said. “It’s a positive for us to anchor that night.”
She said she and Harmon are close friends off camera, too. “We both have children,” she said. And she said they can get raunchy. “It can be like a girls’ locker room,” she said. “The guys can get uncomfortable. We both laugh a lot on the show. We have similar senses of humor.”
If a scene isn’t going well, one or the other will loosen things up by uttering something silly like, “Kiss me!” (There are lesbian web sites that do snarky recaps of “Rizzoli & Isles” that implies Jane is in love with Maura that way.)
Alexander said she’d love for the writers to conjure up a scene where Jane dreams about them hooking up and then in real life become very uncomfortable around Maura, who has no idea why.
Harmon said Jane will have to open up her heart more this season. “That’s not her strong suit,” said the former “Law & Order” star. “We all know she’s loyal and tough. But there’s vulnerability, too.”
Harmon has always liked to play edgy strong women. There were recent media reports she’s lobbying to play She Hulk in a future “Avengers” movie. “I’d kill to do that,” she confirmed. “I’ve always had kind of a childish excitement and love for this business. I didn’t always have it. After seeing, ‘The Avengers,’ I do again. I may never have to go out of character. It could be me the entire time!”
“Rizzoli & Isles,” 9 p.m. Tuesdays, TNT, followed by “Franklin & Bash” 10 p.m.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk