Back In LA, But No Longer The Closer

Ten Days In The Valley Review

From 2005 to 2011, Kyra Sedgwick portrayed one of the most unforgettable female characters in the history of television: Brenda Leigh Johnson on TNT’s The Closer. Masking the ruthlessness of a Grand Inquisitor in a Georgia accent, Brenda ran the Major Crimes Division of the LAPD, determined to get confessions out of the darkest killers. And even if you felt, like I did, that her character stepped over the line so many times that you almost felt it was unrealistic, the fact remains that her devotion to her craft was one of the most engaging work over the past decade. (That is made all the clear considering that the series spin-off Major Crimes, a show that featured all The Closer’s regulars except Sedgwick is, on its best day, a pale imitation of that series.)

Sedgwick has been making a gradual return to TV over the past three years, and now she returns to series TV on ABC’s Ten Days in the Valley. She plays Jane Sadler, a former journalist turned showrunner for a TV cop drama set in LA. Apparently having it altogether, her entire life is a mess. Her marriage has ended in a horrid divorce, she’s having an affair with the source of her latest story, and she’s currently addicted to cocaine. The only good thing in her life is her six-year old daughter, and when she collapses in a drug-induced stupor one night, her daughter disappears.

If Sedgwick was trying for a role that was the complete polar opposite from Brenda, she could not have chosen a more perfect part. Crisis brings out the worst in Jane in a way that would never handle Brenda. Knowing better than most how critical it is to be truthful, her first instinct is to turn on her ex-husband for violating his custody agreement. She lies about the probable timeline to the police, continues to focus on her job rather than her family, and is more concerned about her drug dealer not getting found out that finding her daughter. And yet there are moments — such as a brilliant one when Jane, now at work, talks down a hypersensitive cast member about a scene she doesn’t like — that paint a complete different picture. Sedgwick is exceptional.

Nothing else about Ten Days is nearly as good, and that’s a major disappointment. The conceit is an interesting one — its a ten episode series, each episode equally one day in the investigation. There are also some interesting constructs — the possibility that the kidnapping could be blowback from the police investigation. And the cast is populated with actors I personally admire, doing vastly different roles than what we’re used to from them. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, best known for playing Nigerian thugs on Oz and Lost plays the lead investigator Detective Bird (using a flawless American Accent, no less). Erika Christensen, who I thought was consistently Emmy worthy as Julia Braverman on Parenthood, plays a similar role here as Jane’s sister. And Malcolm-Jamal Warner, whose career has been heading into darker territory over the last few years, is intriguing as Matt Walker, the head writer on the show Jane is running.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these performances or writing, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable about them, either. Similar ideas have been pursued on recent procedurals like Murder in the First or Secrets and Lies. And you have the idea there might well be similar problem if Ten Days makes it to Season 2 — it works once, but it leaves the series with nowhere to go. And if they do try to extend the kidnapping into a second season — like they did with the first two years of The Killing — its runs the risk of dissatisfying the fanbase. (Assuming there is one; early ratings for this show have been lukewarm.)

None of this makes this series a particularly bad one — as I mentioned, Sedgwick’s work is superb, and the other performances are fairly good. And there certainly are enough twists and turns that might make the series more interesting as it plays out. But the fact is television — and broadcast TV in particular — is so crowded with serialized procedurals that in order to justify another one, it has to be really remarkable. Ten Days in the Valley isn’t, and I just think the writers are exposing so much of their hand early on that it may be hard to justify staying with it beyond, well, ten days.

My score: 3.25 stars.

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After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.

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