When it comes to watching actresses portraying police officers or detectives, I admit that I am a bit of a chauvinist.
I prefer my cops to be big and strong like Dirty Harry, and as more television programs feature women in various enforcement roles, I find some of them tolerable and others not so much. I love this genre, however, but find myself at times cringing at some of these leading ladies. So I thought it would be fun to grade them with star ratings and invite others to do the same.
Bear in mind, however, that I can only critique shows I actually watched on a regular basis, so don’t expect to see Cagney and Lacey in this pile. Nor did I ever watch Heather Locklear in “T.J. Hooker” or the sad-eyed Peggy Lipton in “Mod Squad,” who I found snooze-inducing.
“Police Woman” (1974) Angie Dickinson **
Totally unbelievable but I liked her co-star Earl Holliman who has always been underrated. Pepper Anderson, however, became producers’ idea of what they’d like their cops to look like.
“Hill Street Blues” (1981) Betty Thomas ****
Thomas played Sgt. Lucy Bates, and I found her believable because she was tall, 6’1″ and looked as if she could take down a mugger like a steer in a rodeo–unlike, of course, the affirmative action Munchkin cops in the NYPD who look as if they’re just begging to have their weapons taken from them by rough thugs before getting pistol-whipped.
“Prime Suspect” (2011) Maria Bello **
The American version of “Prime Suspect” is exasperating because the British original starring Helen Mirren (I rate her ****) was excellent. In fact, I find all the British female constables and detectives are superior to their American counterparts. They’re believable and competent while still remaining womanly. That isn’t the case with Bello, the NYPD detective who is trying too hard to be as nail-tough as her colleagues which must mean not washing her hair. Maria, ditch the stupid hat.
“Rizzoli and Isles” (Present) Angie Harmon **
Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) is a beautiful woman, but as Rizzoli, Harmon goes out of her way to downplay that, and on the few occasions where her character gets to dress up she appears uncomfortable, as if she can’t wait to get back into a sweatshirt and jeans. She could take a few lessons from Alexander, who plays the coroner without sacrificing her femininity.
“The Closer” (2005-2011) Kyra Sedgwick ***
“The Closer” has many intriguing plots, but what I find annoying is the main character’s Southern accent. Sedgwick was born in New York City and the show takes place in Los Angeles. The stories aren’t based on a novel with a Southern character so why, why, why? Please someone clue me in.
Now here are some of my favorites:
“Memphis Beat” (Present) Alfre Woodard ****
Too bad the show was cancelled, because I did enjoy the soundtrack and the acting in this 2010 entry. I think they overdid Jason Lee’s musical performances (he didn’t even sing but actually lip-synced to Mark Arnell’s voice so I never understood why this was part of each show) and I found it a distraction to the plots. Woodard, who’s always an excellent actress, played his boss–smart, authoritative and human.
“The Mentalist” (2008-Present) Robin Tunney *** and Amanda Righetti ***
Tunney and Righetti are fearless; they can shoot and they fit right in with their male cohorts.
“Life” (2007) Sarah Shala ***
Not only was Shala an attractive detective in “Life,” her performance as a flawed, alcoholic cop was never over the top. She now appears in a much lighter role in “Fairly Legal” which shows her versatility as an actress.
“Castle” (2009-present) Stana Katic ****
I love this show and look forward every week to a new episode. Katic is beautiful, tough and credible but not as sexy as her alter ego Nikki Heat. Nathan Fillion of “Firefly” fame stars as Richard Castle, a famous novelist who assists Beckett in the NYPD. He has created the sexy Nikki based on Beckett, who is chagrined at how she has been portrayed in the book series. What is totally bizarre is that Fillion is pictured on the jacket of the real novels as Richard Castle. The three novels, “Naked Heat,” “Heat Wave” and “Heat Rises,” are as much fun as the TV show, but I wonder who really writes the novel and how long the publisher will keep the joke going?
Researchers at the University of Southern California have revealed that Hollywood is still very much male-dominated. I didn’t need a study to figure that out considering how women are portrayed in the film or on television. When a man and a woman are running from danger, guess who always falls down? I’m certainly not your formula feminist and rarely side with the modern woman’s issues, but I would dearly like to see them depicted as persons of strength believably, not merely as poor imitators of men.
The West could not have been won without the tough pioneer women holding down the fort. Let’s put us back on the pedestal that the women’s movement knocked us off.
Now I’ll wait for the usual NOW rant.