By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood August 23, 2012 at 10:01AM
While we were all obsessively watching the Olympics, one thing happened in TV land that didn't get much note. A 60 year old woman took over as the lead on a TV show. Now techincally Major Crimes is a new show, but anyone who watched The Closer knows it's basically the same show with a new name.
Mary McDonnell who played President Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica took over the squad as Kyra Sedgwick left her show after 8 seasons. The two female characters are completely different types. Sedgwick's Brenda Leigh Johnson was nice and southern, as she got those confessions, and McDonnell's Sharon Raydor is a whole different brand of cop. She made her mark in internal affairs and that is leading to lots of trouble with the squad. It's almost like they are replaying the beginning of The Closer where all the male cops had to hate their new leader and break her down until they were convinced she was competent to have the job. Women have to earn that respect whereas when a guy gets that job they are assumed to be qualified.
Transitions happen on TV all the time. Contracts end. People aren't happy. It's happened on some of the biggest shows on TV. But I can't think of the last time the lead of a series planned her departure in this way. They seeded this replacement over a year ago. Granted, there are lots of older women as leads on shows but I can't remember the last time a transition like this happened. (I know you will tell me if I am wrong)
I also find it interesting the back story they are creating for McDonnell's character. One of the challenges is that when the character was created she was a foil for Sedgwick's character. They went at each other. Over time they developed a respect for each other. But Sharon Raydor does not exude warmth. So they need to feminize her a bit because in the squad room she deals with mostly men. (I also find it interesting that they added a female detective and a female ADA.) They made her married but legally separated for quite some time. She has two grown children. But instead of giving her a cat like they did to Brenda (and then a husband) they have given her a foster kid who used to live on the streets.
The jury is still out on whether the show will succeed with this new tone. But seeing an actress the caliber of Mary McDonnell fighting the good fight on a weekly basis is worth watching -- especially when you see glimpses of Laura Roslin. I will be waiting for some more of that to surface.