I don't want to rain on anyone's favorite shows, and I've watched several episodes of Medium and Ghost Whisperer and enjoyed them very much. But if you ask our resident law enforcement experts on The Closer, former Det. Mike Berchem from the LAPD's famous Robbery/Homicide Division, and our consulting producer, former District Attorney Gil Garcetti, they will both tell you that psychics have been useful in exactly zero cases. As much as we want to believe in ESP, there is more of the magician than of magic in your local fortune-teller.
But not everything that affects our lives can be immediately seen, nor is every clue to a murder visible. In fact, the deductive process is often used to reveal that which might otherwise remain concealed. Intuitive leaps and good hunches are sometimes all a good investigator has to go on. And so, in the penultimate episode of our Fourth Season, in which we have examined the various facets of power, we finally deal with the influence of the unseen.
Our story begins with the discovery of a prepaid cell phone bearing a series of text messages between two lovers, apparently plotting to kill the woman's husband. But the murder, if such it is, has already taken place. There is no crime scene. There is no police report. There is no proof, really, that any crime took place. What to do?
Coincidentally, we meet the sister of Deputy Chief Johnson's erstwhile fiancé, Fritz Howard. Arriving one week before the couple's scheduled wedding, Claire Howard is a "Claire-voyant"; she is as ethereal and spiritual as her brother, Fritz, is down-to-earth and pragmatic. Played with gusto by the comic genius Amy Sedaris, Claire Howard accompanies Brenda to work and begins one of the most unlikely partnerships in the history of our show. Having a self-proclaimed medium in our Murder Room elicits a host of different reactions. Surprisingly, however, someone takes Claire so seriously that he begins to note the success rate of her predictions, and becomes inspired to employ the power of the unseen in helping him to unravel his delegated part of the case.
Revealing more than this about our plot would probably be saying too much. But I can spend a moment on style. I directed this episode, written by the hugely talented Steven Kane ("Time Bomb" and "Ruby"), and I used 1970's horror films and their campy, misplaced use of noir angles and acting styles to inform Steven's thematic examination of the invisible. The result is one of our lighter-hearted efforts, which will hopefully serve as a welcome relief to the darker horrors of last week's episode "Power of Attorney" (about which it is too soon to write in this, the Tivo generation).
I will end this entry with a personal note. Unlike nearly every other writer in Hollywood, I have never wanted to direct. But last year, just as we were wrapping up Season Three, my partner and fellow executive producer, Michael Robin, came to me with a problem: we had lost a director and he couldn't find anyone to take her place. While walking to one of our stages, he suggested someone within The Closer family should take on the responsibility. After I made several suggestions positing nearly everyone in the company, Mike finally came to the point. "I was talking," he said impatiently, "about you."
Shocked, I pled off. I was busy with the writing and the editing and the casting and the mixing. There wasn't time. It was irresponsible to the network and the studio to take on so much at once. Plus, I'd never directed before; I had never even thought about directing.
"Well, think about it now," Michael ordered me.
I suggested he work harder to find someone else.
A week passed. Michael approached me again on a Friday. "I'm not having any success finding a replacement director for our last episode," he informed me without even a hint of guile. "And I'm not available."
I grew exasperated. "Are you telling me," I asked dubiously, "that there is no one else in all of Hollywood capable of directing our last episode?"
"Yes," Michael said. "It's the height of the season. Every old show and new show is in production. No one I want is available."
I sagged a little and then shook my head emphatically. "This last episode takes place inside an RV. There'll be green screen for the driving. There's a gunfight at the end. It's too big for a beginner."
"It'll be a great learning experience," Michael said, literally without missing a beat.
"No," I said again, perhaps overly prim. "It would be a disservice to the show."
"Maybe it's a disservice to me," Mike said, seemingly genuinely irritated. "Think about it over the weekend and get back to me on Monday. I have to settle on someone and right away."
When Monday dawned, I resolved to hide out in my office, writing behind what my assistant refers to (only somewhat jokingly) as "the door of death," meaning anyone attempting passage through this threshold while I'm writing is openly courting an untimely demise.
Disregarding this warning, Michael Robin eventually tired of waiting for me, walked in without even knocking, and strode directly to my desk. Putting his hands slightly behind his bad back (a sure sign of frustration) Michael demanded (in a voice much louder than necessary), "So are you going to help me or not?"
And that's how I became a director. And I never saw it coming. Thankfully, we have a brilliant crew.
Next week, we'll discuss exactly how Brenda and Fritz's courtship ends.
- James Duff
Read TVGuide.com's Q&A with The Closer guest star Amy Sedaris.