It’s been a long, cold, subtext-less winter for Rizzoli & Isles fans as we’ve waited for our favorite new crimes-solving duo to return to TV. And now, finally, comes some news of its return. But wait, what’s this? New characters? New rivals? New sidekicks? New love interests for Det. Jane Rizzoli? A new love interest whose name isn’t called Dr. Maura Isles? Oh, hell no.
Before we start passing out torches and pitchforks, the details. According to E! Online, the TNT police drama is adding four new characters for its second season this summer. First will be Rizzoli’s ex-con brother, Tommy, whose appearance was hinted at and a source of tension in the family. Then there will be a coroner’s office sidekick for Maura named Michi Tada who is a Japanese native described as “part goth, part Harajuku girl” and an acolyte of hers. And finally there are two new male cops: a potential love interest and a potential rival for Jane. As E! puts it:
OK, now everyone can get in line for their sharp, pointy implements. Let’s start big picture and get more intimate with our concerns over these changes, shall we?
In its debut season last summer, Rizzoli & Isles became the No. 1 ad-supported cable show of all time – yes, all time. That means things went really, really well for the show – to the tune of an average of 8.7 million viewers. It even beat out previous cable champ and its lead-in The Closer. So then why mess with a good thing and bring in so many new pieces? You might have heard of this little axiom, TNT: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ain’t nothing broken on Rizzoli & Isles.
Adding so many new characters means less screen time and together time for its existing characters. The show already boasted a healthy ensemble that included Rizzoli and Isles themselves, Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, as well as Lee Thompson Young (Det. Barry Frost), Bruce McGill (Det. Vince Korsak), Lorraine Bracco (mama Rizzoli), Chazz Palminteri (papa Rizzoli), Jordan Bridges (cop brother Rizzoli) and assorted other recurring characters.
But let’s not kid ourselves, the main attraction of this show is the chemistry between Harmon and Alexander. The two women play off one another so well and so enjoyably that you could easily watch a whole hour of them just discussing what to eat for lunch and feel entertained. When even your mother looks at those two and says, “Gosh, they’re just so good together,” you know the chemistry is palpable. So what worries me about all these peripheral new characters is they’ll reduce the amount of time the two actresses have together to just be Rizzoli and Isles. Instead it’ll be Isles and her new quirky assistant or Rizzoli and her new office rival. That’s not the title of the show, people.
Last, though certainly not least, a new love interest for Rizzoli who is not Isles is beyond disappointing for the show’s many, many lesbian and bisexual fans. Look, we’re not so deluded to think that Rizzoli and Isles are actual lesbians; we know they’re not. But by keeping them single, or their other romantic dalliances fleeting, it allows a large segment of the viewership to enjoy the unmistakable undercurrent of subtext between them unfettered.
The show’s appeal, to gay and straight fans alike, is the professional and personal friendship between these two strong, smart women. Is it not enough to show two women who are good at their jobs, work hard and support each other? Do you really think you need to add a man (in this case several) to keep things interesting?
Now, I hope I’m wrong about these changes. I hope that when the second season starts airing in June, all the new characters turn out to be endearing and integral. But I can’t help having this sick feeling that someone, somewhere looked at a show about two independent women and said, “Wait, neither one has a man? Let’s fix this immediately.” Like I was saying, Rizzoli & Isles ain’t broken. And these certainly don’t sound like fixes.