We Love “Tommy,” TV’s New Lesbian Chief of Police

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You may know heavy-hitting actress Edie Falco from The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie, or 30 Rock. For her whole career, she’s exuded strong dyke vibes, so for many fans, CBS’s new show Tommy is as close as we’ll get to this dream. 

Falco stars as Abigail Thomas — or “Tommy,” as she prefers to be called. She’s an out lesbian and Los Angeles’ new (and first woman) Chief of Police. With the previous police administration having been removed for various sexual offenses, Tommy brings in a gust of accountability and honesty. 

Tommy has a thick New York accent, and is a woman of few words — candid, direct, and full of East Coast quips. The first time she walks into the police conference room everyone stands up to salute her. She waves them down, saying, “Hey guys we’re not going to do that all the time or you’re all going to need knee replacements,” and gets right to business.

The show addresses her sexuality in a fresh way. It’s important and talked about, but not her whole shtick. At the end of the pilot episode we see her flirt with a woman she ran into at work, although Tommy kindly turns down an offer to go back to her hotel room. Promo shots indicate this is not the last we’ll see of Tommy’s romantic life. In this interview, Falco talks about her first on-screen same-sex kiss and desire to portray sapphic romance responsibly. And if fans want to have their ship wars and erotic fan drawings, that’s out of her hands. Ha!

Dude, this woman is THIRSTY. C’mon Tommy, I know you need to sleep but she’s basically throwing herself at ya.

In a world of politicians doing favors for each other, Tommy’s not one to scratch backs or look the other way. She plays by the rules and always finds a better way. She doesn’t try to be a hero or be showy, and wants to have her own boots on the ground: “I’m a cop, I gotta see for myself.” She personally walks into a crowd of anti-authority protestors to escort an immigrant mother and child to safety, and stops police from bursting into the apartment of an innocent black man and avoiding a likely shootout. She tries to do what’s right one case at a time. 

Despite being one of New York’s finest officers and a rising star, we learn that her career was hindered by a decade after a sexual assault incident from a superior. She’s had to work hard to be where she is, and knows how much is on the line, saying “if I fail, it will be 20 years before they give another woman this job.”

While many in the police force are suspicious and resistant to the change she brings, Tommy quickly collects an inner circle of trusted colleagues. This includes her detective security detail and chief of staff, two men of color who don’t miss a beat. They echo her ideals and aren’t afraid to give honest advice. There’s also the communication director who slowly realizes how different it will be to have a woman boss (no more being cornered at her boss’s desk), and a benevolent speechwriter who gives Tommy cue cards that she never reads.

Then there’s LA’s Mayor Buddy Gray, a young hot shot who LOVES being mayor. He seems supportive of Tommy replacing the previous scum, but essentially tells her to stay in her lane until his term is up. He talks the good talk and seems progressive in a lot of ways (for example, her being a lesbian doesn’t phase him and he doesn’t use that as leverage), but the show foreshadows there may be skeletons hidden in the closet. He’s surrounded by semi-corrupt people in power he seems to abhor but also rely on. For these reasons, the mayor is a really intriguing and realistic character. He has moments of sincere likability but his hunger for power may ultimately make him an obstacle for Tommy who would never compromise her integrity.

Lastly, there’s Tommy’s estranged daughter Kate, who left to live with her dad as a teenager. In Tommy’s own words, when it came to her career and being a mother, “she was just a better detective.” There’s a LOT of tension and baggage between the two, despite Kate being a school psychologist (many of her extreme outbursts are the most unrealistic part of the show, but then again, mothers tend to bring that out). Kate has a young daughter of her own and her marriage is falling apart, and so when Tommy seems willing to repair their relationship, she invites her to stay with them. 

The show strikes a balance I haven’t seen much elsewhere. It’s fresh, mature, AND fun. I don’t know about you, but personally I just can’t handle super bleak shows these days. Dark dramas like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad leave my soul feeling icky. If you’re even a little tuned into the world, we get enough heartbreak on the news and in our daily lives.

That’s what makes Tommy surprising and special. The show taps into what so many are hungry for — addressing issues of 2020 (sexism, racism, homophobia, immigration, suicide) in a realistic way, and always with an arc of justice and hopefulness.

Plus, there’s a wonderful buoyancy and levity to the dialogue. Characters speak how people actually talk in real life. But like many police and law procedurals, it would be all too easy for Tommy to get cheesy or preachy. Somehow it never does. 

The only thing I could ask for is if Chief of Police Abigail Thomas worked in the same city where The L Word’s Bette Porter was mayor and Batwoman’s Kate Kane patrolled the streets. Even though this lesbian dream city doesn’t exist, it’s exciting that these women-loving-women characters are not only popping up more consistently on screen, but as the lead protagonists. 

Tommy has mass appeal and is the rare kind of show I would recommend to anyone, not just lesbians. So far it’s doing a wonderful job normalizing and representing lesbianism. The show airs Thursdays and can be streamed for free here. Let’s all give Tommy some love.

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