This cop keeps trudging, solving major crimes

Being a TV viewer isn't easy, you know. Shows appear and vanish semi-instantly. Some pretty good ones -- "Happy Endings," "Body of Proof" -- die young.

So it's nice to see an exception, a show and an actor that keeps trudging along. On Monday (June 10), G.W. Bailey has his 120th episode of "The Closer" or "Major Crimes"; here's the story I sent to papers:


For actors – and for viewers – TV
has lots of short runs and quick disappointments.

“History – and just a natural
pessimism – tells me what to expect,” G.W. Bailey said.

He expects imminent unemployment, but
occasionally, something sticks: Bailey did the last four “MASH”
seasons and six “Police Academy” films. Now “Major Crimes”
starts its ninth season ... sort of.

It's the second season, but extends
“The Closer,” which was one of the longest-lasting dramas in
cable history. After seven years, “Closer” star (Kyra Sedgwick)
decided to quit.

“We drank a toast to her and to the
end of the show,” Bailey said. “It turned out to be a beginning.”

To the surprise of most people –
including Bailey – “Closer” transformed into “Major Crimes.”
It had a new boss (Captain Raydor, played by Mary McDonnell), but
kept the old characters. Five actors have done most of the 119
“Closer/Crimes” hours; only Bailey, apparently, has done them

That's slyly noted in the
season-opener, with Lt. Provenza (Bailey) winning the cops' survivor
pool. It fits an actor who keeps outlasting people and eras, ever
since hippie-dom.

Back in Port Arthur, Texas, Bailey's
best friend's sister had a best friend who sang. “They were very
much into the beat culture,” he recalled of the girls. “We were
sort of Ivy League little boys.”

That friend's-friend, Janis Joplin,
soon soared; Bailey took much longer to be famous. “I went to Texas
Tech for 10 years, off and on, just so I could keep doing theater.”

In 1994 – more than 30 years after
first trying college – he got a degree from a Texas school (in San
Marcos) where he'd taught for a year. His grandmother, who had raised
him, beamed.

By then, Bailey had already reached
high places – fictional ones – without a degree. He'd portrayed
several doctors, a lawyer, a sheriff, a mayor and President U.S.
Grant, plus lots of soldiers and cops.

Many were crusty or crabby, as typified
by a line in the first “Closer” episode. Provenza was told he
might be sent to sensitivity training. “Again?!” he exclaimed.

“I had never, ever seen a one-word
reply that did so much,” Bailey said.

Provenza and his colleagues soon got
along with their boss (Sedgwick), who shared their interest in
bending the rules. Then “Major Crimes” changed that, putting a
former bureaucrat in charge.

Raydor “wrote a lot of the rule,”
James Duff, the creator of both shows, said. “These guys are used
to working sort of fast and loose with policy. And you have someone
saying, 'Policy can be our friend.'”

These are cops who care about each
other and about the victims. Their Los Angeles police department is
high-tech, but they go door-to-door. “It's still 90 per cent shoe
leather,” Bailey said.

That's Provenza's job, nudging his
colleagues to do old-school work. He's the ultimate survivor, in a
show that keeps staying alive while others quickly vanish.

– “Major Crimes,” 9 p.m. Mondays,

– Season-opener, June 10, repeats at
11:05 p.m., after the debut of “King & Maxwell” at 9.

– Prior to that, the entire first
season reruns from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.