“Found her right there. Against the float.” –Jesse Stone
There is a fresh Jesse Stone T.V. movie set to air tonight May 20, 2012. This series baffles me and has since the release of Stone Cold in 2005. The movies are small-screen adaptations of a novel-series whose chief character is a down-on-his-luck detective who tries out for a chief of police gig in what seems to be a sleepy town, and gets it…mainly because the President of the town council thinks that Stone is a drunken maladroit who will be easy to control. They both find that they’re first impressions were misinformed and wacky hijinks ensue. The idea of this character living in the world of pulpy commercial fiction seems completely normal to me, but why on earth, given the massive amounts of media to be consumed on any given night—including Sunday, would anyone waste anymore time rewarding the “efforts” of a franchise that seems to be resolved to the idea of “phoning it in”?
Tom Selleck plays the lead role in this series, and the lead problem in my ability to buy into this tired formula. Tom Selleck stopped being a viable option for playing a quick-as-a-whip detective somewhere in the late eighties (80s) when Magnum P.I. wrapped. Since that time, he has been trying his hand unsuccessfully at a myriad of roles. Of those roles, his stand-outs were: playing a creepy ophthalmologist on television’s Friends, and the Police Commissioner of the NYPD on T.V.’s Blue Bloods. These are two roles in which Selleck seems believable…at least to me. This is not to say that Tom Selleck is a poor actor. While he is not very rangy, his role in the Quigley series and others of the same stripe are sufferable. The problem with this series is Selleck is not as young as his character Stone and as such, really cannot pass his interpretation of this character off in a way that seems compelling…not even for a thirty (30) second T.V. spot. There is actually a scene that makes it in to the commercial in which a shooter fires a rifle at Stone and he “dives” out of the way, however, based upon the lack-luster performance of said dive the viewer is left wondering: “Did he dive out of the way, or did the rifleman find his mark?” If this was a teaser then the makers of the series have assumed the audience even more stupid than one could safely assume based upon the evidence the viewers have so far provided, which is substantial. This was no teaser; this was an intentional “stunt” gone horribly wrong. It was a small slice of evidence that, even though Selleck has yet to grow weary of the pay-checks the Stone series provides, he too is sick of the franchise…or he’s just horribly old and arthritic…or both.
Selleck is not the only one guilty of losing the thrill of the Stone franchise. The writers of the series…read: the folks who are adapting the novels to made-for-T.V. movies, named this installment Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt, what is happening with that sub-title? Hey guys, was Jesse Stone: Meh not available? It’s a title that’d be more comfortable as a parody version of the movie than an actual episode. It’s not like the writers have an incredibly tough job. It is clear, to even the casual observer, that the bar for this franchise is set remarkably low, and I’m not saying that this show writes itself…I’m saying that it was already written by the late Robert Parker, an American crime writer, who—like most American crime writers—has received far too many accolades for his own brand of commercial fiction, but like singer Tom Gabel says, “Constant entertainment for our restless minds, constant stimulation for epic appetites”, eventually the quality of entertainment, and the intensity of stimulation wanes without our having noticed. Or maybe we have noticed, but nobody cares. Feed me; feed me, the remaining relevant sentiment of the American viewing public.
The people in charge of this franchise need to make a tough decision here. Maybe it’s time to end this series, let Tom Selleck go back to Blue Blood, and let him ride that snake all the way to Valhalla, or wherever short-shorts wearing mustachioed warriors spend eternity…Selleck does strike me as being a bit too “metro” to spend the after-life among Nordic heroes. If ending the series seems a bit Draconian, then a re-boot might be in order. Cast It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney as Jesse Stone and give Selleck ironic cameos throughout the run. McElhenney has already proven to have the moves necessary to pull off this action role. Add to that the fact that this would be a dream role for his character, Mac, on Sunny and you have—what they call in the biz—a win, win. The bonus being that Rob McElhenney has the comedy chops to breathe new life into this role. The folks who bring us the Jesse Stone series are essentially writing a comedy whether they’re aware of it or not. We could all laugh a bit more comfortably if they’d just have the decency to embrace that fact.