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TV Series Review

The city of Boston is nearly 400 years old now, and it feels it. For centuries the city has accumulated its secrets like heirlooms, storing them in alleys and neighborhoods and fussy old buildings. Its ways can be impenetrable, its habits inscrutable. It has more than a culture, this harbor town; it has cultures, to which more than one film director has been drawn over the years. Often what we see on the screen suggests that these colliding worlds of color and calamity are as exotic and gritty and dangerous as anything you'd encounter on the hard streets of Moscow or the alleyways of Khartoum.

For seven years, TNT has taken a look at Bean Town's underbelly, using a brainy pathologist and a smart-mouthed detective as its tour guides. But Rizzoli & Isles, a Boston-based crime procedural, doesn't really explore the ticklish terrain that lays here. It only pretends to.

Stabs and the City

The setup is simple enough: Detective Jane Rizzoli is a cop who talks tough and acts tougher. Dr. Maura Isles is a bookish, somewhat chilly forensic pathologist who feels more at home with a Petri dish than she does at ... home.

They both see dead people, by the way—loads of dead folks in the streets and on Maura's autopsy table. Then they chase after the crime lords and union bosses and psychopaths who did the original damage, all manifesting only slightly more depth than you'd see in a Dick and Jane book. ("See Hoyt. See Hoyt kill. Bad Hoyt!")

This isn't all bad. Rizzoli & Isles can feel like a throwback to television from the 1980s and '90s, when episodes were interchangeable and the cops (and coroners) always got their man. But in an era when television storytelling has grown richer (albeit more riddled with content), this long-running show can feel pretty disposable. Rizzoli and Isles are part of a paint-by-numbers crime procedural airing on an, um, quality-impaired cable channel. If I didn't know that the show was based on a series of fairly popular books by Tess Gerritsen, I would've assumed that the writers came up with it during a particularly slow afternoon brainstorming session: "Hey, I've got an idea! What would happen if we, like, teamed up "Pepper" Anderson from 1970s Police Woman with Dana Scully from The X-Files! Only with fewer men. And more angst. And jokes! Wouldn't that be cool?"

Isles of Problems

But while the show may be mindless, it's not harmless. It has shamelessly cribbed from a variety of television shows both past and present, but it seems to have a particular fascination with CSI-level gore. And sexuality can also be a problem.

Speaking of sex, there's a certain lesbian subculture that believes, or at least wants to believe, that Rizzoli and Isles are gay. Fan-fiction based on the show is reportedly rife with their intimate encounters, and the show itself has at times made a winking acknowledgement of the ladies' longed-for "relationship."

Series creator Janet Tamaro insists the friendship is strictly platonic. But Dorothy Snarker on the AfterEllen blog turns such claims on their head, writing, "Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles are not gay. They're outstanding heterosexuals who just happen to flirt, sleep in the same bed, touch each other gratuitously, look deeply into each other's eyes and have crazy, crazy chemistry while not maintaining any long-standing or significant romances with members of the opposite sex. They're straight, OK? Straight."


Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Rizzoli & Isles: June 20, 2016 "Post Mortem"
The Platform - June 16, 2015
RizzoliandIsles: 8-26-2014
RizzoliandIsles: 8-13-2013
RizzoliandIsles: 7-10-2012
RizzoliandIsles: 9-5-2011



Readability Age Range



Angie Harmon as Detective Jane Rizzoli; Sasha Alexander as Dr. Maura Isles; Lorraine Bracco as Angela Rizzoli; Jordan Bridges as Frankie Rizzoli Jr.; Lee Thompson Young as Detective Barry Frost; Bruce McGill as Detective Vince Korsak; Idara Victor as Nina Holiday






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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