Fresh on the heels of wrapping up another mini-season of “Rizzoli & Isles” for TNT, actress Sasha Alexander is ready to change viewers’ perception of her, quickly. Natalie Abrams of Entertainment Weekly has reported that Alexander will begin filming a multi-episode arc next week on “Shameless.” This is nothing but good timing for Sasha, whose image will be transformed in viewers minds from the child prodigy turned forensic genius, Dr. Maura Isles” into “Helene,” a college professor with a strong case of inner wild child to boot.
Helene will appear as one of Lip Gallagher’s professors on the story arc. Jeremy Allen White has played Lip for five seasons on the Showtime series best described by IMDB as “the story of family life “seen through the eyes of an exceptionally bright 15-year-old, who struggles to come of age in the context of his belligerent father, closeted brother, psychotic sister and internet porn star neighbors.”
The anchor stars of the series include William H. Macy (Frank Gallagher), who was nominated for a 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Joan Cusack (Sheila Jackson), and Emmy Rossum. Macy is the “alcoholic man who lives in a perpetual stupor while his six children with whom he lives cope as best they can.” Good times! Well, it is Showtime, after all, so it’s not going to be “Mom” or “The Millers.”
Sasha’s taking this part in “Shameless” is a wise career move on her part, the way it was leaving “NCIS” and the role of Caitlin Todd, a former Secret Service agent, turned NCIS Special Agent working for Leroy Jethro Gibbs. “NCIS” recovered quite well from Alexander’s leaving when they brought in Cote de Pablo as Mossad agent turned NCIS Special Agent, Ziva David, and it kept the show fresh. Had Alexander stayed, she could have been permanently typecast in a role and had difficulties being perceived by casting agents as an actress who could do any part they needed.
Now the “Rizzoli & Isles” has completed her fifth season costarring with Angie Harmon as a medical examiner (so it was Caitlin becomes Ducky, sort of, kind of) and now it will be Maura becomes Helene. Given the “Shameless” storyline it’s a safe bet that no one will typecast Ms. Alexander as a special agent or a coroner/medical examiner after her multi-episode story arc to come. In the meantime Sasha is a favorite mainstay of “Rizzoli & Isles.”
The numbers published by web site zap2it.com show just how strong “Rizzles” is, as a TNT Drama cable broadcast:
In time-shifted viewing, the Sept. 2 summer finale of Rizzoli & Isles grew to a final tally of more than 8 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery, including 2.8 million adults 25-54 and 2.3 million adults 18-49. For the summer overall, Rizzoli & Isles ranked as basic cable’s #1 series, averaging 8.1 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery. In key demos, the summer run of Rizzoli & Isles drew 2.7 million adults 25-54 and 2.2 million adults 18-49.”
You wish all cable dramas, no matter what channel they’re on, were as strong as “Rizzoli & Isles.” With the exception of the insipid “Dallas,” most of TNT’s cable dramas are strong competition to the sometimes banal and boring offerings on the major networks at times.
To be fair, you have to remember that Janet Tamaro worked hard for four years in creating the program from the characters created by author Tess Gerritsen. Tamaro is the one who should be credited with the TV success, as she served as the program’s showrunner for four years and she left the program in great hands with the writing staff who stayed on. Jan Nash did not disappoint in making Season 5’s debut a strong one, particularly after coping with the passing of Lee Thompson Young as the new season began.
The writing on “Rizzoli & Isles” is made even better when it’s being delivered to perfection by Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander and their tremendous supporting cast, including Lorraine Bracco, Bruce McGill, Jordan Bridges, Brian Goodman, and occasionally Colin Egglesfield.
It would be great if Alexander’s guest-starring arc was in a show that was more ready for prime time on the usual network broadcast channels, but clearly this role is not one of those. So bring on “Shameless” and stand back and watch Alexander make sure you don’t say the name “Maura” or “Caitlin” one time when you’re watching her. After all, she’s just acting and that’s what she does, and she does it very, very well.