AT last - a superheroine who is making the world safe for motherhood.
Meet Annabeth Chase - wife, mother, assistant district attorney.
She's just had her first baby - a daughter - and, fresh from 12
weeks of maternity leave, she's back in court for the first time,
standing up for a battered wife and her two kids, determined to put an
abusive husband behind bars.
Others doubt she has a case - including her boss, a workaholic
prosecutor who has chosen her own career over family; and the abusive
husband's defense attorney, who taunts our plucky heroine at every
But she will not be discouraged. Not our Annabeth. She is focused, she
is strong, she is Woman - Wonder Woman, actually, but with a breast
Played by fresh-faced Jennifer Finnigan, Annabeth is blonde, blue-eyed
and dewy-lipped. Her show has legs and so does she.
CBS is introducing "Close to Home" on the first night of the baseball
playoffs on Fox and in the time slot where CBS had its last
Tuesday-night woman's show, "Judging Amy."
The scheduling seems aimed shrewdly at attracting women, for whom
"Close to Home" seems specifically designed and who might not be
interested in baseball.
Women - especially young mothers juggling responsibilities at home
and the office - will find much with which to identify in the story
of Annabeth. As she confesses in the show on her first day back at
work: Her hormones are raging and she misses her little daughter so
much, she can just cry - which she does!
But her mood quickly swings back to the case at hand - the trial of a
man who cruelly locked his family in the house for two years.
For Annabeth, his crimes were not merely directed at his own wife and
children. They were aimed at all families everywhere - an institution
Annabeth seems determined to protect, now that she has a family of her
And if enough women take up CBS's offer to check out "Close to Home"
Tuesday night, Annabeth should be in position to defend the sanctity of
families for some time to come.
* * *
NY DAILY NEWS/DAVID BIANCULLI
To call "Close to Home" formulaic is accurate - but when the formula
belongs to megaproducer Jerry Bruckheimer, that's not necessarily a
criticism or a predictor of failure.
The show isn't a terrific one, but its working-mom protagonist, and its
element of "Blue Velvet"-style suburban creepiness, might well find a
very receptive and loyal audience for this CBS drama.
Jennifer Finnigan, who spent five years as Bridget Forrester on
daytime's "The Bold and the Beautiful," stars as Annabeth Chase, a
young prosecutor who's yet to lose a case.
As we meet her, she's just back from 12 weeks of maternity leave and
has to juggle her courtroom duties with more maternal concerns. Put it
this way: Perry Mason never had to request a personal fridge to store
That's the sort of working-parent reality likely to make "Close to
Less relatable, but equally intriguing, is the show's other central
focus, which is that beneath the manicured facades of suburban homes
lies an often dark underbelly - "Desperate Housewives" without the
TUESDAY night's premiere (at 10) begins wordlessly, with a long
sequence featuring only music and slow-motion images. What we see at
first is suburban paradise: paperboys riding bikes, little kids playing
on swings, Annabeth herself caring for her new baby. Then we see a
house erupt in flames, and firefighters arrive to rescue a family
trapped inside. As the black smoke rises, so does the camera, and it's
established that the fire is occurring only a handful of blocks from
When she says goodbye to her husband (Christian Kane, who played
Lindsey on "Angel") and arrives at work on her first day back, she's
given that very arson case to prosecute.
The mother of the household (Bonnie Root) admits to setting the fire
while the entire family was home. During her inquiry, though, Annabeth
learns what the mom is at first afraid to tell: that her husband (Rick
Peters) has kept her and her two kids prisoners in the house for two
years. Over the objections of her new boss (Kimberly Elise), Annabeth
switches the focus of her prosecution.
With tomorrow night's debut, Bruckheimer brings his number of current
prime-time shows to nine - 8-1/2 hours per week. When you consider that
UPN programs only 10 hours weekly, and it's considered a network,
Bruckheimer's pervasiveness is extremely impressive.
His other new shows this fall, the buddy comedy-drama "Just Legal" and
the Pentagon drama "E-Ring," are relative departures from Bruckheimer's
strong-formula, strong-character, case-driven hits - "Without a Trace,"
"Cold Case" and his trio of "CSI" shows. ("Amazing Race" is his, too.)
With "Close to Home," writer-creator Jim Leonard (who last worked with
Bruckheimer on the short-lived "Skin") and director Simon West rely a
lot on Finnigan's empathic expressiveness, on visual montages to set
the opening and nail the climax, and on tears to fall at just the right
And while it may not be groundbreaking, most of it works - and "Close
to Home," like "Cold Case" and the original "CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation," succeeds by stressing both the kindness and toughness
of its central female characters.
Workaholics poison the workplace for the rest of us and deserve to die
from stress-related diseases. No-life losers.