A problem ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ never expected to have - The Buffalo News
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A problem ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ never expected to have

Lee Thompson Young played Detective Barry Frost on “Rizzoli and Isles.” It wasn’t much of a part. Anyone calling it racial tokenism would be unduly harsh, perhaps, but hard to argue with, too.

Frost was the Boston homicide squad’s sweet-faced resident computer geek. He also had one mildly interesting character trait – he was quite squeamish, not the best thing for a homicide cop.

The show has always been one of the most popular on cable TV, which was always a reasonably good thing for Young. Paychecks for young TV actors aren’t easy to come by.

He had the least personality of any actor on the show. But then this is a show that usually requires little in the way of dramatic heavy lifting, so personality is what it’s all about.

It’s what makes watching TNT shows, in general, so easy. They’re modest and are never afraid to be formulaic. Generally, they’re television for people who watch television, if you know what I mean (and I think that you do).

The show’s stars are Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. They play the supposedly tough and ethnic homicide cop Jane Rizzoli and the wealthy, overdressed, overintellectual Dr. Maura Isles, the medical examiner and BFF of Rizzoli (they grew up together. God only knows how. Ask readers of Tess Gerritsen’s R and I novels).

Angie Harmon, of course, couldn’t be less ethnic if she tried, but she’s also more Angie Harmon than any other actress on television, which will always make audiences happy. Alexander is a beautiful and very witty actress. Their act together is good. But then it’s the backbone of the series so it jolly well should be.

Personality to the max surrounds them – Bruce McGill, one of the wiliest of current character actors and a man with a 1,000-page résumé; Lorraine Bracco as Rizzoli’s mother charged with bringing the braciole to the dramatic table. And Jordan Bridges plays Rizzoli’s semi-doofus brother, not quite the neighborhood chooch but not far from it, either.

And that’s where Young, as an actor, lucked out to be the actor with the least personality on “Rizzoli and Isles.” With all that spice in the sauce, Young’s plainness as an actor made him stand out.

And so Lee Thompson Young did on the show – right up to the moment when he didn’t come to work and they found him dead on his couch with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his temple. A Sig Saur semiautomatic was reportedly registered to him.

He was, according to all reports of his death, bipolar. And despite the autopsy evidence that he was taking at least some of his meds, he was reputedly on the down side of the bipolar cycle.

And that’s likely all we’ll ever know about his suicide (any more, given his level of stardom, is probably none of our business).

This is not a problem most returning TV shows have in their new seasons, needless to say. A cast member dying is hardly unknown but a very well-liked one who’s a suicide at 29 is unusual.

Obviously, tonight’s return of “Rizzoli and Isles” at 9 p.m. has to begin to deal with it. And so they do.

Among other things, the pregnancy of Rizzoli becomes an immediate plot element that offsets the show’s major difficulty.

It’s next week’s show where you’ll see the show’s cast members forced to produce, for dramatic purposes, evidence of what is, no doubt, very real grief for them all.

It is, under the circumstances, rather powerful.

And, in its unavoidable way, very much unlike the show.

Casey Kasem in Buffalo: From Mike Igoe, formerly of Channel 2 comes this reminiscence of Casey Kasem, who died over the weekend following a gruesome family dispute between his children and his wife over how to deal with his terrible final illness.

“You’re probably aware that he worked for WBNY in Buffalo,” wrote Igoe.

“I’m writing because I reacted with him quite a few times at the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethon conference that was often held in Los Angeles. During that time, I was the main Buffalo host, he was the guy from L.A. I was always impressed that he actually WENT to the conference and ACTIVELY participated in all the seminars. He, of course, was a well-known and well-polished professional.

“He was always very accessible and quite funny. I think he told me he was fired from WBNY and it was the best thing that ever happened to him. It was after that that he really started to take off.

“He was also the voice of Shaggy in the ‘Scooby Doo’ cartoon.”

And when Igoe made a presentation following Kasem’s at one meeting of broadcasters, he couldn’t resist saying how honored he was to follow a man known for such comments as “Zoinks … the ghost is Ranger Jones!”

email: jsimon@buffnews.com

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