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TV Tidbits: Tom Selleck in Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost

Photo Credit: CBS

One of the side effects of Blue Bloods’ success is that it ensures the gold-standard movies of the week based on the late Robert B. Parker‘s Jesse Stone book series will continue to have a home on CBS. Tom Selleck, ever savvy, made continuing the series a component of his deal, same as he did over at NBC when he booked Las Vegas — he had to be allowed time off to shoot the films. This series of TV movies has been around since 2005, and I love, love, love them. Innocents Lost, the seventh film, premieres on CBS tonight at 9 pm EDT.

Tom Selleck plays Jesse Stone, an alcoholic ex-L.A. police detective who escaped to (the town of) Paradise (Massachusetts) — a change of pace and place from his ex-wife and a department he didn’t fit into anymore. Paradise is anything but idyllic, though.  Instead, the quaint, quiet town has its own set of secrets and crimes, and Jesse has his own quaint, quiet way of unearthing and solving them. Laid back to a point, he was initially eyed warily as an outsider, but soon accepted as the chief of police, especially by his small staff, played note-perfect by Kathy Baker and Kohl Sudduth, if not the town council. In the last outing, No Remorse, he’d been suspended and was working on the sly to help resolve that film’s crime.

The movies have made wonderful use of a repertory company of Canadian and American actors. Along for almost every outing have been Jesse’s Boston PD ally (Stephen McHattie), his shrink (William Devane), a couple of the town’s outlaws with whom has an uneasy rapport — played by William Sadler and Warehouse 13’s Saul Rubinek, and the survivors of previous cases — his trusty golden retriever, Reggie (played by Joe =), and a teen played by Parenthood’s Mae Whitman.

Each of the films has been shot in Nova Scotia, and that’s part of my adoration – they’re gorgeously lensed, and methodically paced, and have a very Canadian feel to them. Selleck is very hands on with the material — he produces the series and has co-written four of the films. He inhabits Jesse organically and plays him very close to the vest. In many ways, Jesse is the exact opposite of Thomas Magnum, and I mean that in the very best way. He’s measured in his speech and in his gait and has little stubborn quirks that make him real — he can’t quite bond with Reggie after losing his first dog, he lives in a rambling home accessible only by footbridge, is hesitant about getting a cell phone, and listens to his ex-wife’s messages on the answering machine but can’t call her back.

The movies have become appointment TV for me, and CBS has been hanging onto them after they’re filmed —  this one was completed in 2009 and the last one was completed in 2008. Hopefully, they’ll draw enough eyeballs tonight with the Blue Bloods tie-in that we’ll get them on the air sooner. Selleck is already writing number eight.

You can buy movies 1-6 on DVD.

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