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Why We Need Kyra Sedgwick on TV

The former star of The Closer is back with a new sitcom about an empty-nest mom.
  • Kyra Sedgwick in Call Your Mother. (Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/ABC)
    Kyra Sedgwick in Call Your Mother. (Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/ABC)

    In Kyra Sedgwick's acceptance speech as she won the 2010 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, she took a moment to thank her kids, "who let me fly away when I needed to, and who are now flying away themselves." It was a sweet if not particularly memorable moment, but one that dovetails with Sedgwick's new ABC show debuting this week, Call Your Mother. The sitcom is about an empty-nester mother who's not dealing so well with being across the country from her kids, so she ends up moving out to be near them.

    That Emmy speech lingers for other reasons, too. It marked a career high for Sedgwick, who had been a dependable character actress before The Closer came along. After an early breakthrough role as Tom Cruise's love interest in Born on the 4th of July, Sedgwick began appearing in a series of films like Singles and Heart and Souls. She earned fantastic reviews (and a Chicago Film Critics Awards nomination) for her supporting turn opposite Julia Roberts in Something to Talk About. But like many actresses of her generation, she ran into the brick wall of Hollywood's lack of relative good roles for women in major films.

    The Closer may not have seemed like the greatest career opportunity for Sedgwick when she first took the role of police investigator Brenda Leigh Johnson in 2005. Outside of premium outlets like HBO and Showtime, cable wasn't a place for prestige shows or acclaimed performers, and certainly not TNT. Her Emmy win came six seasons into the show's run, and the lineup of actresses she bested reads like a monument to the changing times on TV, with network procedurals (Mariska Hargitay for Law & Order: SVU), network prestige shows (Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights; Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife), and cable prestige dramas (January Jones for Mad Men) all represented. She was later joined by Glenn Close who starred in Damages, but Sedgwick was there first, toiling away on TNT, solving crimes and closing cases.

    Call Your Mother marks Sedgwick's first regular series TV role in three years, after her largely ignored ABC drama Ten Days in the Valley wrapped its short run in 2017. In the meantime she's appeared as a guest star on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, where she's had a chance to show off her comedy chops as police chief Madeline Wuntch. She's only appeared in a handful of episodes, but every time she does, it's a reminder of how this underrated talent should absolutely have a TV show of her own.

    Whether Call Your Mother will be the show that Sedgwick deserves remains to be seen, but it's encouraging that the sitcom comes from writer/producer Kari Lizer, who previously created The New Adventures of Old Christine. That series could easily be overlooked in the grand scheme of TV, but it was the bridge that carried Julia Louis-Dreyfus from Seinfeld to Veep (following the misfire that was Watching Ellie). Remember when there was a theory that the Seinfeld performers were "cursed" to never find TV success again? The New Adventures of Old Christine broke that curse, running for five seasons and winning Louis-Dreyfus an Emmy.

    Perhaps Lizer's new show can do for Kyra Sedgwick what Old Christine did for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. TV is a whole new landscape now, and the movie-star economy has fully moved into its environs. But however you slice it, it's a good thing that Kyra Sedgwick is back on TV, even if her TV kids don't appreciate her.

    Call Your Mother airs on ABC January 13th at 9:30 PM ET

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Call Your Mother, ABC, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Closer, Kari Lizer, Kyra Sedgwick