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'Jesse Stone' Makes Switch, Hallmark Cool
October 18, 2015  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

When people talk about cool moves in television programming, the conversation will rarely include the word “Hallmark.”

This weekend let’s put it there, because it’s Hallmark that has brought Jesse Stone back to television. 
Fist bump to Hallmark. 

Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradisereviewed on this site by my colleague Ed Bark – airs Sunday night (10/18) at 9 ET on Hallmark, then repeats next Sunday on the Hallmark Movie Channel. 

This is the ninth Jesse Stone film, after the first eight aired on CBS between 2005 and 2012. Tom Selleck returns as Jesse, which is good, because Selleck has turned Jesse into one of the great underrated characters of contemporary television. 

Yes, that puts him in impressive and even intimidating company. Over that decade since the first Jesse Stone film (“Stone Cold”), TV viewers have met the likes of Don Draper, Sheldon Cooper, Selina Meyer, Olivia Pope, Carrie Mathisen, Walter White, Jax Teller, Patty Hewes, Tyrion Lannister, Rick Grimes, Annalise Keating, Dowager Countess Violet, and Lucious Lyon. 

Jesse Stone belongs at that party. 

First created as a character in a series of murder mysteries by the late novelist Robert Parker, Jesse is a good-guy cop with serious demons. 

We’ve met that cop before, from Andy Sipowicz to Debra Morgan in Dexter, and there’s a reason he or she keeps turning up – because there’s almost infinite turf to explore. 

Jesse Stone was a former minor league baseball player and Los Angeles detective who fell to drinking after a divorce from his wife Jennifer. He was hired as police chief of tiny Paradise, Mass., on a fluke, but it gave him a chance, theoretically, to start everything over. 

Except you can run, but you can’t hide. In Paradise, which has a surprising amount of big-time crime for a small town, Jesse becomes a very good cop who often has to fight people who, also theoretically, are on his side.

He also has to fight himself, a fight in which sometimes his closest companion seems to be Reggie, his golden retriever. 

Alas, with “Lost In Paradise” he also loses one of his best human allies, Kathy Baker’s Rose Gammon. She isn’t back for this one, which isn’t a big surprise, since the movies have had a large movable cast over the years. 

Viola Davis, for instance, appeared in the first four. 

But what’s set the Jesse Stone series apart from your basic entertaining crime mystery has been Selleck. 
He was fine in Magnum P.I. and he’s fine in the current CBS series Blue Bloods, where his Commissioner Frank Reagan has some of the same inner disquiet as Jesse Stone. 

In Stone, Selleck may have his finest, best-developed character, a man grasping for something that remains just out of his reach. 

He’s as nuanced as almost all those splendid characters mentioned above. He just has never come in the same kind of cutting-edge packaging. 

CBS obviously knew what it had, since it brought Jesse back for eight movies at a time when CBS was otherwise getting out of the movie business. 

In the end, Selleck said two years ago, CBS made a call the network has made a number of times over the past half century. 

It developed a show it knew would appeal to older viewers, drew a healthy audience of those older viewers, then pulled the plug because the viewers were too old. 

From the network’s financing, marketing and advertising perspective, that’s not as bizarre as it sounds, which is no consolation to all the fans who wanted more Jesse. 

So it was great news when Hallmark stepped in, and Jesse Stone makes sense on that network in a whole basketful of ways.  
True, it’s got a dark side on a network known for being as upbeat as, well, a Hallmark greeting card.
But Jesse’s darkness mostly rolls around in his head. He’s not going to hook a drug dealer up with a suicide bomb. The whole family can watch “Lost in Paradise” without fear someone will have to lunge for the remote. 

The brand of Hallmark movies, in general, is that they’re all a long march to a happy ending. Certainly that can fairly be said about the barrage of Hallmark Christmas movies that’s about to descend on us, and in fact, there’s nothing wrong with that. 

In a TV universe with room for reality shows on everyone who has ever used the same toothpaste as a Kardashian, let’s never argue against a channel that reliably gives you two hours of heartwarming. 
That said, Hallmark doesn’t mind occasionally offering movies that are a little more nuanced. Example: the recent John Goodnight movies that starred Luke Perry as a restless traveling judge. 

John Goodnight and Jesse Stone won’t radically alter perception of the Hallmark brand, but it’s worth noting they’re in the mix. 

In any case, Hallmark has a history of returning to ideas that work, so a good showing for Jesse Stone Sunday night could well mean more Jesse in the future. 

He’s one of those TV folks, like Olivia Pope or Walter White, where you just kind of want to know where it will all lead.

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Hallmark is my favorite channel. I don't typically watch these kinds of movies, but thought I would give it a try. I love them! Good storylines, directing, and Tom Selleck is terrific.
Aug 18, 2018   |  Reply
Love Jesse Stone. Glad to see that Hallmark has taken it up.
Oct 18, 2015   |  Reply
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