What's Worth Watching: Jesse Stone on Hallmark for Sunday, October 18

Matt Roush
Once a Los Angeles homicide detective, Police Chief Jesse Stone now presides over the quiet, seaside village of Paradise, Massachusetts. When the facts don't add up in a brutal Boston-area murder case, Jesse opens an investigation filled with surprises, unlikely suspects and grave danger. Though it's widely believed the murder was committed by an incarcerated serial killer, Jesse suspects another killer is at large and is hell-bent on bringing him to justice.   Photo:  Mackenzie Foy, Tom Selleck  Credit:  Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer:  Chris Reardon
Chris Reardon/Crown Media

Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise (Sunday, Oct. 18, 9/8c, Hallmark Channel)

Being a Jesse Stone fan has always required patience—not just in the long wait between TV-movies, but even the stories themselves tend to play out at a deliberately slow and contemplative pace. The unusually quiet tone of these movies reflects the melancholy and taciturn temperament of the small-town Massachusetts police chief played with rugged brooding by Tom Selleck, who has stayed loyal to this character despite prime-time success as the big-city police commissioner on Blue Bloods. And despite CBS's decision to drop the franchise, in part because TV-movies are no longer part of any broadcast network's menu and because the Jesse Stone movies tended to skew old. (A characteristic that also led A&E to short-sightedly cancel Longmire, which was later revived by Netflix.)

"Two years, where ya been?" cracks Jesse's therapist, played by the great William Devane, as Lost in Paradise begins. (It's actually been more like three; the last CBS film, Benefit of the Doubt, aired in 2012. This is the ninth, commissioned by Hallmark.) The "Paradise" of the title refers to Jesse's home base, a seaside town whose motto might as well be "Nothing happens here" (something noted by several characters). Jesse is bored, lonely—in mourning for Reggie, his beloved Golden Retriever, among other lost loves of his life—and worried that he's drowning his sorrows in Scotch a little too freely. Bleary and weary, he heads to Boston for a challenge, where a former lover (Leslie Hope) is an assistant state homicide commander named Sydney Greenstreet—a film-noir homage?—who assigns him to an open case that piques his interest.

It takes about 20 minutes for the plot to kick in, but it's worth it to encounter Luke Perry as the "Boston Ripper," an imprisoned serial killer who insists a fourth victim wasn't his doing, though the body shows all his trademark traits. It takes about another 20 minutes for something to happen that might qualify as "action," but that's not the draw of a Jesse Stone story (a character created by Spenser auteur Robert B. Parker). We watch for the pleasure of observing Selleck's immersion in Jesse's dogged, wry, troubled intelligence. When confronted about his habit of saying very little, he responds, "I never found out anything by listening to myself." While following this case down some fairly sordid paths, Jesse finds time to counsel a truant 13-year-old and her alcoholic mother—takes one to know one—and adopt a new canine companion whose very name turns out be a clue. As with Jesse, we hope this isn't the last we've seen of this dog named Steve.