Tom Selleck keeps getting better and better in his “other” cop job.
“Benefit of the Doubt” marks his eighth in a series of television movies as Jesse Stone, a small-town police chief dogged by small-town politics and his own big-time demons.
The quality of the scripts has, frankly, been uneven. This one falls somewhere in the middle.
But the quality never falls below solid, probably because the movies are based on the Robert Parker novels, and Selleck plays this character now as comfortably as his golden retriever settles down for a nap.
It’s also interesting to note the similarities between Jesse Stone and Frank Reagan, the New York police commissioner Selleck plays on CBS’s “Blue Bloods.”
In fact, it’s impossible not to notice the similarities, since logic says they shouldn’t exist.
Frank Reagan is proud and confident, the ascendant head of a police family. Every Sunday the whole clan gathers around the table, three generations of Reagans reaffirming their bonds with each other.
Jesse Stone lives alone, unless you count the dog and the glass from which he sips his whiskey. He doesn’t do much with other people — not because he doesn’t like them, but because he has little idea how to deal with them unless he’s on official police business.
Yet Jesse and Frank share some critical traits. They never use two words when one will do. They need a reason to bring anyone else into the loop on anything. They have police instincts and couldn’t stifle them if they tried.
“Benefit of the Doubt” begins with Jesse still quietly mourning the police chief position he lost because a town official wanted his son-in-law to get the gig.
Things change, however, when a bomb goes off and the son-in-law is killed, along with another cop whom Jesse fired.
Jesse is reinstated — perhaps for just long enough to catch the perp, perhaps for longer — and it becomes clear this wasn’t the act of someone who was upset over a parking ticket.
To start getting to the truth, Jesse begins reassembling his posse, starting with longtime assistant Rose Gammon (Kathy Baker) and his deputy Luther “Suitcase” Simpson (Kohl Sudduth).
He also is back with State Homicide Commander Healy (Stephen McHattie), his quasi- counselor Dr. Dix (William Devane) and even his mob frenemy Gino Fish (William Sadler).
The exotic Thelma Gleffey (Gloria Reuben) also hovers in his life, and while her presence in the otherwise all-white New England town of Paradise remains somewhat puzzling, she helps Jesse make it through the night.
While the plot of “Benefit” wraps around itself a couple of times, the cast gives us plenty of reasons to keep watching and see if it will straighten out.
Happily for us, if not for Jesse, the dramas of Paradise never completely resolve themselves.
That’s good news to all fans now hoping for number nine.