Note: To search for Jesse Stone information on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel website, click this link.
Update (2017 February 2): Jesse Stone en español en Unimás
The Spanish-language channel Unimás, affiliated with Univision, has for a couple of years been occasionally broadcasting Jesse Stone movies dubbed into Spanish. The most recent (in late January) was Jesse Stone, el beneficio de la duda (Jesse Stone: The Benefit of the Doubt).
Update (2016 June 15): Jesse Stone films available via Feeln.
My brother Mark tells me that the Jesse Stone series is now available on line via the relatively inexpensive subscription video-on-demand service Feelin, which available through Roku, Apple TV, various televisions and Blu-ray players, computers, game consoles, etc. I haven't tried it myself.
Update (2016 May 30): I finally reviewed Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise (2015)
I saw the latest Jesse Stone film (originally broadcast back in October 2015) some time ago, but for some reason never got around to posting a review until now. You can find it here rather than below. I debated whether to add it to this post, but I decided I'd keep this one for the CBS films and start a separate one for those on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. There's supposed to be at least one more of those in the works, at least according to an article in Variety published last spring.
Update (2016 May 23): Jesse Stone trivia quiz
The Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel has a Jesse Stone trivia quiz here.
Beginning in 2005 Tom Selleck (the star of Magnum PI in the 1980s and more recently a regular on Blue Bloods) has been lead actor, executive producer, and occasionally co-writer of eight made-for-television movies based on a series of mystery novels by Robert B Parker, who’s better known as the creator of the Boston private eye Spenser. Stone is a former Los Angeles cop whose drinking cost him his job and his wife, leading him to take a position as chief of police in a small town called Paradise on the Massachusetts coast, almost as far from Los Angeles as he could get. He’s still struggling with his drinking, but he’s good at what he does, and in his new job he earns the friendship of a lot of people while pissing off some of the local civic leaders for not doing what he’s told.
There’s enough of a continuing story here that the films are best watched in logical sequence, which means switching the first two films from their broadcast order.
Jesse Stone: Night Passage (2006)
Saul Rubinek plays the town leader who persuades his colleagues to hire Selleck. His wife, played by Stephanie March (the stunning tall blond assistant district attorney on Law & Order: SVU) has her own designs on him and is very forthright about it. Selleck says, “Wow,” but he never takes her up on the offer, possibly because she’s married, possibly because he’s still pining for his ex (the two of them talk by phone almost every night) and possibly because he’s afraid of being hurt, and I don’t mean emotionally. She’s scary hot. He does over the course of the series get romantic with younger women, but mainly ones who seem more likely to show mercy to an older guy like us. Selleck is even older than I am, but that barely seems to slow him down.
(Yes, he’s also taller, slimmer, better looking, has not gone bald, his facial hair isn’t gray, and in general he looks more like a somewhat older Magnum PI than like the less-successful brother of Santa Claus.)
The police department includes an annoying middle-aged male cop, a woman he quickly learns to respect, and a naive young guy Selleck takes to calling “Suitcase” after the famous shortstop he slightly resembles. (Suitcase is played by Kohl Sudduth, a name that sounds like he should be an associate of Cthulhu.) Another recurring character is Stephen McHattie, the state’s head homicide investigator, who’s based in Boston.
In the course of the film Selleck takes a street-cop approach to a domestic dispute and helps McHattie solve the murder of Selleck’s predecessor. Unfortunately the climax is ridiculous, with Selleck putting himself pointlessly in danger, but the characters, setting, and overall story make up for that.
Jesse Stone: Stone Cold (2005)
This is more suspense than mystery, since we learn very early on who the bad guys are. Somehow Selleck intuits it as well, though he has no evidence to support his suspicions. Again he also has to deal with more mundane problems in town.
If you watched Frasier, you probably remember that in the final season of that series Niles (himself engaged to someone else) professed his love for Daphne just before her wedding. Daphne’s fiancé was played by Saul Rubinek, the sleazy politician who hired Selleck in Night Passage, so it’s interesting that Niles’s fiancée, Jane Adams, has a major role in this film. (Incidentally, while Adams often plays a rather mousy character, here she comes off as seriously sexy.)
Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise (2006)
Selleck co-wrote this episode, and perhaps as a result it’s a bit better plotted than the previous two. Investigating the death of a teenage girl leads Selleck to a Boston mobster and a young nun, both of whom show up in later episodes as well. Meanwhile, his ex-wife, or at least her voice on the telephone, convinces Selleck to start seeing an ex-cop turned psychiatrist for help with his drinking.
Jesse Stone: Sea Change (2007)
Stone’s alcoholism is worsened by the news that his ex is sleeping with her boss, so he tries to get himself back on track by investigating a cold case, a bank robbery that ended in kidnapping and death. He soon turns up puzzling new evidence that suggests the crime wasn’t what it seemed to be. Meanwhile the city council wants him to stop risking bad publicity by investigating a rich yacht owner accused of molesting a young female guest.
At one point Jesse listens to a Brahms piece that is apparently Intermezzo in A Major Opus 118 Number 2. There's a YouTube playlist of music from that episode.
Jesse Stone: Thin Ice (2009)
Selleck is hanging out with his friend Stephen McHattie on a stakeout in Boston when a gunman nearly succeeds in killing them both, and he breaks the law to solve the case and bring the bad guy to justice.
Meanwhile, Camryn Mannheim has ridden by bus all the way from Albuquerque to look for her missing son [not daughter as I originally wrote], who had been snatched from the hospital not long after birth. She's come to Paradise because she just got an anonymous letter with a Paradise postmark saying, “Your child is loved.”
Jesse Stone: No Remorse (2010)
The city council has suspended Selleck without pay, not for his lawbreaking in the previous film (they’re not even aware of it) but mainly, one suspects, for cutting down the tree hiding the speed limit sign at the town’s lucrative speed trap.
Saul Rubinek’s wife, the one who propositioned Selleck when he first got into town, is now divorced and is a new woman, or played by a new actress anyway, but she’s still hot in every sense of the word and still wants to pork Selleck’s brains out, and in reaction he still says, “Wow.” He also still declines, possibly because he’s busy tackling the greatest mystery of his career: figuring out his new cell phone.
In addition, he’s been hired by his friend McHattie as a consultant on a case in Boston that involves an apparent serial killer. Back in Paradise the severely understaffed police department is investigating an unusually violent series of convenience store robberies.
Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost (2011)
Selleck is no longer suspended because he’s been forced to take early (actually, not that early) retirement. But when the obnoxious young new chief won’t look into the drug-related death of a young woman Selleck knew, he bends the rules and eventually breaks the law again investigating on his own. He also drinks more while his dog looks on with obvious disapproval.
This is one of the weaker films of the series and even seems to be missing at least one scene, given that Selleck suddenly knows something without any explanation how he found it out. The ending and some things leading up to it struck me as dumb. The characters remain appealing, though. This is one of the great things about the Jesse Stone movies: Flawed they may sometimes be, but you like them anyway.
Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt (2012)
When local leaders want a double murder solved they bring Selleck back out of retirement, which is a practical necessity because nobody else is left in the police department. All is of course not as it seems. Well-written dialog helps make up for the occasional plot holes. A hot woman for once turns Selleck down, bluntly telling him she’s too young for him. And then she goes out with him anyway, and gets mad when she thinks he's not sufficiently interested in her romantically. It’s good to be the co-writer.
Update: K. Hollenbacher (who also comments below) points out that the last paragraph above seems to imply that the town re-hired Jesse Stone only because they had no cops left, and in fact he's rehired because even his biggest enemy on the town council recognizes that he's the best person available to investigate the murder of his beloved son-in-law. And from the same source comes a complaint that my quick descriptions may leave an impression that the plots are simpler than they are. In fact, the stories are reasonably involved, especially given the limits of the running time, and there are hints supplied for the viewer to figure out more of what's really going on.
Update: For my reviews of the Jesse Stone novels, see this later post.
Here's the trailer for the first broadcast: