Law & Order: Los Angeles (LOLA for short) premiered with the episode “Hollywood” and it’s the same Law & Order…only….different. The formula is the same, the “doink doink: is the same. But let’s get this point out of the way right away: Los Angeles is not New York. Both cities have different cityscapes, different weather, and different light. New Yorkers are often described as being “real” people while Los Angeles is known more for its “fake’ and superficial people obsessed with appearance and cosmetic surgery. I did not expect to tune in to Law & Order: Los Angeles and see the same Law & Order that had been on the air for 20 years, I was going into it thinking there would be change and I should just accept it. The original Law & Order mothership had been ditched and like everything in Los Angeles, some felt the show needed a facelift. (I wasn’t one of those people; I loved the last two seasons of Law & Order). LOLA seems an attempt to breathe new life into a formula that viewers enjoyed over the years but that some thought had become tired and old.
The first obvious difference is the absence of the usual intro with Steve Zirnkilton, AKA “The Voice of Law & Order”. By now everyone expects any episode of any show in the Law & Order brand to open with it, but I have to admit that it has become so routine that I don’t even hear it anymore. I don’t think I will miss it. There isn't an opening theme that plays off the original, and no title cards with the pictures of the key players. The three second tune which plays between the end of the first segment and the first commercial break hardly counts as a theme. Intro music sometimes puts a stamp of personality on a series, and I think it will be missed at first. I understand that most shows are getting away from lengthy intro themes so they can spend the time earning money from commercials. I’m sure I will get over an absence of a Law & Order theme just made for LA. I am just grateful they didn't name the show Law & Order: RHD after the robbery-homicide division.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on critiquing the episode – it was OK and entertaining, despite being predictable. I was more focused on getting a good feel for the cast. My first reaction is that Alfred Molina and Corey Stoll were better than the rest. Molina seemed comfortably authoritative, and Stoll seems to light up the scenes with his personable approach. I laughed a bit when the photographer wanted to photograph Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) as if to highlight that he’s supposed to be the attractive one. Me? I would have rather photographed Corey as he has a much more expressive face. Skeet Ulrich seems too flat and bland for my tastes, with his monotone delivery of his lines. Again, this is only the first episode so I may feel more comfortable with his style as the show progresses. Regina Hall also seems to be going through the motions with her lines and there is no spark.
Los Angeles is a lot brighter than New York City, and the landscape more colorful. There are other crime shows set in LA ("The Closer" and "Southland" for examples), so I find the brightness and vibrancy of the scenes were nothing new. But the glossiness does seem to take the grittiness away, and the grittiness is what I love about the other Law & Orders filmed in New York (especially in the first few seasons). Again, I will get over it and I view it as a non-issue.
The bottom line is that Law & Order: Los Angeles is what I expected – the same show, the same format, just in a different place. This may help to keep fans of the original watching the new show, but is it enough to bring in new viewers, or viewers in the coveted 18-49 demographic? Only time, and a few more episodes, will tell.
Here is the recap:
Chelsea Sennett (Danielle Panabaker), and her mother Trudy (Shawnee Smith) are riding in their convertible and arrive at a nightclub to many paparazzi. Club owner Nick Manto (Oded Fehr) directs them to a table. Colin Blakely (Travis Van Winkle) is also there, but Colin’s girlfriend Miranda Clark is at home. Chelsea and Colin meet up at the club, but at home, Miranda hears a noise. When she runs to check it out, she is surprised by an intruder and is beaten.
The next day, Detective Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) arrives on the scene, Detective Tomas "TJ" Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) is already there, working the scene. TJ tells Rex to tell Casey he is sorry, it sounded like he woke the baby. Rex says the baby is cutting his first tooth and nobody sleeps. The blood on the scene belongs to Miranda Clark who is in the hospital with multiple cuts, bruises, concussion and a possible skull fractures. Her boyfriend Colin Blakely – the new “Shadow” - appears to have an alibi. There are 8 other similar crimes where the victims are high profile Hollywood, there was no forced entry and no prints. Rex asks where “The Shadow” is now and TJ tells him he’s at Kaiser; he insisted on riding in the ambulance. The burglars stole $3,000 in cash and what looks like 8 Rolexes, as evidenced by the 8 empty Rolex boxes. He also had a safe, which he didn’t use. Rex comments “Genius” and TJ quips, “Actor.”
Winters speak with Miranda in the hospital and she tells them about her attack. She tells them Colin was with someone else. TJ speaks with Colin who said he spend the night with a buddy ay his place. When TJ presses Colin for a name, he balks, then says he loves Miranda and admits he was with another woman who is also in the business, and denies cheating on Miranda.
TJ says Colin cheated on Miranda with Chelsea Sennett. They did E at the club and did coke back at her place. Rex says his daughter loves her and that 99% of girls would kill to be the illegal drinking, E-popping, club crawling Chelsea Sennett. TJ responds, “Ain’t America grand.” Rex says, “Not if you have a 12 year old daughter.”
The detectives question Chelsea with her mother present, and Winters takes her mother off to the side while TJ continues to question Chelsea. He tells her that they are tracking a burglary ring that up until now had only targeted empty houses. She looks at a sketch and she tells them to ask her friend Vicki as she had some stuff taken a few months ago.
At the Style One Salon, they speak with Vicki DeMille who tells them about her robbery, which she never reported. A one of a kind t-shirt was stolen, and she shows them a photo. It was worth about $2,000. The night it happened she was out with Chelsea.
Afterwards, TJ says there are probably 20 more Vicki’s out there who don’t know they’ve been ripped off. Rex says burglary is still burglary and Miranda is not Vicki. TJ asks how do you fence a $2,000 one of a kind t-shirt? Rex says first you have to find somebody willing to wear it. TJ thinks you’d wear it where it would be noticed and think the t-short needs its own Facebook page.
Later, Rex and TJ speak with a girl at a nightclub who was wearing the t-shirt who said it was from a 3 year old collection. She bought it from an Asian girl, Kai, who was at that place at Sunset Plaza and she had shopping bags full of clothes and she really wanted it.
They take her down to the division. TJ sees photos of Chelsea and Colin on the web. Winters ran some IDs and the girl in the stole t-shrt picked out Kai Ng. They wonder if Kai was also at the club at the same time as Chelsea and Colin so they decide to talk to the photographer who took the photo.
At X-Ray Photo, the photographer shows them the video he took and Kai is in it with another blond girl. He can’t ID the person in the sketch. Winters asks if they can give him a list of the other burglary victims to see if he can find them in his footage. When TJ returns later with some food, he shows them the videos her found. One video shows Vicki, Chelsea, and Kai. They also find Chelsea Sennett on the footage for February 10th, March 5th. It seems all 4 times Chelsea was with the burglary victim the night they were robbed. It’s a pattern.
Elsewhere, Sam is showing the stolen Rolexes to Manto and Manto lowballs an offer since the media is all over the case. Later, in a car, Kai (Jessica Lu), Tanya (Lauren Sweetser) and Sam (Wyatt Russell ) are in car talking over their situation and Kai wants to do one more job. The burglary team enters a house and Sam heads upstairs and sees a necklace lying on a table. He hears the floor creak and turns around. Outside, several two gunshots can be heard, and the two girls race from the house.
At the house, the detectives ask Chelsea’s mother if she’s ever seen the dead guy before; she hasn’t. She later recounts what happened that night which caused her to shoot him. She says she wasn’t supposed to be home that night. Chelsea, meanwhile, is speaking behind the gate of their house to the throngs of press about her mother’s bravery and TJ watches.
Later, back at RHD, DDA Evelyn Price (Regina Hall) meets the detectives and asks if they have a minute. She says Morales wants a copy of their report on the Sennett house shooting, and with all the press he does not want to let it hang. The detectives tell her that the rest of the crew is still out there and Chelsea Sennett is in too many right places for it to be a coincidence, that she may be part of the burglary crew. Price is shocked, commenting that Chelsea’s mom just shot one of burglars. TJ tells her mom wasn’t supposed to be home. Rex adds Chelsea had a necklace on loan for a magazine shoot and thinks she set up the crew up to steal it but mom got a migraine and got in the way. Rex says she is a neurotic star who got fired off her last two jobs and she pours through money like it is water. TJ says she is also single handedly supporting two agents, 3 publicists, and her mother. Price says she will tell Morales to stall the press while they take a hard look at Chelsea but be quick about it. Rex says they should talk to Chelsea’s ex, the one she threw her drink at, TJ commenting he’s the kid with the reality show.
Later, KK (John Patrick Amedori) is filming his reality show when the detectives arrive and show him the photos of the suspects and he says he took and acting class with the guy. He says Chelsea is the best.
At Jay Bickson Acting Studio, they speak with Bickson (Jim Piddock) who identifies the guy as Sam Masterson. They also find the photographer for Sam’s head shot was Maria Olson. TJ is amazed because Olson only shoots famous people. Winters wonders how a jobless kid paid for world class photography.
They speak with Maria Olson (Mira Furlan) who says Sam paid cash. She met the girl – Tanya Green – who was doing his makeup which was a disaster, Tanya’s friend was Asian and she identifies Kai form the photo. Olson asks to take Winter’s picture and he refuses. She tells them did the shoot for Sam at the SLS Hotel.
At the hotel, they find there is no information under the name of Sam Loomis, Sam Miller, or Sam Masterson. Chelsea has been banned for the hotel for two years as well as her mom for an “encounter” in an elevator. They later see the tapes, and Chelsea’s mother Trudy is in the elevator with Sam.
Later, at a press conference, DDA Morales (Alfred Molina) steps up to the podium for a press conference. He makes his statement that death is tragic in any form and the LA County District Attorney’s office, in conjunction with the LAPD, will conduct a full and comprehensive investigation into the shooting at the Sennett home and until that is complete the case will remain open. He is not considering any charges until the investigation is complete.
When Morales returns to his office, Rex and TJ are waiting to tell him that Trudy Sennett was sleeping with Sam Loomis and that Trudy lied about not knowing Sam, maybe to protect Chelsea. Morales thinks maybe she was distraught or she couldn’t see him in the half light. Or, maybe she didn’t look when they showed her the body. He wants to prosecute somebody for those burglaries, and tells them don’t look at him like he just stole their lunch money. Rex tells him that Sam’s father is coming in from Houston and they will see what they can get. Morales tell them to bring him some good news.
A City Center Motel, the detectives speak with Sam’s father Frank Loomis (Jim Beaver). He tells them that Sam called home every week and sent home money from a commercial her did. TJ tells Loomis he was never in a commercial. The only address he ever had was POP box in Hollywood and he also stayed with a friend Tanya Green, it was her grandmother’s place. Later, the detectives enter RHD with Tanya and Kai, they found them at grandma’s pool.
TJ questions Kai and Winters questions Tanya while Morales and Price watch. Tanya tells them that Nick Manto fences the stuff and it was Sam’s idea to rob Chelsea’s place. Morales tells Price to move up the food chain and get warrants for Manto’s home, car and the club.
Later, with Manto in for questioning, Morales shoves the bag of watches over to Manto that were taken from Colin Blakely’s house that were found in his desk. Morales reminds Manto’s lawyer, Mr. Corker (Bruce Katzman) that those watches make Manto an accomplice in the attempted murder of Miranda Clark which, along with the 9 burglaries, means Manto is facing 25+. Corker says that Manto can give Morales the real leader of the burglary crew, but he wants transactional immunity. Morales says, “No chance.” Manto asks Corker if he can give him a hypothetical, and Corker allows it, with no admissions. Morales says, “Wow me.” Manto tell him about a woman with money problems and a boy on the side with a plan to steal jewelry that she has on loan and refers him to others that are better targets. He would cut her in for half and use her daughter to keep the marks out of the home. Morales is surprised that Manto is selling him Trudy Sennett as the leader of the burglary ring. Corker reminds him they are still hypothetical. But Manto says Trudy played on Sam’s ego and when he realized she was using him, he threatened to tell Chelsea. Morales wants corroboration and Manto tells him to cheek the TMZ tip line. Later, the police are arresting Trudy, who says it is all a mistake.
Trudy is being questioned by Morales and Price, and they play her a recording of Sam Loomis implication Trudy on a tip line. Her lawyer (Michael O’Neill) says it all rests on the work of Nick Manto, and Trudy says Nick is her husband. He attorney says they re asserting spousal privilege.
Later, Prince and Morales speak again with Manto and he said they are separated and that Trudy was supposed to take care of it. Later, with Manto’s lawyer, they argue marital privilege with a judge. The judge says privilege can’t be used to hide a conspiracy and she agrees with Morales.
Later, Price and Morales question Chelsea and Chelsea says she will lie for her mother. Morales seems to cave in too easily and leaves the room, Price chasing after him. He tells Price he does not want to bully Chelsea into getting information as the jury will hate him. He says she won’t testify
At the Supreme Court Building, Chelsea and her mother arrive to paparazzi. Later, on the stand, Rex Winters says when they interviewed the defendants she claimed not to recognize the victim and he found that 9 months earlier she and the victim were filmed by a security camera making out in a hotel elevator. Morales brings out the stills from the video recording and hands them to the jury. Under cross examination, he implies that Trudy was in shock and that Trudy didn’t really look at the body.
With Nick Manto on the stand, he tells them Trudy got a cut from the robberies and that Trudy promised Sam a career but just strung him along. Under cross, he admits that he suggested the targets but denies he was the mastermind. He said it was all based on Trudy manipulating Chelsea to keep the marks away from home. He admits he is still attracted to Trudy but denies that he saw Trudy making out with Sam at her club, and the defense attorney makes it sound like Manto hated her. He adds that he lent Trudy $400K and she paid him back in 3 weeks.
Later, back at the DA’s office, Manto tells Morales and Price that Trudy was dipping in to Chelsea’s accounts and needed money to cover it. He doesn’t know where she got the cash to pay him pack, but Price finds there were three deposits from three into Trudy’s personal account totaling exactly $400K. Morales tells her to have Winters and TJ check back to find the sources.
At the home of K.K. Culllen, at 1529 Blue Jay Way, he says the $400K it was a producing fee but they know that is not true. He admits he paid her off because Trudy said she could get Chelsea to date him for 6 months but said Chelsea did not know.
At Superior Court, Trudy is on the stand testifying in her own defense. She denies Sam was part of a theft ring and didn’t realize Sam was the boy she was shot. She said she was concerned for Chelsea. Morales questions her about how she made Chelsea into a star but couldn’t do the same for Sam. She did not want to trade on Chelsea’s name. But Morales brings out how Trudy is taking advantage of Chelsea’s money and only benefits because of Chelsea. She denies exploiting her or getting money to have Chelsea have sex with a boy. Morales calls K.K. as a rebuttal witness and before he can do so, Trudy asks for a moment with her lawyer.
Later, she begs Morales not to do this and that K.K. has nothing to do with Sam. She says she loves her daughter. Morales says he will take second degree murder with 15 to life. When her lawyer says her deal with K.K. stays secret, Morales says he’ll tell the judge.
The judge later accepts her plea and sentences her to 15 to life and she is remanded. Chelsea is crestfallen and hugs her mother. Winters and TJ watch from behind, commenting that someone should tell her the truth, but she wouldn’t believe it. Winters looks back to see Chelsea standing alone, sobbing. When Chelsea exits, the paparazzi are waiting for her. Winters steps in and asks her if she needs someone to take her out the back. They step into an elevator and she looks back and as the cameras flash, the elevator door closes and we fade to black.
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