Monday, April 18, 2011

Making The Case For Law & Order LA


Fans of the original Law & Order (AKA “The Mothership”) should be very pleased with the recent reboot of Law & Order LA. It’s not just because Alana De La Garza has joined the cast, reprising her role as ADA Connie Rubirosa. It’s because Law & Order LA now has the feel of the original series, yet also has a new energy that helps viewers realize that they are not in New York anymore. It pays respect to the tried and true formula, yet it is clearly establishing its own identity.

The re-launch of Law & Order LA last week set the stage for cast changes. Detective Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) was killed in a drive by shooting, and DDA Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina) decides to leave the DA’s office and go back to being a detective. When this change was announced months ago, many scoffed at this move, but Alfred Molina is probably one of a only a handful of actors that could pull off the transition. Having an opportunity to screen the episode ”East Pasadena” (airing April 18 at 10 PM ET on NBC) it is clear to me that Molina as a detective is not only completely credible, it feels completely natural, as if Molina himself has experience as a detective. It’s reminiscent of how comfortable viewers felt with Jerry Orbach in the role of Lennie Briscoe, as if Jerry was made for that role. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect wry one-liners popping out of Ricardo Morales’s mouth, but I do expect that he will never be at a loss for words and will be frank and honest with his commentary. I won’t offer any spoilers for ”East Pasadena” but I will add that the episode gives an interesting glimpse into Ricardo Morales’ back story and also shows Molina’s tremendous acting range. He may be the man with the best chance to bring an Emmy to the Law & Order brand this season – yes, he’s that good.

The legal side of the series has shown tremendous improvement. The two female DDAs Price and Stanton (played by Regina Hall and Megan Boone) were jettisoned and Alana De La Garza was added to the cast. I am not sure if the roles of Price and Stanton were written badly, or the actors were a bad fit, or both, but this change brought life to the fictional Los Angeles prosecutor’s office. I now feel much more comfortable with Terrence Howard in his role as the lead DDA. As we’ll be seeing his character more, there will be a better opportunity to give the character of Joe Dekker more depth.

Fans of the Law & Order brand should also remember the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I sometimes receive emails from fans who say they won’t watch Law & Order LA for various reasons: it’s not the mothership; they only watch SVU for Benson and Stabler; they only like Vincent D’Onofrio on Criminal Intent, etc. But fans need to look at the big picture – good ratings for Law & Order LA may help raise the value of the overall brand, and possibly with it, the viewer’s favorite show in the brand as well. Law & Order CI is coming back for a final season, but who is to say that it would be the last if ratings are stellar? If Law & Order LA is successful, this may help solidify Law & Order SVU for many more years to come. I encourage fans of their respective Law & Order shows to watch Law & Order LA and to give the show a chance, and to support ALL the shows in the brand. (By the way, the only incentive for me to say this is that I enjoy all the shows and would hate to see any of them disappear forever.)

After watching three episodes of the retooled Law & Order LA, I can now say that this is the Law & Order LA that I originally expected. It has a great cast, the writing is crisp and tight, the cameras capture the feel not only of the scene but of the city as well. Please tune in and give the show a look. It will be time well spent.





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Also, see my companion Law & Order site,These Are Their Stories.

23 comments:

k2 pop said...

Beautifully written. I completely agree with you. I watch Law and order LA since its completely different from all the law and orders--and the reboot just proved its value---I would continiue watching and just hope the ratings will get higher...

Esaul said...

Sorry those two deleted comments are mine. It didn't post correctly.

This is how I see it. Whether NBC wants to admit it or not, they owe everything to Dick Wolf. SVU remains one of their highest rated scripted dramas on their network, which says quite a bit. It will be going on for a thirteenth season, which means the longer this show goes on, the closer it gets to being cancelled by the network, it is inevitable. Any year now, we will be seeing goodbye to this show, it's just a matter of when. And I hate to say that, I really do. NBC didn't hesitate to cancel the mothership after all that show did for the network by itself. I cannot count how many times they've filled that, or another branch of the show as replacement for a failed show, or as a repeat. And yet, they had the nerve to cancel the show that started it all? I'm sorry but that's inexcusable. And they will not hesitate to cancel SVU either, when the time comes. Wolf sadly won't be able to negotiate with them. As I see it, we're lucky we're even getting a last season of Criminal Intent too. With the way fans abandoned the show when VDO left, ratings dropped rather sharply. How can someone expect a show to survive something like that? This goes against Wolf's belief, and this was his mistake when he created both Criminal Intent and SVU. The mothership was always about the cases first, characters second. SVU did well with that to begin with, but then as of recently we've been seeing less of the other characters, more of Olivia and Elliot, and what has come out as E/O shippers. I don't mind that they are out there, that's unavoidable, but to have the showrunner tease them? I'm sorry, but that doesn't go well with what Wolf intended. And I'm not dissing VDO either when I am making that remark either. VDO is a classy actor, one of my favorites on television. But there are times I feel they focus too much on him, and not enough on the cases, where fans are devoted too much into one character, and when they left, so did they. The original would not have lasted as long if people got attached to a certain character and left when they did. Sure, that was also unavoidable with the great Jerry Orbach, I don't blame anyone at all. In ways, he made the show. But at the same time, the show would not have lasted as long as it did. This is why we have the CSI franchise out there, because of Dick Wolf.

(it continues. I'm sorry.)

Esaul said...

My point with this is rather simple. With mothership gone, it is the end of a television era. It's plain and simple. And this is coming from someone who watches a lot of television, and various of other shows. I watch Criminal Minds, Bones, NCIS, House, etc. I've seen most of the scripted drama on television, each great for one reason or another, either the characters, writing, or even the actors. The way I see it though, none come even remotely close to having what the mothership had. The show had a blend of all three of those elements, not many shows these days do, for me anyway. I can sit down at three, four o'clock in the afternoon and watch a rerun of L&O, one that I may not have seen before, hell, I will even watch an episode I might've seen a hundred times over, and I will still enjoy it. I find that sometimes, I might not even remember what happens correctly. Just the other day, I was trying to find something to watch, I turned on my television and I saw that I was already half an hour into an episode of L&O. I rewinded it a bit too far, where it was the last five, ten minutes of a previous episode. Myself, and my brother just allowed it to play from there. McCoy was making a case about an African American who had killed a cop because he felt that he was being racist toward him. I don't recall ever seeing this episode before, but I was still captivated regardless. Just the way Sam Waterston presented himself, I was in awe, without truly having a clue what was going on. My brother, who isn't an avid fan of the shows I watched, he too was captivated by him, even though he won't admit it. That will never happen again. The only person to have come close to that was Thoms Gibson of Criminal Minds. However, to be fair, that was just in a single episode. I can guarantee that I can jump into an episode, with five, ten minutes left and get the same feeling I had with Waterston. With that gone, and CI soon to be cancelled, television will never be the same again. Shows will try, but they won't last twenty years like the mothership did.

Esaul said...

(sorry again...)

This all ties in with the new show, Law & Order: Los Angeles. There was a misconception about where people thought that Wolf made a deal that he could have LOLA if the mothership was cancelled. That was never the case. LOLA was planned long before NBC decided to cancel the show. That alone created an unfair hatred for the show. Then some people dismissed it right away after giving it one episode, because it isn't New York City. Sure, NYC is a character within itself, but there's so much you can do for one city. You have SVU, CI, and the Motership that took place there. If you want, we can take it two steps further and state that it also had Conviction and Trial By Jury too. Five shows in one city, NYC has been done, and done extremely well before. I think the change of scenery was needed. My next point is, why can't Los Angeles be a character too, like NYC was? Also, a lot of people tuned into the show for Skeet Ulrich, which goes back to my point of the show is about the cases over the characters. When I first started watching it, I honestly could not see why people liked him so much. He wasn't an awful actor, just terrible for his character and it felt he didn't belong in the show at all. And now that he's gone, people are jumping ship, like they did when VDO left CI, despite that the show is actually A LOT better now than it was the first time around.

My point is, I agree with AllThings with her statement. LOLA needs viewers if we want any hope of SVU (and potentially CI) to survive. Without the viewers, the franchise doesn't stand a chance to last another five, let alone ten years. There are people who are saying that LOLA won't make it to a season two, either because of Ulrich being gone, or because of the ratings.I would like to prove them wrong. I would like LOLA to spark life back into the franchise, which it desperately needs. I may not have had a screening of LOLA, but just by watching the first episode back, I think that alone will get Molina an Emmy nomination. Realistically will he win it? I'm not sure as of yet. Honestly, I would like to see someone from NCIS get an Emmy nomination and a win, but those chances are pretty slim as well. I would like Molina to take the win. But he alone cannot save LOLA or the franchise, despite how great of an actor he is. Only viewers can. Without the viewers, the franchise will be as good as gone, and as I said, television will never be the same again.

Nantz said...

Esaul, you make a lot of valid points, however, you're not telling the whole story in regards to CI. It wasn't just Vincent D'Onofrio that left the show; it also saw the exits of Kathryn Erbe (Eames) and Eric Bogosian (Captain Ross. Three MAIN characters all gone at the same time. It seems as if LOLA is going through that transition right now. Just too much to expect the viewers of CI to except that the heart of the show was gone. And, after 9 years on the show, their last episodes were not satisfying in the least as to being a proper "farewell". The comment about the focus being on Vincent's character? That's a matter of CI being on the USA Network whose motto is "characters welcome" and no fault of Vincent's as an actor. And what of it? His Goren is done so well that one can't help but become engrossed in its portrayal. I tried to watch CI after they left, but couldn't get into it. The damage was done. I do watch LOLA and SVU so I do "support the franchise". I predict the ratings for Season 10 of CI will be record-breaking and that there will be an 11th. Give the people what they want.

Esaul said...

I'm not saying that in a negative way about Goren. And I did mean to include the other two as well, I didn't mean to exclude them in any way. That was my mistake. I'm not criticizing Goren (or Vincent D'Onofrio for that matter). I enjoyed the story behind him and his character. He's done a great job of it. But actors move on, and it was at the same time VDO's decision to move on, I can't speak for the other two. And once VDO (and the others that followed him) left, and they got new characters, people gave it a shot, yes, but then they jumped ship. The shows were meant to be about the cases as much as the characters, even so more than it has been. That way, a show can continue on with the revolving door aspect of characters. VDO returned for the 10th season as a favor to Dick Wolf, part of the reason why we're getting a last chance with the show.

Like, my next point is: What will happen when the time comes where Mariska and/or Christopher opt not to come back to the show? Will the show move on, like it should? And if it does, will Fin and Munch get more of a roll, or will one or two other actors come in and fill the void? Follow up question. If that does happen, will the show still be good without Elliot and Olivia, how much viewership will the show lose as a result? Their contracts come at a hefty price. There is only so much NBC can (and is willing) pay their actors. There are other shows that they need to be concerned about. And right now, as it stands, House is also in trouble, 'cause Fox and NBCU cannot come up with an agreement. And if they can't, the thought is NBCU will sell it to NBC, and Hugh Laurie too comes at a hefty price. And it's not like they can keep all three stars if that happens.

Nantz said...

Goren is modeled after a cross of "Sherlock Holmes", "Columbo" and others. So, in a way it is about the character. CI is all about the "psychology" of the killer whose crimes are solved by the "know-it-all" intellect of Bobby Goren. I wasn't pointing a finger at you as to any negativity towards Vincent, let's make that clear. And, I will never believe Vincent decided to leave. I don't know if he came back as a "favor to Dick Wolf" but moreso as a favor to the fans. Not to mention, steady job and paycheck. Excellent points about SVU! It's becoming more of a soap opera with El and Liv and tantalizing the shippers. Myself? I would dearly love to see more of Fin and Munch. Richard Belzer is under-utilized on that show and is brilliant, in my opinion. Ice-T too. I would keep watching just to see those two.

Esaul said...

Oh I know, I was correcting a mistake I made in my initial post when I only included VDO. He did a recent interview on the Morning Joe pertaining to a movie he was doing, and the talk went to CI. He did state how he was doing it as a favor for Wolf in particular, because Wolf was always supportive of him and everything. And Wolf was also told that he couldn't do a season 10 of CI without VDO anyway by USA. I agree that CI was about his way of solving the cases, but they also wanted to see if they could continue the show without him, which clearly proved that they couldn't. I was one of those people who tried Goldblum out, and I will admit, I am guilty for jumping ship too, but I did that more of as an accident, 'cause I watch a lot of other television shows, and with Goldblum on, it wasn't taking that high of a priority. And I will be honest again, I originally could not stand Goren OR Vincent D'Onofrio. I only watched CI originally for Chris Noth. Then, one week I made a mistake, thinking it was a Noth episode, turned out it was a Goren one, there was nothing else on tv, so I watched, and I got hooked to both his acting and the character. Now I'm a huge fan of VDO. On a quick side note, if you haven't seen Happy Accidents, I recommend watching it. Great acting by him. xD

SVU has been doing a bit better this season, in regards to Fin. We've been seeing more of him lately, which is great, working with either Elliot or Liv. I do agree that Munch is under-utilized and he has mentioned that he wants to be on the show more. I think they also owe Belzer a lot more than what he's getting. He's been his character for so many years, on numerous other shows. With Baer leaving, let's hope the soap opera ends. Mariska has already stated that she doesn't want them to hook up, or something along those lines. And Elliot wouldn't leave his wife either, not after them reconciling and having another kid.

Nantz said...

Well, I have a blog for Vincent D'Onofrio so I know all about his movies, but thank you just the same for mentioning it. I think the quote from "Morning Joe" was "when Dick Wolf asks you to do something; you do it", LOL. I came from the mothership first and all the other shows I watched followed, CI being the last. I always liked Chris Noth too. Richard Belzer's story in real life is remarkable. He was just 18 years old when his mother died and 22 when his father committed suicide. He is also a cancer survivor. I implore the show to use him more. I would recommend you watch Vincent in "The Whole Wide World", the true story of Robert E. Howard, creator of "Conan the Barbarian".

Esaul said...

Ah. I could've misheard the quote. I shall take a look at it.

3644e104-69ea-11e0-8034-000bcdcb2996 said...

Agree 100%. I like LOLA a lot. The Morales character is the hispanic equivalent to Det Briscoe. And your "big picture" point is noteworthy- CI is my favorite and want it to come back for more seasons. Any success LOLA achieves has to help out all the Laws...Jim, Columbus, OH

talonvaki said...

I was stunned - STUNNED - at how improved LOLA is! I was chuckling to myself about LOLA as a native Northern Californian, because LO:UK was getting better buzz than LOLA - but now, I think LOLA can hold its own.

I wish we could get Law & Order series in other cities, like Chicago, or Boston, cities that don't get a lot of attention.

But my biggest question is, will John Munch travel to LA, or will Morales and TJ follow a sex case to NYC, so that Munch can add another show to his list and solidify his record?

Esaul said...

Honestly, it is possible that they can do a cross over onto LOLA or onto SVU. However, the problem being, which goes back to why we haven't seen so many cross overs in the later years of the shows in the franchise, is that the special appearance by the actor from one show, like Munch on SVU will have to get paid in full for his appearance in LOLA, or Morales or Howard will get paid in full for being on SVU. Even if it's just for three seconds, they still get paid.

gahks said...

Oh god, All Things, I am really really on your side and really really rooting for this show now that it's hugely improved, but as of 19th April, the ratings have slid even further to 4.91m. Things are looking bleak for Balcer et al. ...

I just wish NBC hadn't moved the show to Mondays at 10pm. That slot effectively killed the mothership last season. Why can't the schedulers put "SVU" back to Tuesdays at 10 and "LOLA" to Wednesdays at 10, where both belong? For goodness' sake...

Sirius said...

You can't fluff up a concrete brick as if it was a pillow, no matter how much money you put into advertising.

All Things Law and Order said...

gahks, yes I saw the ratings and it will certainly be an uphill battle for LOLA as long as it has weak shows like "Chuck" and the nearly deceased "The Event" as lead ins...

cbsplaysdirty said...

I think Molina would have been more likely to get an Emmy nom as the attorney, not the cop. He looks awkward and elephantine on screen chasing the perps. He is overshadowing Stoll on screen and what worked in the chemistry between TJ and Winters was that they played off each other and no one stood out on screen. There was BALANCE. It is fine for a lone prosecutor to chew up the scenery, but not a cop.

I disagree with the new incarnation being better. Maybe the writing and the choice of cases, but the lawyer to cop aspect is just awful and the interactions between all the characters is muddled due to Morales backstory. His conversations with Ticotin's character and Howard's is just odd because he used to be on par with them, now as a cop, he really shouldn't be, but his dialog and demeanor with them does not reflect his new demotion.

The ratings are a testimonial. People don't want to watch him waddle around on screen. He should be standing behind desks and moving his arms at the most.

Esaul said...

LOLA is getting renewed, despite the ratings from last night. NBC knows several things. 1.) The show had strong ratings when it was on Wednesday night. 2.) As AllThings stated, LOLA doesn't exactly have the best lead in. 3.) NBC wouldn't have given Wolf the chance to retool the show, just to have it get cancelled.

xfool said...

cbsplaysdirty, you seem to be making the rounds here and are badmouthing the show every chance you get. We get it, you don't like it. Why are you wasting your time, then, at a site that supports the show? Sounds like you have an ax to grind.

The ratings were bad because Monday night after two shows that have been tanking in the ratings for months is no place for a new Law & Order. NBC is foolish to keep it there but I think that the show will likely move to a better night and time next season. And yes I think there will be another season and I'm looking forward to it.

cbsplaysdirty said...

I'm here to provide an alternate view -- although I do have an ax to grind. I invested more than a few hours of my life in the original version of LOLA and it wasn't that bad. I wanted to see some minor tweaks but think that the dramatic moves were almost all in the wrong direction. I assume that a few of the production staff/whatnot sometimes pop in here, and if they stumble across one of my comments, maybe they will appreciate honesty instead of blind, optimistic, sugar-coated rose-colored glasses viewed opinions that could pass for free promotion for the show.

My opinions are all truthful and considering my comments are probably more representative of the majority of viewers and not people who are just happy to have Alana back, I think it is worth posting. My views are just as valid as anyone else's. And if Esaul is right and they do renew this sinking ship, they may want insight from the viewers who left after the 'retooling'.

I'm sorry if I didn't get the 'suck it up and love what we give you' memo.

Who knows, maybe NBC deliberately put LOLA in its timeslot to kill it because there are too many high salaries? Howard and Molina?

Esaul said...

Yes. You have the right to your own opinion, as does everyone else. Just because you have an opinion though, that doesn't mean it makes it fact. And that doesn't mean the majority of the viewership dislike the retooling either. A lot of people in truth left because of Ulrich leaving, not because of the retooling. Ulrich wasn't the only thing that changed, nor was the addition of Alana. The cases/storyline changed. What you say, once again is nothing more than a mere opinion. And if NBC wanted to cancel the show, they wouldn't have given Wolf the chance to retool. So that kinda thrwarts your little conspiracy, don't it? I doubt Alfred and Terrance are getting as much as you think. Hell, if NBC really wanted to be a penny pincher, they'd get rid of Meloni and/or Hargitay.

All Things Law and Order said...

cbsplaysdirty, if you think this was a " 'suck it up and love what we give you' memo" then I think you missed the point.

I believe the show deserves a chance. I was very critical of the series when it started. Many of the issues I had and/or that other fans/ critics had are being addressed and I see great improvement. I think the show can be a success but, like any new show, sometimes it needs fans to believe in it and give it time. I have hopes that some fans of the other L&O brand series would give it a try, if not to bolster the perceived value of their own favorite show in the brand. I'm not demanding that people watch, just giving them some reasons as to why they should.

Seeing is that you clearly don't like what is going on with the show, I am not sure why you are even wasting your time to repeatedly voice an alternate view. It doesn't seem to be constructive. Go back and read some of my earlier reviews on LOLA and you'll see that nothing here is ever sugar coated, and people who come here can count on me to give an honest assessment of each episode, either good or bad. And my honest answer is so far, I really like what I see with LOLA>

nygma619 said...

"My opinions are all truthful and considering my comments are probably more representative of the majority of viewers and not people who are just happy to have Alana back, I think it is worth posting."

Ratings don't automatically mean a rise or dip in quality. If they were reality tv shows would be plummeting.

"My views are just as valid as anyone else's. And if Esaul is right and they do renew this sinking ship, they may want insight from the viewers who left after the 'retooling'."

Why would they? Some viewers can be fickle, and sometimes don't really know what they want. Just because they might want something doesn't mean it's good or bad for the show.

"I'm sorry if I didn't get the 'suck it up and love what we give you' memo.

Who knows, maybe NBC deliberately put LOLA in its timeslot to kill it because there are too many high salaries? Howard and Molina?"

Show us anything that proves Howard or Molina are getting higher salaries just because they're bigger names compared to the rest of the cast?

I agree with everyone else on Monday being a lousy place for Law and Order LA. It should be on Tuesday or Wednesday, especially when Monday Night Football comes back in the fall, we know it (or anything else on NBC) won't stand a chance.