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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