Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Law & Order SVU “Wonderland Story” Advance Photos

Here are advance photos for Law & Order SVU “Wonderland Story” which will air on October 16, 2013 at 9PM ET on NBC. The photos feature Mariska Hargitay, Dann Florek, Richard Belzer, Ice-T, Dean Winters, and Sofia Vassilieva (as Sarah Walsh).

My recap and review of Law & Order SVU "Wonderland Story" can be found at this link.

Photos by: Michael Parmelee/NBC © NBC Universal, Inc.

Check out my blog home page for the latest Law & Order information, on All Things Law And Order.

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


Jess said...

I'm so sad that Munch is retiring, but these are beautiful photos.

BensonFan said...

I had no idea Richard was leaving the show. I did a Google search "Richard Belzer Leaving SVU" and nothing came up!

It won't be the same with him.

Jess said...

In my head, Munch retires, but Richard Belzer still appears somehow. Here's to dreaming!

Cardinal said...

Belz is leaving, but I have it via an extremely reliable source that *why* he's leaving is a mystery. There is certainly some intrigue involved, and a *lot* more to this than meets the eye. I wish I could elaborate, but I can't.

These are beautiful pics, but the entire situation is extremely upsetting because the circumstances aren't as they may appear.

While I know that Belz has a terrific writing career and he has other projects (his show CONVERSATION on the INT Channel via You Tube, etc), I've been a fan of his since 1978. I loved his work on "Homicide" and he brought a large audience of his fans over to SVU -- which was instrumental in making it a success very early on, when it seriously needed to post good ratings to survive.

When you consider how diminished his role had been in some seasons (i.e. when Adam Beach joined the cast), and how when he was again given his due among the rest of the cast the ratings improved, I'm very sad to see his character retire. As much as I love the current cast, I'm seriously debating how much I'll watch SVU in the future simply because the show isn't the same without Belz.

And I'll come clean: A few close friends knew I was writing an SVU spec script for Belz, which I gave to him on his birthday this year. He was thrilled to receive it. "Culpability Inferred" is now just a 'calling card' (which I might put up on my Google Drive account for fellow Belz fans to read), although it was specifically written in an effort to grant a wish Richard had: to "commit his love for his wife to celluloid." It was written to feature Belz's wife, Harlee McBride, and would have smoothed the way for John Munch to retire at any point he wished, spending the rest of his life in the South of France with the woman he truly adores.

As for those who have searched for news on his departure, I have also seen nothing despite sending up a smoke signal to TMZ, E! Online and Page Six. I have also asked both NBC and Wolf Films to elaborate on why Belz is leaving, but their silence is deafening. This backs up what my confidential source has said about mystery and intrigue; indeed there MUST be more than meets the eye, as they have said.

Dann Florek has also been missing from some sets of promo pics, and from some episodes, which leads me to wonder if he'll be gone next. It's also quite curious to me that Mariska used to sign for two seasons at a time, but she's only signed for the current season.

What is NBC and WF not telling us?

Ima Feman said...

With regard to Mariska only signing a one year contract, SVU did not have good ratings last year and probably barely managed a renewal. I think Warren Leight has said in interviews that they didn't know right up until the end whether they were getting another season and he wrote the finale the way he did daring them to not renew and end the show that way. It, therefore, makes sense to me that the network sees SVU as a show on it's last legs and they aren't going to be handing out multiple year contracts. Also, I don't know anything about what kind of contract Dann Florek or Belz have. Do they have a one year deal like Mariska where they get paid a set amount no matter what? They are seres regulars so I assume they would. If for some reason they don't though, I wouldn't be surprised if SVU's budget has been cut and I could see them using actors less to try and save money. Now if SVU pulls the kind of ratings it did in the premiere the rest of the season, they'll be good to go and should be an easy renewal. But, I'm not so confident about that. The premiere was very unique. We'll see how well Episode 3 did.

Cardinal said...

Ima, as the saying goes, you speak truth to power, and eloquently at that.

I do know Belz has been paid per ep for several seasons, as has Ice -- and probably Dann. I'm not sure if perhaps Ice is paid per season at this point, but Belz has always been paid per ep as far as I know.

I have the HIGHEST respect and admiration for Warren Leight. The man is not only a Tony Award winner, he is one of the most gracious, generous, and literally brilliant showrunners working in the industry today. He did a successful revitalization of the series when it could have easily been canceled because of Neal Baer's soap opera treatment of the SVU for far, far too long.

I was thrilled that Warren went "balls to the wall" last season and gave us all a cliffhanger with a genuine sense of danger for Benson. He's also EXTREMELY pro-fan as we know; he spends a great deal of his free time on social media, is extremely approachable, and treats fanfic writers with an incredible level of respect when they show a genuine desire to write for him.

I do know that at one point -- forgive me if I'm wrong about the timeframe -- NBC basically told Wolf he needed to contribute half the money for SVU production costs or the show would be canceled. It's an expensive show to produce because the production values are so high; it's a "movie quality" show and you can see that in every ep.

When I was working on my spec script, "Culpability Inferred," staff writer Peter Blauner (another amazing writer who was gracious enough to give me sage advice) said it was important not to use a lot of exteriors, to keep production costs down. I was able to limit exteriors in my spec to two scenes. I wrote to use interiors that had already been used or could have easily been converted to a different set.

Wolf has deep pockets; he can certainly afford to pay his share to keep the show on the air, should it come down to that again. He does have a home in Bal Harbor, however, an exclusive enclave on Long Island, so I'm sure he'll fight to squeeze every penny until Lincoln screams, in an effort to get NBC to pay as much as possible.

For last season and this one, Wolf needs to be VERY grateful to Warren Leight and Mariska, especially. I hope he has enough grace to show it.

This season, Warren and Julie (Martin) are experimenting once more with a story arc that extends across the entire season; yet allows all stories to stand alone. This was a very successful method for "Homicide: Life on the Street," from which Julie comes, so I'm hoping that's extremely successful for SVU. It gives the season a measure of continuity.

Ima Feman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ima Feman said...

Cardinal, you have some really great information and insight into SVU. I'm happy to be on the receiving end of it as I know nothing about contracts or past politics between Wolf and NBC. I actually didn't really become aware of the online SVU world until the 14th season finale. That cliffhanger was the match that started the fire, and here I am.

I share your admiration for Warren Leight for all of the reasons that you listed. I wasn't sure I'd still watch the show after CM left. I mean I was more invested in Olivia than anyone else, but that chemistry and dynamic made the show for me for such a long time that I didn't know how a show without it would manage to hold my attention. Needless to say WL has done a pretty good job of it so far. I certainly haven't loved every episode, the Mike Tyson episode comes to mind as one that I was not impressed with - more for casting than anything else, though. Still, taking risks and writing an edgier drama has, as you said, revitalized the show.

Without a doubt the most impressive thing WL has done to date is a combination of the season 14 finale and the season 15 premiere. There's so much that I could say on the subject and I don't think my exposition on it is necessary because you certainly know how brilliant a move it was. My question is, after having just seen the ratings for last night's episode, how do they keep that momentum going? Their ratings fell significantly. I think everyone expected they would fall to some extent, but the premiere proves that there is an audience out there that can still be reached with the right story. I still wish they had spent the whole two hours on the kidnapping, I think people would've tuned back in this week to see where Liv was at and how she was doing if she was rescued at the end of the 2nd hour of the season premiere. That said, it delays the inevitable problem of what happens when all of the high drama runs out and you go back to the every day cases? You mention the story arc they're experimenting with this season, I assume you're referring to Liv's recovery, and I think that is a really smart thing to do on their part. The continuity throughout the season is something I'm looking forward to. If I were a writer at SVU, I'd be looking for ways to keep going back to the well that is the season 15 premiere and William Lewis. I realize that's going to be hard to do. SVU is an ensemble show about the cases. There's a fine line to walk there between featuring cases, the rest of the cast and what's going on with Liv, but people obviously reacted strongly to the premiere and I think for the sake of ratings, SVU has got to find a way to keep the drama of the premiere alive to some extent.

As much as SVUs ratings dropped, Revolution and Ironside are not setting the world on fire so SVU is NBC's top Wednesday show. That alone might lead to a renewal. I'd still like to see SVU climb back up a little bit to better the chances. And if the show is finding ways to cut costs by using actors less, etc... maybe that will help the case for renewal. I hate to say it, but if they were going to choose to retire someone, I wish they would've had the Captain retire. I like the Captain and I like Dann Florek, but I'd rather keep Munch. He's such a bright spot on the show and Munch's reaction shot when Liv was walking out of the squad room at the end of episode one really got to me. Belz was right on with that one. He's just great. I really am going to be sad to see him go.

On a completely unrelated note, I think I've seen a Cardinal on twitter. Is that you? I'm always looking for intelligent, thoughtful people who talk SVU.

Cardinal said...

I'm pretty sure I'm the person whose tweets you've seen, Ima. Nice to meet you! :)

I wish Belz was still on SVU, too. A lot of us have thoroughly discussed that reaction shot of Munch, as Benson walks from the bullpen. It was masterful; too many people don't (or won't) give credit to Richard's acting ability, which is a shame because he's a damn fine actor as a lot of people saw when he was on "Homicide." I predict his absence will be keenly felt as the season progresses.

Your question for Warren, basically, "Where do you go from here?" Is one I've asked him (and Julie Martin) directly, but I think he took it as rhetorical -- and it was not. I asked him what he planned to do for November sweeps, since that HAS to be on his mind as showrunner. SVU has got to find a way to maintain the momentum it initiated with the premiere ep, but as we've seen, there was a sharp decline afterward.

Like you, I had hoped in many ways the entire two hours would focus on Benson's having been abducted by William Lewis. Mariska and Pablo were utterly fantastic; selfishly, I wanted to see MORE!

I think the high drama may have run its course, the reason being is because we're seeing mash-ups of several public cases that haven't really been effective in maintaining the viewers' interest in the show. Case in point: American Tragedy. Too many elements, I feel the writing became diluted from trying to do TOO much all in one ep, and sometimes the acting does suffer for it. (Cybil's wandering, on/of accent for one. The script supervisor should have caught that.)

I'm not sure what Warren will do to keep things moving forward in a way that can maintain high ratings. Looking at it from a showrunner's perspective (which I do, because I'm working on writing a unique show of my own), it's good he's open to new writing talent with new eyes looking at what can only be the same variations on sex crimes, but you also have to take those scripts and mentor them carefully to fulfill their effectiveness. This wasn't done with "American Tragedy," but I hope it will be done with other s15 scripts as it should be.

Yes, I was referring to Liv's recovery when I mentioned the arc approach, and I think you're absolutely right in that they NEED to go back from time to time and reference her terror at the hands of Lewis. However, there is a fine balance to maintain in doing that, because they cannot over-use it or it becomes a 'writerly device,' a crutch.

And Warren HAS to remain true to making Liv's recovery as realistic as possible. I'm already hearing fans' complain that he has Liv and Brian in a sexual scenario FAR too quickly for someone who has been assaulted as she was. And I tend to agree, because I've been sexually assaulted before and it takes time before sex returns to a relationship after that takes place.

When fans busted him on that, his immediate response was, "Well, it's just a show." NO. You CANNOT have it both ways -- either be true to the material or don't do it at all! I love Warren as a showrunner and as a fine human being, but it's our responsibility as fans to keep him on the straight and narrow when it comes to such a sensitive subject as sexual assault.

For October, SVU is retiring John Munch. I still deeply wonder what they'll do for ratings during November sweeps. Perhaps that could be when we'll find out what Captain Cragen's fate will be -- since it still baffles me why Florek wasn't included in some of those promo pics.

Esaul said...

Side note: Cardinal you favorited my tweet about Richard Belzer to WolfFilms, thought I recognized your name :P

Ima Feman said...

Nice to meet you as well, Cardinal. I'll definitely be looking for you so I can follow on twitter. You are a wealth of information and knowledge on SVU and writing in general. In fact, it sounds like you are a professional which is incredibly impressive. People who can truly write amaze me. I know that's a skill I don't have, I wish I did, but I accept that I don't and instead enjoy the brilliance of others.

On to SVU, I think the next two episodes could be ok for as far as ratings go. Internal Affairs seems like it could be pretty good. It's promoted as a Cassidy-centric so we'll see how that plays with the audience. And then Wonderland Story I have high hopes for because of the focus Munch will get with his retirement and also the return of Sofia Vassilieva. I thought her character was incredibly sympathetic and relatable the first time around on SVU and I'm glad they are bringing her back.

After those eps, though, they'll be down a beloved character and I haven't heard anything about future episodes that intrigues me or leads me to believe that they are finding a way to keep the momentum from the premiere going. Certainly, as you said, November sweeps has to be something that is on their minds. Hopefully, they've come up with something that just hasn't been shared yet.

I share your concern about what Warren Leight is doing with Liv's recovery. I agree that it's too soon to be putting Liv back into a sexual scenario with Brian and it's unfortunate more people aren't willing to say so. Unfortunately, fans get into a couple on a show and sometimes a character or their story gets sacrificed. I hope that doesn't happen here, but it's a huge concern of mine and one reason I cringe when I see anything Liv/Brian related at this point. As I said, I have great respect and admiration for WL, and I applaud him for being so willing to interact with fans on twitter, but I also worry he might be getting caught up in trying to give the fans that he interacts with on a daily basis what they want and is losing track of the story he planned to tell. Only time will tell.

Agreed that they can't over use Liv's trauma from the premiere. But, I actually think they are underusing it or maybe misusing it. The flashbacks are very effective, how do we not see more of those? How have we not learned anything new about the time she spent with William Lewis? I think that's the biggest mistake they are making right there. If they didn't shoot anything else for flashbacks, then have her talk about what she went through in the therapy scenes. It really surprises me that they didn't foresee their audience wanting to know more about what Liv went through with Lewis. Watch I say all of this and then we'll start getting it in the next episode. I can only hope.

And if American Tragedy was a new writer, then yes they absolutely need to take a look at that and institute more supervision over those or something. That was definitely a weak script. Certainly not the episode you want to follow with after an incredibly successful premiere.

DewieTheBear said...

Cardinal, thanks for the scoop. I'm just astonished that there's still nothing coming up from Googling "Richard Belzer leaving SVU." He plays an iconic character who has been on television for over twenty years and holds a crossover appearance record. At the very least, NBC promoting the departure as a ratings ploy is to be expected, yet absolute silence out there.

Cardinal said...

Hi, everyone!

I hope this makes sense because I wasn't able to sleep last night (my hateful sinuses), so I'm kinda groggy/punchy. :)

Dewie, I've been searching as well to see if anyone has said anything about Belz leaving. Not. One. Word. Warren made a cryptic comment about Munch leaving the unit but not SVU -- or something rather close to that, via Twitter -- and I called him out on it. I asked him what, exactly does that mean? Especially since someone had tweeted, "I really miss John Munch," and Belz tweeted back, "So do I!" It's far too late for any kind of 'damage control,' if NBC or Wolf wanted to do any. It's also unfair to leave the showrunner to take the heat us fans. This is the kind of thing that falls into the mystery of Belz leaving, along with the intrigue -- both things my very reliable source told me.

Ima, I'm on Twitter as @glock35gal. I've been a professional writer for *many* years -- a writer for hire who writes anything and everything for any client who flashes some green in front of my eyes. ;) While I am *very* flattered that you find it impressive, it's not. I'm just like one of any thousands of writers who is trying to pay the bills. Seriously, I wouldn't recommend being a professional writer to anyone, because you never know where your next meal is coming from. That said, I *have* to write; to me it's as necessary as breathing. I got into SVU, then friends urged me to start writing fanfic.

These days, potential writers for TV are actually advised to write fanfic before attempting a spec script, because fans will tell you when you're writing people out of character or have the rhythm of the show completely wrong. It's a fine way to sharpen your skills and it's gaining legitimacy by leaps and bounds. (Amazon/Kindle Worlds is pushing that forward.)

I'm looking forward to the Cassidy-centric ep, because I love that character. He's matured in a lot of ways, which makes him even more appealing. And hey, Brian and Liv MIGHT have a shot at happiness as long as they don't kill him off! ;)

I'm hoping Wonderland Story will trend on Twitter, so we can all tweet Belz and give him one hell of a HUGE send off. I'm also glad they're bringing Sofia back.

Sweeps is coming though, and I really thought they'd air John's retirement then. I'm hoping this means Warren has something even stronger for November. It's harder these days, too, because sweeps seems to cover a longer period of time -- that means you seriously have to up your game consistently, instead of pinning your hopes on just one ep, as networks did in years past.

I also think in the next two eps, we pretty much HAVE to learn something more about Liv's time with Lewis. If we don't, that's a missed opportunity and one that won't knock twice. It cannot be swept under the rug for a few eps, then come back to as a plot device -- it has to be a very consistent part of Liv's life right now.

It's very fulfilling being able to come here and share thoughts with everyone. I'm going through a weird time right now, in that while I want very much to be able to keep watching SVU (because I love the cast and crew), it's going to be difficult for me to do so knowing that Munch is no longer on the show. And if Dann leaves, as the promo pics are implying, I think it will be too painful for me to watch.

This is one of the many reasons I place tremendous value on Chris' fine recaps and news, videos and pics. It will allow me to remain a fan without the deep ache of Munch's departure killing my love of SVU.