Monday, October 18, 2010

What's Wrong with LOLA?

I've been a die-hard Law & Order fan from the beginning. Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and even the short-lived Law & Order: Trial By Jury - I've watched them all. In fact, my weekend ritual involves laying in bed and watching an episode or two of L&O (or whatever variation) before getting out of bed. You can almost always find an episode of L&O on some channel, just about all of the time.

I guess because I do see so much L&O that I find the latest version, Law & Order: Los Angeles, so disconcerting. I have been watching it, but to be honest, I'm not really connecting with it. As I thought about it, there are several reasons.

Los Angeles ain't New York. NYC has a character all its own. In fact, the city was a character in L&O, CI and SVU. It provided more than a location. It created its own ambiance, its own mood. Los Angeles just doesn't have the same kind of character. To me, it feels off.

It could be that LOLA, and Los Angeles in general, are just too damn bright. I have to squint just watching it! Maybe part of the New York appeal is that the city itself is just darker, literally and figuratively, and it lends itself effortlessly to a crime drama. Los Angeles is just too sunny!

Then there are the actors. Skeet Ulrich falls in line as an L&O detective, but his partner? Played by actor Corey Stoll, he's got the Kojack head and the Magnum P.I. stache. His whole persona is distracting to me. I know it takes a while for a partnership to gel (and I'm giving this one time) but I miss the legendary banter of Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Greene (Jesse L. Martin), or even Bernard (Anthony Anderson) and Lupo (Jermey Sisto) which had hit its stride when the flagship series was yanked last year.

And no one on the Law side: Regina Hall, Alfred Molina or Terrence Howard is really working for me either. None have the world-weariness of a Jack McCoy (Sam Waterson) or the tenacity of a Michael Cutter (Linus Roache).

The stories they have chosen to tell while still 'ripped from the headlines' from the Manson-inspired cult killing to the ring of thieves ripping of a bunch of celebutantes just haven't resonated with me. I think they are trying too hard to be Hollywood stories when they need to just be good crime stories.

Lastly, the hallmarks of a Law & Order opening are gone. There is no voiceover telling me that "In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories." Or something similar in the cases of CI, SVU and Trial by Jury. There is no theme song. There is no 'dum-dum' between acts. It seems as if LOLA is a Law & Order show that doesn't want to be a Law & Order show and for me that is not a good thing.

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