« Can Professors Require Voting? | Home | Robot-on-the-Spot: The World Cheesecake Eating Championship »

September 23, 2004


Law & Order season premiere


Now that the new fall TV season has started, we can finally start writing about matters of substance, instead of all that stuff about political machinations and democracy. Last night, the new season of Law & Order started with a double-header of exactly the kind of episodes that make me like the old ones better--they focus so much on elaborate story and plot set-ups that there is no room left for clever investigative and courtroom techniques, last-minute switching of the main suspect, or surprise revelations in the DA office. Here are all the topical issues that last night's two episodes cover in their stories: the war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib prisoner torture, stress suffered by soldiers returning home from Iraq, the controversial designation of American citizens as enemy combatants, the trend of FDNY firefighters leaving their families and marrying 9/11 widows, the Staten Island ferry crash, and the dissolution of NY communities post-9/11. A lot to take on. These issue-heavy episodes detract from the show's strengths--the drama generated by the investigative and trial processes. I find that the more an episode deviates from the formula established in the handy Random Law & Order Plot Generator, the worse it is.

One hope for this new season is the introduction of Dennis Farina as Joe Fontana, the new detective replacing Jerry Orbach, the man who essentially WAS L&O for many of us recent but ardent fans. The show is not known for its delving into main characters' personal lives, so at this point all we know about Fontana is this: he wears expensive suits, and he drives an expensive car (which we learn in a funny scene in which Green and Van Buren are talking in a parking lot, while Fontana fusses with his flashy convertible as it works through an elaborate roof-closing process.) He also uses a number of snaky deceptions to get key witnesses and suspects to lower their guard. Perhaps some clashes around class between Green and Fontana will come later on, which is suggested by a scene in a bar in which Green is drinking a Bud Light, while Fontana drinks a martini.

I am a huge fan of Dennis Farina. If you've seen him in Snatch, Out of Sight, Sidewalks of New York, or Get Shorty, you know what I mean. Given his personal history as an ex-cop turned actor-who-often-plays-cops, I have high expectations for some masterful delivery of funny, wry dialogue. Maybe the writers are struggling to establish a new style after working with the Jerry Orbach trademark dry, smirking quip for so many years, but I don't think they're effectively using Farina's strengths as a comic actor. We'll see how this develops.

We also watched a few minutes of the new CSI: New York during L&O commercials. Note to writers: Gary Sinise can only stare into middle-space looking stern and haggard for so much of your pilot episode before viewers grow weary and decide they would rather watch commercials on NBC. However, we were pleased to note the return of the actress who played the doomed and pouty-lipped Clowdia on last season of 24. Hi Clowdia! We were also surprised to note that the many women on this show with big, cascading, curly, long hair never seem to pull it back from their faces, even when examining a delicate crime scene or learning over a decomposing dead body.

24-Related Note: Are you all aware that 24 is not starting until freaking JANUARY? What the hell are these people doing? Waiting for that wretched new Andy Richter vehicle Quintuplets to finally get cancelled? They can't be taking extra time to carefully craft each episode's story development, since they clearly only plan each season's story arc through about episode 6 anyway. So I guess Kiefer was just too busy stripping in New Zealand karaoke bars and canoodling with Reiko Aylesworth all summer to make it to the set. Come on people, back to work!

categories: TV
posted by amy at 10:22 AM | #

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: