|New cast, new city, old show.|
Or at least close enough to it to keep old fans happy.
Obviously, Dick Wolf's latest extension of the Law & Order franchise is not the same show as the much-loved, now-departed, New York original it replaces. How could it be? A new cast and a new set of characters inevitably lead to a new dynamic. And a new location, particularly one as different from New York as Los Angeles, opens up a fresh set of stories and attitudes.
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Even so, pretty much from the moment the show's two detectives —Skeet Ulrich's Rex Winters and Corey Stoll's TJ Jaruszalski — throw off a funny crack about actors at the scene of the show's first crime, you'll know you're back in the land New York's Law occupied for two decades. Where SVU and Criminal Intent spun off in their own slightly different directions, LA mostly clings fast to the bifurcated, plot-driven structure of the original.
There are two exceptions that require that "mostly." One is that we see far more of Winters' private life than was the New York norm, particularly in next week's case, which draws in his ex-cop wife (Teri Polo). The other is that the show splits its time in Criminal Intent fashion between two stars, centering on Alfred Molina's district attorney this week and Terrence Howard's next week.
In the early going, at least, Molina's DDA Morales is hard-charging and amusingly cynical, while Howard's DDA Dekker is more earnest and thoughtful, and their cases reflect those personality differences.
Morales tackles a troubled starlet and her money-sucking mom (and yes, you'll know who the characters are supposed to vaguely resemble). Dekker tries to bring justice to a woman who may have suffered at the hands of the justice system, an attempt that brings him in conflict with his boss, played by the show's other late-addition star, Peter Coyote.
Molina looks like he could be great fun, and Stoll is instantly, every-guy appealing in the same way the late, great Jerry Orbach was on the original. For now, Howard is a bit of a drag — his character comes across as preachy and dull — but it's possible those problems are a function of the case he's been handed, in case you're inclined to immediately write the character off.
No matter how many times the copsmention hot clubs and Hollywood stars, or how many visits they make to the beach, LA is not likely to be counted among TV's more glamorous series. If you want flash, look elsewhere. What you get from LA is a show that's as solid and reliable as a well-built sedan.
You know, the kind that keeps running for 20 years.