'Law & Order: Los Angeles,' Alana de la Garza, Terrence Howard fail to keep up with New York cops
|"Law & Order: Los Angeles" returns from rehab Monday night with a reshuffled deck that gives the show a new look and may or may not be able to overcome its basic problem.|
The original "Law & Order" was the quintessential New York show. It moved at a New York pace, with an almost "Dragnet"-like minimalism in scenes. Cops like Jerry Orbach and even most of the prosecutors talked like street guys.
Opening a branch of this show in L.A. is like trying to transplant Arthur Ave. or the Carnegie Deli to 90210. Almost impossible. Different culture, different attitude. It doesn't feel like a fit.
When "LOLA" premiered in the fall, ratings were okay, not great. So NBC and creator Dick Wolf decided to try a makeover, which is where the show has been for the last couple of months.
Viewers get to see that new look tonight when it returns with back-to-back new episodes. How they like it may depend on how much they liked Skeet Ulrich.
His detective character, Rex Winter, is departing, along with the deputy D.A.'s played by Regina Hall and Megan Boone.
Alfred Molina's Ricardo Morales changes positions, leaving the D.A. office to become a detective again. Since Winter's departure has left an opening, Morales conveniently becomes the new partner of T.J. Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll).
That also leaves an opening in the prosecutor's office for Jonah Dekker (Terrence Howard) to step up and appear in every show. When "LOLA" started, he and Morales alternated weeks.
Dekker also has a new partner of his own: Connie Rubirosa, played by Alana de la Garza from the original "L&O."
True to the history of "Law & Order," tonight's two episodes don't wrap up neatly and happily. Where "L&O" has always sharply differed from "Dragnet" is that it doesn't see the world as black or white, right or wrong. It sees multiple shades in the middle, and sometimes neither the good guys nor the bad guys get what they deserve.
Delivering that sometimes disturbing message requires a distinct mindset from a show. That attitude often depends more on a star than on specific characters.
While good actors are critical to any series, "Law & Order" has survived dozens of cast turnovers simply because its message goes beyond any individual.
So this new round of changes, while it gives viewers different faces and roles, doesn't have all that much impact on how well the show works.
Because "LOLA" has so much of the proven "Law & Order" DNA, it won't ever be a bad show.
But every time it goes outdoors and the palm trees rustle, it's still hard to shake the feeling it doesn't quite belong here.