Wolcott on Law & Order

William Rabkin steered me to journalist James Wolcott’s blog and his take on the new season of LAW AND ORDER…

I’m not sure how it does it, but Dennis Farina’s thick black-and-white mop of hair manages to upstage everything around it. As the new detective on Law and Order, replacing Jerry Ohrbach’s venerable Lenny, Farina dominated his first scene on the show just by sticking his head in the door. I’ve liked Farina ever since Crime Story–he has the “up” energy of a slick gambler who’s had a good day–and he got into the swing of L&O so fast and easy that ten minutes into the season debut you were no longer wondering what the loss of Ohrbach might cost the series.

But last night’s season debut also pointed up a chronic problem with L&O that has persisted unaddressed for years, not that it seems to matter (given the show’s durable ratings and franchise status in reruns). Which is: the “Order” half is so much better–wittier, twistier–than the “Law” half. Episode after episode fractures at the finish, leaving you slightly dissastisfied at having invested so much interest in the outcome.

My problem with the show is how linear and obvious the murder investigations have become…and how most of the “twists” come from with-holding clues that should have been revealed in Act One. Last nights episodes, particularly the second one, highlighted these weaknesses. If you saw the episode, they also never explain why the boat crashed, who killed the captain, or what the bottle of booze was doing in the wheelhouse…or did I miss something?

4 thoughts on “Wolcott on Law & Order”

  1. My only quibble with Woolcott — who writes one of the funniest blogs around — is that he seems to mix up which half of the show is “Law” and which is “Order.” To me, the cops are Law and the DAs are order, which is why the show isnt’ “Order and Law.” And in fact, the opening credits make it perfectly plain that the cops are Law.
    So my head nearly blew off when Woolcott said the Order part was so much better than the Law… until I realized he merely had the names switched around.

  2. It’s WOLCOTT, not WOOLCOTT.
    While LAW AND ORDER has its weaknesses, I think L&O:SVU is the best cop show on television… though I haven’t seen the season premiere yet. It’s waiting for me on my Tivo right now.

  3. The problem I have with Law and Order – and it’s been like this for the last 3 or so years – is that every single episode now has to be “ripped from the headlines.” Which I translate into “lazy writers.” And on top of this, the “twists” are predictable and the endings flat.
    As for Wolcott, his Vanity Fair stuff is interesting, but when he went into a huge, laughable explanation in his blog about why Leno is better than Letterman…well, I decided never to read him again.

  4. I caught up with L&O:SVU last night– and yes, it’s still the best cop show on TV. Lots of clever twists, great characters, powerful performances.
    Someone told me today that they think the original L&O feels “mummified.” I have to agree.


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