Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pilot Review: Law & Order: Los Angeles

Law & Order: Los Angeles (NBC)
Premiered September 29 at 10pm

I'm glad this show has finally premiered so that people can stop arbitrarily putting it on best and worst lists of the new fall shows. The quality of a spinoff isn't determined by the quality of the original series, and therefore judging this new series based on its three (four, if you count the short-lived “Law & Order: Trial by Jury”) predecessors just isn't fair. I don't have a great interest in this show since it's the definition of a procedural, and from my limited experience with the L & O franchise, I know that the cast of characters tends to rotate and doesn't necessarily stay the same for a while. As far as this cast is concerned, it's bittersweet to see Skeet Ulrich back in a lead role on television since I still yearn for a miraculous return of “Jericho” to the airwaves. He's fine here, and I enjoy Corey Stoll's sarcastic attitude matched by his bald head and impressive mustache. Unless I missed something, I didn't spot either Terrence Howard or Peter Coyote, and Alfred Molina sure has fun playing his role. The major significance of this series' existence is that it transplants the usually New York-based investigation & trial format to the West Coast. Those who have come to associate the token “dun-dun” with a New York address and an apartment number may be jolted by the accompanying sight of a house or a car, and that's not the only big change for this show. The first episode makes sure to highlight the fact that Los Angeles is a town inhabited by plenty of actors and wannabes, and fame and the quest for it will surely be a frequent subject of the episodes of this series. I'm not sure there's anything to recommend this show over any other procedural, but for those sorely missing the original “Law & Order,” this stylish reinvention may be just the thing to fill the void left by its absence.

How will it work as a series? Well enough. The original series ran for twenty years and had more than enough criminals to feature and crimes to commit. Transplanting the show to a new locale means that there's plenty of potential for freshness, and there are an infinite number of headlines that can be grabbed from the West Coast to create compelling, entertaining hours of drama.
How long will it last? A while, presumably. Given that number one ran for twenty years and the other two are both in double digits (TBJ went off the air partly because of star Jerry Orbach's death), this show should have no trouble finding a mass audience. It's up against two law shows, “The Defenders” and “The Whole Truth,” and this far superior series managed to best them both in its first airing. I don't know how soon a second season renewal is coming, but I imagine it can't be far off.

Pilot grade: B

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