Thursday, December 04, 2008

Law & Order, "Knock Off": Starbuck vs. Capt. Hadley

There are TV shows that get my full attention, and then there are shows I put on as background noise while I'm doing five other things. More often than not, "Law & Order" falls into the latter category, but as I put the latest episode on this morning to keep me occupied while I did some TV critic scut work, I found myself getting more and more drawn into it. Don't know how many fans of the mothership we have around these parts, but some thoughts coming up just as soon as I order the turkey chili...

Scheduling issues prevented me from writing a column about the season premiere, but I've now seen at least four or five of this season's episodes and have to say that I really like the current cast. Linus Roache provides a nice change of pace from Sam Waterston while still providing Waterston plenty of opportunities for righteous indignation, Alana De La Garza may be the most likable token hottie ADA since Jill Hennessy, and Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson have developed nice chemistry as the cops. It's a good group.

Still, my TV-watching time is precious, and I usually cut standalone procedurals out of the mix as triage. I recorded last night's episode mainly to watch Katee Sackhoff, but even as her character (a violent woman with shades of Starbuck and The Other Bionic Woman, but not so much so that it was just Sackhoff going through the motions) was elbowed off-stage as the first act red herring, I found myself drawn into this weird story with the upstate cops, the judge straight out of "Doc Hollywood," Tom Everett Scott as the shady Eliot Spitzer-type governor, etc. It says something that almost 20 years into this franchise, it can still engage and surprise me from time to time, can still make me anxious to find out whodunit and whether McCoy and company can get a conviction.

And Jack's political career, along with the rivalry with the governor, provides an entertaining ongoing personal thread that doesn't really work against the show's core mission.

Don't know that the show's going back in the regular rotation, but I've enjoyed a lot of what I've seen lately, and wanted to make note of that.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

The current cast is great, and I'm really happy to see that they've stopped doing the "Guess Which Celebrity Scandal This is Based On" episodes the way they were a few years back.

In fact, I think they managed to do a "ripped from the headlines" episode last night using a fairly obscure headline: a New York Times investigation from 2006 about New York state's small town judges:

"Nearly three-quarters of the judges are not lawyers, and many — truck drivers, sewer workers or laborers — have scant grasp of the most basic legal principles. Some never got through high school, and at least one went no further than grade school."

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a very good episode (even if Clancy Brown folded way too easily at the end). That small town court arraignment scene was hilarious. It was like the show suddenly decided to start spoofing itself for five minutes.

I'm glad you're enjoying this season. In my opinion, the show's recent improvements began last season. While some of it is probably due to finally finding the right cast, I tend to give most of the credit to bringing Rene Balcer, a veteran of the show's prime years, back on as showrunner. Right now, it's dud ratio is the lowest I've seen in quite a few years.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I recorded last night's L&O and haven't watched it yet - so probably won't read your write-up until the weekend - but as both a regular viewer of the mothership and religious reader of your blog, I wanted to let you know: we're out here.

KrisMrsBBradley said...

I find myself willing to watch almost anything that "Crazy Billy" is on.

(Including a real stinker called "Population 436".)

Anonymous said...

I tend to be anti procedural (I like my cop shows, Vic Mackey, Andy Sipowicz or Frank Pembleton style) and have generally not watched much of the L&O franchise (except CI as a Noth and D'Onfrio fan in recent years) but I was watching "Life" last night and saw the promos for Katee Sackhoff and decided to stick around and watch "Law & Order", a show I've hardly noticed for 20 years, and found myself enjoying it.

First, Sackhoff is great at playing the bada--. Always fun to see Starbuck.

Second, I am absolutely with Alan regarding Linus Roache whom I loved on "Kidnapped". I also can't stand Sam Waterston so with Waterston in the less important 'boss' role, that seems to be an upgrade.

Third, I loved Anthony Anderson and Jeremy Sisto's chemistry as well - it was spot on. Sisto was also great on "Kidnapped" (I had read that Dick Wolfe was a big fan of that wonderful short, lived series) and Anderson was great on "The Shield" and the best thing about the short lived New Orleans cop show he did.

I have to say, after watching last night, I might start watching the flagship show with that cast.

And Alana De La Garza didn't seem to be some great actress, but she's absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.

Mac said...

I'm enjoying the heck out of the season so far -- I think this is the best the show's been since Chris Noth left. (Wow, that was a long time ago.) Roache in particular has been terrific, though last night wasn't his best showcase. Last season, they had a little trouble writing for his character, which seems pretty common for L&O when a new castmember joins, but right now he's on a roll.

Anonymous said...

Agreed that De La Garza is stunning this year. Somehow she wasn't as beautiful last year - I think it has something to do with the new hairstyle.

But then, when wasn't the junior ADA gorgeous. Hell, even Richard Brooks was good-looking. De La Garza does fine, but I have to say my favorite actor in the job/role has to be Angie Harmon. She is missed.

Anonymous said...

With CBS resting their procedurals last night, the ratings for this episode ended up being the highest of the season by a good 3 million. Hopefully this episode was good enough to convince some of the nonregulars to stick around.

LinGin said...

Alan, I am so glad that you chose this L&O episode to write about. Sam's last line was one of the great in-jokes if you know his career.

I first saw Sam on Broadway in the show "Indians"; he was a young actor from Yale Drama and I was a junior in high school. I feel like I've been watching him all my life.

In the 70's Sam was a regular at Joe Papp's Public Theater and he created a harrowing portrayal of Shakespeare's melancholy Dane. It was a sensation. McCoy's line, "I'm too old to play Hamlet" had me rolling with laughter.

There was a fairly famous poster from that production (I used to have it but it disappeared sometime over the years.) It has a red background with Sam's upper body clad in black and his face contorted in a scream. Sam's hair was black as well; just showing you that this was back in the day.

Unknown said...

After a slow and steady decline since Steven Hill stopped playing DA Adam Schiff, the show turned itself around last season after they got rid of DA Foghorn Leghorn and Det. Crime Story, who never really fit. They shook up the story structures, made tiny changes in photography, painted the EADA's office, and changed Connie's hairstyle (last season was her second).

She is really attractive, although a little too skinny to me, and I don't like the way she always folds her arms in front of her, which hunches her shoulders. Jack McCoy must have the longest streak of attractive co-workers in the history of television. Even Elisabeth Rohm was pretty, although she was a bad actress and played an annoying character.

Anonymous said...

elisabeth rohm was the worst actress in LO history. bar none.

dianne wiest a close 2nd

Mo Ryan said...

I've enjoyed both this season and last season of L&O quite a bit. It may be the only procedural I make time to watch. I think the current cast is really strong, and the best eps contain a lot of unexpected twists. If you have a chance, look up an episode called Bottomless. I saw Michael Clayton around the same time and thought, story wise anyway, Bottomless was better.

Agreed that the Clancy character folded way too early. How does spotting him on the highway equal evidence that he murdered the guy? But still, a solid episode.

Linus Roache is great. As Alan said, though, I think the whole cast is pretty strong at this point.

floretbroccoli said...

Hey Linda --

You can find the poster here.

I thought of it immediately, too.

And he was Polonius in Central Park this past summer.

annie said...

I'm terrifically pleased to see L&O show up here. I'm a die-hard fan of several stand-alone procedurals (like putting on Columbo or Kojak in the background while I draw), but I grew up on Law and Order, so it has a special place in my heart.

It's easy for me to forgive bad acting, but I really do enjoy how they're shaking up the boilerplate formula, even if it trends too political sometimes.

Anonymous said...

It's as if Wolf finally allowed for game-changing plots now that it's heading to break GUNSMOKE's record -- but that doesn't excuse his criminal neglect of the franchise for the past 5 years. Wasting good actors and RFTH plots was bad, but metastasizing the franchise into reality TV? Rank, foul and badly played, just as bad as letting Diane Neal on SVU go after she blonded herself for him.

As for Ms. Rohm's letting go... was it because she was a lesbian?


Anonymous said...

When does L&O: CI come back? And can Katee Sackhoff replace Anna Torv on "Fringe"? Sackhoff kicks ass.