These are their stories
Posted by Captain K
For me, the loss of the original Law & Order is a terrible one for television. No matter how many spinoffs there were there has still never been anything quite like it. When NBC cancelled it, they told us it was all okay because a new L&O was coming in the form of Law & Order: LA. Turns out the next real L&O would indeed be coming from another coast, but not the one I expected.
If you’ve never seen it, Law & Order is unlike any other show on television. It was originally created at a time when 1 hour TV shows were a real hard sell. The show’s creators had the idea of making it more of a 1 hour block that told 2 sides of the same story. The first half would be about the police who investigate crimes, and the second half would be about the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. This alone was a unique way to present a story, but the real charm which also gave the show its long lasting appeal, was the fact that the show wasn’t character centric. Instead of telling the stories of a cast of characters and their adventures L&O focused on the crime at hand leaving the characters’ back stories to the viewers’ imaginations. It was always fairly clear what kind of people you were dealing with as main characters but very rarely did the show hit you over the head with their personal lives. This made it fairly easy to write characters in and out of the cast without having too much of a negative effect on the feel of the show. Just turn TNT on anytime after 3 on any given weekday and you’ll see what I’m talking about. No matter if you’ve been watching for 10 years or 10 minutes, any episode would be a good first episode.
Over the years there have been several spin offs with varying success. They were good but were all decidedly more character focused. For my money the original was always the best, which is why I was very sad to hear of its cancellation earlier this year. I was told that there was hope though as Dick Wolf (the show’s creator) would be focusing his attention on the show’s replacement Law & Order: Los Angeles. I figured what the hay, it’ll probably be just like L&O but in a different setting. I eagerly awaited the first episode and when I finally watched it it became very clear to me that this show just didn’t have the same soul. Maybe it was due to its setting in NY and the unique character that city possesses but after 2 episodes I just don’t feel the same when I watch it. On paper it follows the same successful formula, but the characters are so very bland it just doesn’t hold water. Yes, one of the best things on the original L&O was its focus on everything but the characters, but they were able to get away with that because the characters were so well written it didn’t matter if you had their life stories or not. Everyone on L&O:LA is so bland I can practically hear Gordon Ramsey yelling impatiently the whole time “It’s blaaaaaaaand! Come on guys!”
Then I remembered hearing that the BBC was starting its own L&O franchise called Law & Order: UK. I felt a little weird about it because t was so far away from its home but as my wife put it “It combines 2 things I love. Law & Order and british people.” She had a point, and I watched. This is the L&O I remember. Granted, its pacing was a little slower over all, and it had its share of awkward moments (it was a pilot episode after all) but it just felt right. The characters meshed well with one another and I just plain believed in it. The banter and relationships combined with the main focus of the show never steering away from the case at hand made it really feel like it lived up to its namesake. I will say that I had a hard time adjusting to the silly costumes they wear in the British court system, but I got over it.
I’m not writing off L&O:LA. I plan to keep watching it as it is still good television. However, I look forward to seeing where L&O:UK goes much more. I heartily recommend watching it. And who knows? Maybe L&O:LA will fail and they’ll bring back the original. I can dream can’t I?