Law and Order
katsummerland at yahoo.com.au
Sun Jan 19 23:34:05 MST 2003
One of the longest-running and most topical shows is
NBC's "Law and Order", which attempts to provide a
more or less liberal viewpoint. This is constrained
obviously by the very nature of the show, which sides
with the District Attorney and detectives whom the
viewers are meant to identify with. Nearly every show
ends with a conviction.
The original "Law and Order" has spawned two
offshoots. One is titled "Law and Order: Special
Victims Unit", which includes episodes involving elder
abuse, child smuggling, a female serial killer
disguised as a prostitute, the dangers of the child
welfare system, and whether children who have
committed heinous crimes should be tried as adults and
incest. Sort of like Oprah Winfrey crowned by a billy
club. The oddest touch is comedian Richard Belzer cast
as a truculent detective. In real life Belzer is a
radical who can be heard on WBAI asking people to send
in money to support the cop-hostile station.
Richard Belzers character John Munch started out on
the late lamented Homicide Life on the Streets. The
best drama series ever. Very innovative filming, use
of music, scripting and tight acting from a wonderful
ensemble cast. Only getting to see the final series
from 1999 in Melbourne now and that on cable. Munch
is much underused on Law & Oorder SVU.
As an aside I was a bit shocked after S11 when
everyone started wearing patriotic badges but I guess
that adds to the verisimilitude
The latest spin-off is "Law and Order: Criminal
Intent," which is virtually identical to the original
but with a different cast of characters.
Well actually it isnt quite because in this series
the motivations of the crim/s is also considered.
Most noteworthy is Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective
Robert Goren, a character who evokes Colombo's (Peter
Falk) plebian oafishness, but stripped of comedy. Both
the Goren character and Detective Briscoe (Jerry
Orbach) from the original show appear influenced by
Detective Eddie "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) in "The
French Connection", who while wolfing down a hot-dog
in the rain, stakes out his aristocratic drug-dealing
prey through the window of luxurious French
As far as I know, this is D'Onofrio's first regular TV
gig. He is an especially gifted and versatile film
actor with a long career who was featured as the bug
from outer space in "Men and Black" and as the
brutalized army recruit in Stanley Kubrick's "Full
Agree about Vincent DOnofrio. Fantastic actor.
Wouldnt want him in my face!!
In my humble opinion these Law and Order shows are
some of the best TV series viewing around. They are
really well scripted and well acted. I agree with Ben
Here in Melbourne, Law and Order is one the most
watchable and even sometimes likeable cop show on air.
What I like is that it is free from soap opera. The
personal lives of the various characters are not
brought in, except occasionally when relevant to the
plot of the particular episode. It is strictly about
the job that the characters have to do. And they crack
some great dry jokes about it as they go about their
work. Workplace humour is one of the great sustaining
Of course it's a pretty nasty job at times. They push
for the death penalty on occasions. So I don't end up
with too much sympathy for the characters, even if
they are a sanitised PR version of police officers (to
some extent... they still engage in verballing of
suspects, and other "non-standard procedure"). But
it's still pretty good, at least in relation to most
of the wasteland that is television broadcasting. And
when the more liberal side manifests itself... there
is a certain delight shown in some episodes at
bringing down the rich and powerful, or at least the
And of course for us here in Australia there are the
pecularities of the US legal system to ponder. Such as
when upcoming elections can impact on the DA's
judgment. Are there any votes in it? The Grand Jury is
another mystifying entity.
Immersing myself in crime fiction on TV and in books
provides my basic recreational sustenance. Sad but
Of course the Australian industry has created some
great TV crime - Scales of Justice, Janus, Phoenix,
Blue Murder and Wildside. All produced for our public
broadcaster the ABC. Watch them if they ever get a go
in your neck of the woods.
BTW There was a demo here in Melbourne on 19 as well
outside the US Embassy. And 400 people marched at
Apollo Bay, a seaside town south west of here on
http://movies.yahoo.com.au - Yahoo! Movies
- What's on at your local cinema?
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