Sea­son’s rat­ings lost on an old favourite

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

WOW. Fri­day night, 9.30pm, dur­ing non-rat­ings pe­riod? That’s a harsh way to treat the long­est run­ning Amer­i­can prime-time se­ries on air. And the sec­ond long­est Amer­i­can drama, even if it still has quite a way to go to bet­ter Gun­smoke .

You can see Ten’s point, how­ever. When a se­ries has been on the air for 18 or so sea­sons, some sense of fa­mil­iar­ity creeps in. And since this is the 400th episode of the show, you do have to won­der whether there’s any­thing more to say.

But this is a show that doesn’t have to say any­thing new; it’s fun to watch be­cause it’s all so fa­mil­iar. It’s re­as­sur­ing to know that in New York cops have a dry wit, but not as dry as the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s. Lawyers look for back­door ways to use in­ad­mis­si­ble ev­i­dence, ar­raign­ment judges need to get a de­gree in snark be­fore as­cend­ing to the bench and blue-col­lar work­ers can talk to the po­lice only if they con­tinue un­load­ing their truck.

For con­nois­seurs, the joy is in see­ing how the ex­pected nu­ances play out, how each episode’s pre-credit dis­cov­ery of the crime oc­curs; or which thinly dis­guised real-life event will form the ba­sis of the story. Im­pres­sively, this episode man­ages to weave a mur­der out of the sub-prime mort­gage col­lapse. Pre­sum­ably, fu­ture episodes will also think up ways to tackle the Eliot Spitzer pros­ti­tu­tion scan­dal and pos­si­bly even the elec­tion of Barack Obama.

With those pieces in place, the Law & Or­der ma­chin­ery chugs on. Sure, the show has not been the same since Len­nie Briscoe ( Jerry Or­bach) hung up his shield. And while it made sense that Jack McCoy ( Sam Water­ston) would fi­nally be­come district at­tor-

Cred­i­ble cop: Jeremy Sisto as de­tec­tive Cyrus Lupo in ney, it also means we rarely get to see those eye­brows of fury in action in the court­room. But Jeremy Sisto and Li­nus Roache do well in their roles as cop and lawyer re­spec­tively, even if Alana De La Garza feels too much in the vein of the cookie-cut­ter stun­ning brunette that has be­come the fran­chise’s hall­mark.

Law & Or­der has al­ways been story-driven and this episode con­tains two clas­sic plot de­vices: the charm­ing con artist only the po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors can see through, lead­ing to a bat­tle of wiles and lawyer tricks; and the city-based pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice bat- tling for ju­ris­dic­tion with those de­fen­dant-steal­ing fed­eral agents.

It also pro­duces some­thing that has be­come rarer in the Law & Or­der uni­verse as the se­ries has gone on, which is not nec­es­sar­ily ty­ing ev­ery­thing up by the clos­ing cred­its.

In fact, it’s ar­guably a stronger show than it was a sea­son or two ago.

The el­e­ments may feel overly fa­mil­iar, but see­ing them in play is al­most like re­unit­ing with an old friend, and what bet­ter way is there to spend a Fri­day night?

Kerrie Mur­phy

Law & Or­der

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