Season’s ratings lost on an old favourite
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?
Law & Order