"Law & Order: Los Angeles" Lacks The Original's Grit
The series opener, "Hollywood," lacked the ripped-from-the-headlines feel that made the franchise flagship a hit for 20 seasons.
Gone was the hard-hitting, hustle-bustle feel of New York City. Instead, the show's writers made a turn to portray the youthful artistic vibrancy of the City of Angels. Jokes were forced, mentions of Facebook were thrown in and name-drops of L.A. didn't quite seem to fit in. The blinking shutters of papparazzi opened and closed the episode.
The leads on the police side, Skeet Ulrich as Detective Rex Winters, and Carey Stoll as Detective Tomas "T.J." Jaruszalski, matched each other's wit. But T.J.'s bald-head and thick mustache repeatedly caused cringes. I've seen L.A. detectives. He doesn't seem to fit the build. Neither did the central role played by gossip-aggregator TMZ in the first episode.
Alfred Molina as deputy district attorney Peter Morales may have been one of the show's few highlights. The actor, known more for his villainous roles, was pushy and tough, exactly what you want from a prosecutor in town with no shortage of people needed to be placed behind bars. At one point he caves, choosing not to let a young girl testify because he knows it will elicit emotions from the jury that will kill his case. But in a good old Jack McCoy fashion, he regains control of the case when his assistant Evelyn Price (Regina Hall) makes a break-through. When Morales throttles a series of rapid-fire questions down on a witness and the classic suspense music wades into the scene, we know a climax has been reached.
The original Law & Order had tension and drama leading up to this point between the characters, between the police and the prosecutors and between the plaintiffs and the defendants. L & O: L.A. maintained on the last count, but the true characters of the remaining actors haven't yet come through.
Though Hollywood plays a central role in L.A. culture, the city offers so much more. If Wolf can effectively tell the stories of the rest of a city of four million with perhaps more problems than New York, though not always as glamorous or prominent, his series will succeed.
The show will get an appeal next week, but the initial verdict finds it guilty of trying too hard to both forget the ego of New York and stand up to the hipness of L.A.