Jonathan Storm: 'Law & Order' on the Left Coast

Posted: September 29, 2010

It worked for the Giants and the Dodgers. It worked for NCIS. So, the big guns at NBC figured, why not move Law & Order to California?

Despite all the hoopla about other new series last season, NCIS: Los Angeles turned out to be the highest-rated freshman series, by a wide margin.

Don't expect the same for Law & Order: Los Angeles, which premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on NBC10. Fans of the original, which everyone in the business calls "The Mother Ship," will probably like the new one set in LaLa Land. But there are many fewer of them than there are fans of NCIS, which, after you get past all the singing and dancing and football, was the top-rated prime-time show on all of TV last year, even though it's entering its eighth year.

The Ship would have been entering its 21st, but NBC pulled the plug, leaving it forever tied with Gunsmoke as TV's longest-running drama.

When Matt and Kitty and Festus went to Boot Hill in Dodge City, nobody thought of cranking up Gunsmoke: Tombstone or Gunsmoke: Virginia City, but The Ship had successfully spawned so many series, it was a pretty obvious idea to launch a new, similar, but less-expensive vehicle into the TV waters.

LOLA - you'll be chattering with the best of the insiders if you keep reading this stuff - follows the format of the original, as cops and prosecutors work each week's case, though not always in the classic first-half-order, second-half-law format that originally characterized The Ship. Creator Dick Wolf says he did it that way because he feared he couldn't sell the show in syndication unless it was in half-hour blocks.

Police and lawyers intermingle more throughout LOLA, which, instead of having two pairs of police partners, in the manner of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, has two pairs of assistant district attorneys, both working for D.A. Peter Coyote, who makes his first appearance in the second episode.

Alfred Molina, who is the standout star, teams with Regina Hall this week in a ripped-from-the-headlines (with the usual L&O modifications) case involving friends of the glitterati who burglarize their pals' pads while the stars are out clubbing. Next week, Terrence Howard and Megan Boone take over the legal work in a case involving a murder-of-a-Manson-Family-member knockoff.

Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll play the cops every week. Ulrich's character, an ex-Marine, is married to his former police partner, which will bring a bit of out-of-the-office interplay, rare in the L&O franchise, into the show. Stoll's character is the son of an Oscar-winning Polish director, but his name is Jaruszalski, not Polanski.

Los Angeles probably has more interesting locations than New York, and it certainly has its share of interesting crimes, so there's plenty of fodder for LOLA. It's literally warmed-over Law & Order, but that doesn't mean it's unappealing.


Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "Eye of the Storm," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/storm/.

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