For the most part, there just is no saving a franchise like Law & Order. I used to admire the show’s writing for having complex story lines that involved fascinating questions of legal ethics. And I used to project sad romantic notions on Sam Waterston, bargaining that the best you could probably do with a man was one that ignored you, but at least had a passionate commitment to something else that you could admire. At some point, the drama went into the typical freefall of creative starvation. Knockoffs were generated to try to hone in on our fascination with series as if it were just a bunch of fetishes and cliches.
Let’s give them one that only does sex type crimes and one in which Vincent D’Onofrio plays Columbo like he’s a second away from committing a sex type crime. These “other parts” of the Law & Order office made story secondary; instead giving us character hamster wheels like Eliot Stabler. Stabler is Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet doing cop anger, righteous “this is for my daughter” cop anger, every single, stinking week. If he were someone in your life, going through that much repeated emotional extremism, you would have organized a group of friend’s with tranquilizer guns. But Stabler lives in a world with an incredibly irresponsible Human Resources department. It was during this dreary downfall that the marketing people made the unintentionally prescient slogan “Ripped From the Headlines”, which was supposed to mean fresh and topical, but really meant that that had just fired all the writers and started over with a shredder and scotch tape.