A pair of New Yorkers were no doubt passing Rockefeller Center and saw something alarming under the NBC sign. It was the body of a TV show, barely breathing. The first officer on the scene told detectives that it was an old series known for its funny noises, and that it was trying to make a comeback. Lennie Briscoe stared into the eyes and declared, “There’s nothing to see here.”
One thing we can’t immediately rule out is the sin of passion, because based on the Season 21 premiere Thursday night, no one can fix that following the return of “Law & Order.” . The show’s first episode in 12 years is a cookie cutter exercise. The two-part structure, the “separate but equally important” intro, the Mike Post theme music and the dun-dun song are still there. But the film’s best features – the urgency, the intricate plot, the dry humor, and especially the powerful yet frugal acting – are all missing. Maybe someone can subpoena them before the season ends.
There is disappointment here, but not surprise. The “Law & Order” that NBC abruptly canceled in 2010 is long past its glory days, though it has increased a bit over the past few seasons. The golden empire of “FBI,” “Chicago” and “Law & Order” shows ruled by producer Dick Wolf – who now controls the entire network show for three nights – is an exercise in maintain the formula that pleases the audience. Based on the evidence, there is no reason to expect anything different.
However, you can expect that “The Right Thing,” the 457th episode of the show, will at least improve on old habits, making them shiny and snappy overnight. But the most common feeling, from writing to staging to performances, is that everyone has to do the movements and be careful not to spill anything. It was a reenactment of the ritual.
The story took off from the headlines of last summer, when Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case was overturned. A famous entertainer, convicted of rape and accused of more, is released from prison because of a prosecutor’s fault; His bullet-riddled body was later found outside his house. Anthony Anderson, who returns as detective Kevin Bernard, opens: “Every victim deserves respect. Even the guys who raped 40 women.”
It’s a bit heavy-handed, as “Law and Order” goes, but it’s an appropriate start to an episode that takes a rough approach. The series has a proud legacy of delicately handling complex issues and finding clever ways to dramatize them through the dilemmas faced by police and prosecutors. . Not here.
Jeffrey Donovan, playing Bernard’s new partner, Frank Cosgrove, is the assigned old school cop. But in 2022, in the age of ubiquitous cell phones, will a savvy Manhattan detective on the street really go on a rampage and become physical when a Black man curses at him? (And any policemen will Does that ever make detectives?) Even Bernard’s not-so-sarcastic statement about the dead celebrity, “For the first time in 20 years, people really care about a man Negro was shot.” Apparently he didn’t watch TV during that 12-year hiatus.
These may have been minor infractions when the writer had only a few minutes to set up the characters, but they jumped out, and they are signs of an overall obvious, lack of ingenuity used to program markup. The investigation felt brief and the case settlement went astray as possible; it’s one of those episodes where the latter half an hour is less about ingenuity or questions of law than it is about passionate speeches and humbling landscapes ruminate.
The prosecution’s half-hour brings the joy of being reunited with the show’s other returning star, Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy, and it’s good to see him in action, even though he doesn’t have much to do. do. He’s in for a moment, a simple reaction shot, that features some old “Law and Order” stories: The prosecutor whose mistake led to the release of the entertainer is an ex-security guard McCoy (no spoilers here), and when she steps outside in the courtroom, she passes him and is subjected to a classic Waterston look.
The new cast, in addition to Donovan, includes Camryn Manheim as a police lieutenant and Hugh Dancy and Odelya Halevi as assistant district attorneys. None of them stand out in the episode, although Halevi has a natural, unaffected presence. Donovan (in “Burn Announcement”) might just need better documentation – he’s fine in a key scene where Cosgrove lies to a suspect to get a confession out.
The real value of “Law & Order” has always been less about plot and message and more about acting. Over the years, an impressive roster of regular cast members have managed to do a great job within the limits of the show: Jerry Orbach, Chris Noth, Dann Florek, Michael Moriarty, Steven Hill, Paul Sorvino , S. Epatha Merkerson, Jill Hennessy, Jesse L. Martin, Linus Roache. The list goes on, but it’s not endless, and the new season doesn’t promise to add anyone to it.
However, for many audiences, familiarity will be its own reward. If a troubled country had one more way to relax and go to sleep at night, what’s the point?
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/arts/television/law-and-order-review.html ‘Law & Order’ Review: Throw away the best parts