May 13, 2011

132/133: Brows of outrage

Blogger was down yesterday, so I couldn't do blog #132, however lame it may have been.  Friday the 13th wasn't too bad -- a cop pulled up behind me at the first stoplight on the way to work, but since I obsessively obey speed limits anyway, I didn't worry.  Then I almost fell asleep at work (par for the course).  And then I came home to hear the news that Law & Order: Los Angeles has been canceled.  Then, I tweeted.
 I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts on this, because NBC's programming decisions continue to prove utterly incomprehensible.  They renew great shows like Community, yet they canceled the Law & Order mothership series when it seemed to be in a creative renaissance -- season 20 was truly enjoyable, and the episode that ended up being the series finale was probably the best of the show's final three seasons -- and now, after putting so much time, energy, and (presumably) money into developing and reworking Law & Order: Los Angeles, they've canceled it after airing only a handful of rebooted episodes.  I grew up watching Lennie Briscoe and Jack McCoy on L&O, and there is little else in the world of television that has a place in my heart the way Sam Waterston's eyebrows do.

I understand that networks are feeling the pressure to produce shows that are unquestionable and immediate hits, and that they're trying to compete with the programming on cable television, which is better than it's ever been.  I also lament the fact that this is the entertainment culture in which we live.  It used to be that a show that got a lukewarm -- or even mildly chilly -- reception from viewers had a decent shot at getting a second season, especially a show that's part of a cash-cow franchise like L&O.  I think, given a shot at a sophomore outing, LOLA could have figured out its identity as a show.  They had some great elements working for them; a few great actors (Alfred Molina, Corey Stoll, and mothership import Alana de la Garza), the ripped-from-the-headlines plots that this franchise loves so much.  If nothing else, LOLA had the uniquely bizarre culture of Los Angeles, which is completely different from the setting of the original L&O.  The city of New York was a character in and of itself in the original series, and the environment was as integral a part of the show as the dramatic legal twists and that iconic "chung-chung" sound.


L.A. is such a great, wackadoo backdrop for the kinds of cases that the franchise loves -- crimes that turn out to be about something completely different from what the early signs indicated.  A city that bottle-blond and plastic is definitely hiding something.  If the network, the producers, and the writers had all been on the same page at any point in time, they could have produced a show that did for Los Angeles what the original series did for New York, and had the two ever aired at the same time, I think they would have been great bookends for the franchise.

(As TJ muttered in Law & Order: LA episode 5, "Pasadena," bitter much?)

This is why so much of the great television writing talent is on cable now -- you rarely see this kind of bureaucratic asshaberdashery from cable networks (the AMC/Lionsgate/Mad Men circus notwithstanding).  It seems to be a level of idiocy reserved for the land of Network Television, and NBC in particular (remember Conan?).  I feel like it would be hard to produce a quality product when you're encountering that much interference from the businessmen.  The standard operating procedure in cable seems to be to hand the money to the showrunner and just let him make his television program.  I'll let you guess for whom I'd rather work.

In any case, my quiet love affair with Det. Jaruszalski comes to an end.  I will miss him, I will miss LOLA, Law & Order: Criminal Intent (now in its final season), and the Law & Order franchise altogether.  Now, all that's left is to start saving up for the DVD sets.

(okay, maybe it wasn't so difficult to articulate my thoughts, after all.)


  1. Oh my god, they did an amazing job on those muppets. Elliot and Munch are spot-on.

  2. @mlle-madeleine I know, right? Their parody skit muppets always look great. I wonder if the actors ever saw them.