Ah, Law & Order. Why all the hate? Sure, it was on about a century past its expiration date, thanks to Dick Wolf bludgeoning every last dime out of his franchise. But I'm not sure L&O would be as well-remembered if not for its longevity. If nothing else, it's a fascinating time capsule of NYC over the past 20 grimy years.
SVU - Believe it or not, there was a time when this moribund corpse was a couragous prime time show. It's the spiritual successor to Homicide: Life on the Street
, with John Munch joining the cast in the ultimate result of many crossovers. SVU was indeed dark, perhaps on par with Homicide
, and definitely darker than most shows on today. Violence on CSI
or Miami Five-Oh
is meant to thrill. Here, it's a little too close to home; too real. Chris Meloni is simultaneously heroic and frightening as the lead detective; he'd fit right in on The Shield
. Mariska Hartigay brings an unusual flavor to her tomboy detective. Ice-T won't be winning any Emmys, but the writers had the inspired idea of pairing him up with Munch, which is a riot. Modern Belzer looks like he'd rather be at home watching Jeopardy!
, but Young Belzer was forced to transfer to SVU after a messy divorce, hoping for some warm and fuzzy cases, and finding his glib humor is no match for the horrors he finds. Holding them together is Dann Florek, who shares the torment of each of his detectives, but is determined to keep the house of pain humming along. And of course there's the attorneys: Icy headmistress— I mean D.A. Judith Light, Stephanie March as the Ivy Leaguer with no understanding of the mindless violence SVU deals in, and voluptuous Diane Neal as the well-meaning but reckless noob (Think Shirley Manson, with a law degree). Last but not least, B.D. Wong's lovably creepy shrink who looks like he belongs on the opposite side of the two-way mirror.
No one, in good conscience, can recommend the show after five seasons. A lot of people, cast included, didn't expect the show to stick around long, due to its dark subject matter. Ultimately, it tried matching CBS in terms of kinks and goofiness, which was never the point. Now everyone reads their lines with the enthusiasm of a DMV employee, collects their checks, impatiently counting the minutes until their next Botox injection.