« Previous Post | Show Tracker Home | Next Post »

'Law and Order: Los Angeles' recap: Where's Jack Bauer when you need him?

Say this about Dick Wolf and his writing crew at "Law and Order: Los Angeles":  They aren’t lazy.

As last week’s episode showed us, they are game to wrap more plot lines into a one-hour show than a telenovela.  And then this week rolled around.  You might think they would have eased off the accelerator a bit, taken it easy, and delivered to us a nice show full of cops and run-of-the-mill bad guys.

Not quite.

The crew at Wolf Films went for broke -- and missed.  Badly.  I really want to like this show.  I do.  But they are making it really, really hard.

The show started off promisingly enough: A married mom leaves her two small children in the car while she sneaks into the house of her non-husband for a midday dalliance.  Sadly for all involved, the man happens to be cooking up a batch of meth in his garage, which goes boom and engulfs the kids in a big ball of flame.

I was into it at this point.  Knowing the meth maker couldn’t be to blame (according to the "Law and Order" formula for TV magic, the first suspect is never the real evil-doer), I thought they had set up an intriguing story.

But then things went terribly awry.  Working on a suspicion that the meth maker’s sister might somehow be involved, Rex and T.J. pay a visit to the house she shares with her mother.  They click on a computer and, voila, sis pops up in a video on the screen dressed as a conservative Muslim  ranting like a lunatic about death to American infidels.

The rest of the cop-half of the show focuses on the detectives’ frantic search for the three white American men cum radical Islamic terrorists, who had brainwashed sis and were scheming to blow up a terminal at LAX.  The lawyer-half became a modern-day re-enactment of the Federalist Papers, with Deputy D.A. Joe Decker going toe-to-toe with the feds in a turf battle over the right to try the wanna-be Bin Ladens.

Here’s my problem: I didn’t for a second believe the sis or the terrorists, and there was zero suspense about the chase to catch them before they could strike.   Add to that the totally preposterous notion that a local DA’s office could outmuscle the U.S. military, and you’re left with a few good one-liners and not much else.

(On the real-life LAPD vs. pretend LAPD front: It’s a bit silly to think that two homicide detectives would be cut loose to chase terrorists.  The department has a sizable, secretive counter-terrorism unit that, in a real-life scenario like this, presumably would have worked closely with federal agents on a manhunt.)

The great “24,” for all its ridiculous over-the-topness, brilliantly strung similar story lines out over entire seasons.  "LO:LA" tried to cram it into one episode.

I applaud the ambition.  But that just means if the execution falls short it's going to feel that much more flat and unconvincing. I’m telling you the sister and her terror-beau were so laughable, I was left wondering whether it’s possible for a show to jump the shark after only four episodes?

 -- Joel Rubin


Comments () | Archives (6)

They should just bring Jack Bauer back already!

if only skeet ulrich didn't have to spew off those awful, awful one-liners in each of the 4 eps. before the titles screen...this isn't csi...and can no one make an authentic L&O opening? i feel like this show is running off old L&O fumes..doesn't even use the signature sound each black screen...after last week's deluge of plot, did we really need to have a grand terrorism scheme that was thrown out of court just as fast as it was brought up? i do want to enjoy this law and order version but it just does nothing for me...no connect with any of the cops and the second half is like any other lawyer show anywhere...rein it in and focus on one great story and go to trail if it's necessary ala SVU

I too want to love it but don't for all your reasons plus its annoying attempts to coin LA catchphrases that...well...aren't. Last night's stupid metaphor about something falling down Laurel or Benedict Canyon. Premiere episode's lame punchline about actors in the cold open was as fresh as borscht belt comedians. Note to LOLA writers: there's a reason why LA doesn't crank out expressions like "a NY minute." Either spend some time around real Angelenos or please stop.

I'm still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. The original "Law & Order" was awfully clunky in the beginning. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has become a logic-leaping laughfest of ridiculously implausible storylines, ham-fisted messages, and performances that have lapsed into parody coming from leads Meloni and Hargitay. "Law & Order Los Angeles" needs a little room to grow. Alfred Molina's performances have been near perfect, and Corey Stoll steals nearly every scene he's in.

Er, Joel, you say the show was unrealistic because in real life the LAPD's counter-terrorism unit would have handled it -- and then you provide a link to an article that says the counter-terrorism unit was disbanded earlier this year.
I think it's your review that was laughable.
By the way, ever hear of the Jihad Jane cases and the Millenium plots? Not so laughable.

Hi all, it's Joel Rubin.
@Steve: thanks for the note! The article about the LAPD's counter-terrorism division was about the decision to dismantle a small unit within a much larger operation that is still very much alive. And it's not that I think the idea of non-Muslim Americans becoming radical terrorists is unbelievable. It's that I didn't find the characters in the show believable at all.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: