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

October 21, 2010 | 10:50 am

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