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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"Law & Order: Los Angeles" Review: They Killed the Wrong One

Probably the biggest hallmark of the “Law & Order” franchise—besides that “boink boink” sound effect is cast changes.

But even for “Law & Order,” it’s pretty unusual for the cast to change in the middle of the season. However, that’s exactly what’s happening to the newest franchise entry, “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” in an attempt to revive its sagging ratings.

When the show returns Monday, one of the detectives will be murdered. If you’ve seen any of the previews, you know which one, but I won’t give it away here. The scene where the hero falls trying to protect his family is beautifully done. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the rest of the hour, or the hour that follows it.

I’ve never seen an episode of “LOLA,” but it was pretty obvious to me fairly quickly that Alfred Molina is the heart of the show. And he shows it in the first hour when his Ricardo Morales sets out to prosecute the murderer. Molina is a great actor and he gets several impassioned speeches during the episode. And when the case hits several snags, the passionate Morales becomes disillusioned with the politics of the DA’s office and he—SPOILER ALERT—quits to rejoin the police force. In the second hour, we see Morales on the beat with the partner of the fallen detective.

And that’s when things start to fall apart a little. The case in the second hour is pretty compelling with a great guest turn by Tim DeKay (“White Collar”). And it’s great to have Alana de la Garza back in the DA’s office as DDA Rubirosa. But with Molina out, the “Order” part has to be anchored by Terrence Howard (DDA Dekker) and Howard is no Molina. And the whole last half hour of the show suffers because of it—especially since Molina is so compelling in the first half.

It doesn’t help matters that the first hour really doesn’t end on the best of notes. And after seeing all the detectives in action, I can’t help but think they killed off the wrong one.

And that’s exactly what NBC did when they cancelled the mothership, “Law & Order,” last year in favor of “LOLA”—they killed the wrong one. “L&O” had established characters we could care about. And this show just doesn’t quite measure up.

“Law & Order: Los Angeles” returns with a two-hour episode Monday, April 11th at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Photo Credit:Mitchell Haaseth/NBC