Wednesday, June 1, 2011

He Has Risen!

Detective Rex Winters, that is.  I suppose now is as good a time as any to dissect the disastrophe that was LOLa (Law & Order: Los Angeles).  So many things went wrong with this show, that I have decided it can only be explained in one simple word: sabotage.  How else can anyone explain destroying a show that was barely getting started?

I am writing this based on the hilarity of LOLa showing some "new" shows out of sequence.  If you had followed the story line from the beginning (I know it's hard, as the show rarely made sense), you know that the show went on hiatus in December of 2010, and went through a major re-tooling. 

In the original show, the cast was basically made up of two cops, a Lieutenant, two teams of Deputy District Attorneys, and one District Attorney.  I'll list the characters and actors, below.

The Police:

Lieutenant Arleen Gonzalez (Rachel Ticotin)
Detective Tomas "TJ" Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll)
Detective Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich)

The Lawyers:

District Attorney Jerry Hardin (Peter Coyote)
Team 1 Deputy District Attorney Jonah Dekker (Terrence Howard)
Team 1 Deputy District Attorney Lauren Stanton (Megan Boone)
Team 2 Deputy District Attorney Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina)
Team 2 Deputy District Attorney Evelyn Price (Regina Hall)

This was the cast they set out with, and it seemed it would work, on the surface.  The Deputy District Attorney teams would alternate each show, with the District Attorney having a part that was much smaller than how the role was treated in the original Law & Order.

One of the most perplexing themes of LOLa was that two cops appeared to have jurisdiction over all of the Los Angeles metro area.  Anyone who has ever lived in L.A. knows this is ludicrous.  The Los Angeles metro area is enormous, and there are many murders that occur each year.  There is no way two cops would investigate across multiple jurisdictions, often in cities that weren't anywhere near the downtown division where they were apparently based.  One of the biggest problems with the show is that it appears it was written by people who have spent almost no time in Los Angeles.  If they had, there would have been multiple police partners, and different divisions portrayed.  Instead, they just thought how cool it would be to make an episode centered around a particular neighborhood, each week.  Sure, it was a great idea, in principle, but many of these neighborhoods were 20 or more miles from their precinct.  They would have been much better off picking one area of the city, and sticking with it throughout the show, regardless of how unsexy that premise might be.

The next problem was that they cast too well for some parts.  Having the two teams of Deputy District Attorneys was fine (presumably for audience testing purposes), but both team leads were so strong that you wished both were doing all of the cases.  Terrence Howard's performance started out too light, using his higher pitched voice.  He eventually settled down into a more commanding voice.  Alfred Molina's performance was pitch perfect in his episodes.  I personally felt that Alfred Molina should have played the District Attorney, not just a Deputy District Attorney.  He had that much presence, on screen.  The secondary team members were both totally fine in their parts.

As for the cops, I believe there was a mistake in the casting.  Many people love Skeet Ulrich, and he certainly brought a number of viewers to the show.  I think Corey Stoll did an acceptable job, in his part, but he had a horrible porn star mustache.  So, even though I thought both cops were fine, if rather bland, I had a major problem.  Generally, in these types of shows, there is a Senior Detective and a Junior Detective.  My assumption is that Skeet Ulrich's character was the Senior Detective, but he just didn't seem old enough to be one.  The best partnerships in these shows involve an older partner, and a younger partner.  Having both of the Detectives appear to be roughly the same age was a mistake, to me.

Once the show left for re-tooling I was only able to speculate how it would return.  I had half-heartedly said, with a laugh, that Alfred Molina's character would go back to being a cop after some case gone wrong.  Part of his back story, that was explained in early episodes, was that he was originally a cop, and later became a Deputy District Attorney.  Well, the Producers of LOLa must have been listening to me, because, guess what?  That's right, Alfred Molina's character went back to being a cop, after a highly politically charged case made him question why he was there, anymore.  It was only convenient for him that Detective Rex Winters' character had been assassinated by members of a Mexican drug cartel, earlier in the episode.  That now meant a job was open to him.  The characters played by Regina Hall and Megan Boone were also jettisoned by the show, and Terrence Howard's character now became the only Deputy District Attorney to try cases, with Deputy District Attorney Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) from the original Law & Order.  She now has the distinct honor of having been on two Law & Order shows that have been canceled.  There have been five shows in the franchise.  Only three have been canceled.  I hope she doesn't go to Special Victims Unit next.

In April of 2011, the re-tooled version aired.  As stated above, it began with the assassination of the Detective Rex Winters character.  After the case did not go as planned, D.D.A. Morales took off the D.A. from his title, and added etective.  His character was great, he played the part great.  It was just great, great, great.  Even the first show, after he returned to Detective, was great.  Then, reality set in.  This was, after all, LOLa, and that acronym does not come lightly.  The shows massively degraded, again.  The show was basically bad.  The ratings were in the toilet.  The show was canceled.

I guess since they figured the ratings were in the toilet, and the show was already canceled, it was time to have some fun.  First, they aired an episode on May 25, 2011, which showed up as a rerun.  It wasn't a rerun, and it was even available on imdb.com before it aired.  Maybe they tried to bury it to see if we would forget everything we had seen previously.  If we didn't see the show, there was no chance we could see the promo, the promo that included the porn star 'stache, AND, you guessed it, the dead Detective Rex Winters.

Only in the LOLa universe could we have the resurrection of a dead character treated as if it had never happened.  I don't get it.  If NBC was always planning on running these episodes, why didn't they run them before the re-tooled episodes?  In my opinion, there are only two reasons.  The first is that the original episode had to be so good that people would think it didn't need re-tooling, and the second is what I stated above: sabotage.  After watching the episode, I came to the conclusion that it was both.  That episode, with the resurrected Detective Winters, may have been the best episode in the ENTIRE series, so far.  Oops, we canceled that version of it too soon.  My only major continuity issue with this one was that the Burbank Airport was said to have been on Sherman Way.  No, LOLa people, the airport on Sherman Way is Van Nuys Airport.  I'll give them a pass on their downtown jurisdiction reaching to Laurel Canyon, and other places, from downtown.  Maybe they didn't want to air the original episodes, because of the possible skewing of ratings, due to the Skeet Ulrich fans.  Finally, they must have just assumed no one is still watching the show, and that if we were, we wouldn't have a problem with it.  NBC fails on so many levels, and this was just another.  Interestingly, the ratings for that episode were higher than any of the most recent episodes of LOLa.  Was it a coincidence?  Who knows?

Here's a little speculation.  I said above that I feel LOLa was sabotaged.  I am purely speculating here, so don't get your panties all up in a ruffle, if I am wrong.  Several years ago, Law & Order: Criminal Intent was unceremoniously dumped from NBC, and was later picked up on USA, after much drama.  It was around that time that LOCI jumped off the deep end.  Many psychological disasters and character drops later, LOCI is theoretically in its last season.  Is it a coincidence that with the news of LOLa's imminent re-tooling and cancellation, that the original cops on LOCI (Goren and Eames) are back, with basically no explanation why?  Is it a coincidence that LOCI had been pretty bad for several years, and now it's clearly the best in the franchise, again?  Is it a possibility that LOCI is planning a return to NBC, sometime next year?  I don't know, but based on what I'm seeing on LOCI, I certainly think it's possible.  If it begins pulling in good ratings, in this current NBC run, you just never know.

I'll wrap up with my usual:

1. Was LOLa highly rated?  No
2. Was LOLa cost effective?  shooting in L.A. is 'spensive
3. Was the show good? Not particularly, but there were certainly a few good episodes.  The resurrection of Detective Winters was certainly one of the best, if not the best, episode in the series, so far.  The last few episodes of the series, with the resurrected Winters, may end up making us nostalgic for what could have been in the future.

This may have been kind of a strangely done blog post, but I think it's particularly appropriate for LOLa, one of the strangest failures in TV history, when it should have been a slam dunk success.  Thanks for reading.

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