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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The verdict is in: LOLA not up to snuff

Published: October 22, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

After three abysmal episodes and three weeks of longing for Jerry Orbach’s resurrection, it’s official: “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” or LOLA, has realized my worst fears.

In case you missed it, LOLA is Dick Wolf’s latest “Law & Order” spin-off, this time taking place in, you guessed it, Los Angeles. Before watching the first LOLA episode, I was concerned that a “Law & Order” spin-off could not survive in any location other than New York City because the city is as much of a character as the detectives.

I was wrong. It appears Dick Wolf and crew have made Los Angeles a character through superficial story-lines which, for the first three episodes, covered celebrity opulence, surfing and medical marijuana. While New York City in “Law & Order” was a complex, concrete jungle where crimes occurred in all walks of life, not just those deemed stereotypically “New York,” Los Angeles is portrayed as the opposite. The spin-off is a superficial, sexualized and sensationalized shell of the original.

The story-lines in the show are also overdone, if not borrowed. In the second episode, the predictable prime suspect of a murder investigation is a woman whose two small children were killed in a house fire she was convicted of setting a few years prior. But, in a plot-twist borrowed from last year’s seasons of “Cold Case” and “Law & Order: SVU,” it turns out the fire was a result of an electrical problem and the fire-marshal in charge of the case simply misread the leftover burns.

The writing’s predictability coupled with the detectives’ tacky lines (and, in one case, a tacky mustache) leaves LOLA as a sort of “CSI: Miami” does “Law & Order,” which, as all true lovers of crime television know, is an oxymoron.

This is not the first time Dick Wolf and his “Law & Order” squad have produced spin-offs of the 20-year running original series. “Law & Order: SVU” just began its 12th season on NBC and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” was picked up by USA after NBC dropped it two years ago. In 2005 NBC premiered “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” which only ran for one season before its cancelation.

Yet, while “Trial by Jury” had some redeeming, Law-&-Order-esque qualities to it, LOLA leaves nothing recognizable. Even the traditional “Law & Order” theme song was rewritten and then written off the show by the third episode. The series’ signature “dun dun” between scenes is used sparingly and the cast leaves so much to be desired.

NBC canceling the original and running LOLA is like NABISCO stopping production of regular Oreos and only producing “Uh-oh” Oreos. It just isn’t right.