In 2010, Dick Wolf’s famous and lucrative franchise broke away from the tried and true New York format and moved Law & Order to Los Angeles. Only lasting one season, it became the second in the Law & Order series to be canceled after one season, the first being Trial by Jury; although LA got 22 episodes while Trial by Jury got only 13.
Starring Skeet Ulrich as Detective Rex Winters for the first half of the season, Corey Stoll played Detective Tomas “TJ” Jaruszalski, Alfred Molina portrayed Deputy District Attorney Ricardo Morales (turned LAPD detective), as Terrence Howard played ADA Joe Dekker. Throughout the season, there were some shakeups with the cast and the direction of the show, but I believe that with any first season there are “growing pains” and the series attempting to find what fit best.
Unfortunately, just as it seemed the show was getting good, it was canceled. Below I’ll go through the pros and cons of the show and try to figure out if Law & Order: LA should have been cut or should it have gotten a second chance?
Whether the show takes place in New York, LA, or Chicago (Chicago Fire, PD, Med), these are all of Dick Wolf’s creations and the man knows what he’s doing. As a New Yorker myself, I can say biasedly that I believe it’s probably the best city in the country, but LA has more glitz, more glam, and its own unique crime. This isn’t SVU, but LA featured crimes that we don’t really see on Special Victims Unit, and it was kind of refreshing almost seeing things in a “black and white” way rather than the gray areas SVU often features.
Ultimately, what we love about Law & Order are the characters. And I believe the show had a handful of really good actors that were interesting to watch. Truthfully, I believe Molina was LA’s golden goose. When we first see Ricardo Morales, he is a witty and clever district attorney. Halfway through the season, Morales reveals that he had formally been LAPD, before deciding to go into law. While it was highly implausible that Morales could just jump back into police work after about ten years away from the force, it was ultimately a good decision. The second half of the show really picked up and his partnership with TJ made for some of the best moments in the series.
Stoll as TJ had been the constant in LA and his cynical view of Hollywood, though it is where he grew up and worked; was what was needed to cut through the “Hollywood elitism” that sometimes filled the show. There are also some great scenes where we get to see TJ in action and I believe in a way that they tried to promote him as almost the Elliot of the show; he may have not had the anger problems Stabler had, but instead had the physical force needed at times while roughing up a perp.
Howard’s Dekker was also a compelling character who not only did well in the courtroom, but refused to allow people to make excuses for their behavior. Many of his courtroom scenes were intense and featured twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting.
Law & Order: LA also featured a diverse cast that unfortunately that many of the other Law & Order series don’t. Not only were we able to see both Hispanic and African American cops and lawyers in action, but the robbery-homicide division was led by a Hispanic lesbian woman, which when have we seen that within this franchise? I don’t think LA gets enough credit for this aspect.
Probably one of the biggest problems about Law & Order: LA was the lack of the Law & Order feel we’re all familiar with. Perhaps this was due to it not being taken place in New York, but from a non-traditional opening, and the first half of the show feeling more like CSI or something akin to that, it could have been marketed differently. If Dick Wolf wanted, he could have made LA a “Loss Angeles” series, similar to his Chicago franchise. If it was automatically promoted as a non-Law and Order show, I think it would have been more successful.
The second half of the show was much more intriguing than the first half and this was probably due to the shake-up where Ulrich’s Winters was killed off and replaced by Molina’s Morales. I personally enjoyed seeing Morales and TJ working together a lot better and we really were getting an insight into these characters on a more multi-layered sense than previously. If we had seen this partnership from the first episode, I think the series might have faired a little better at the time with viewers.
I think because the “robbery homicide” department is so wide that these kinds of crimes bounced around a little too much. There were a few episodes that had simply too much within it that you almost forgot what the original crime was. I believe that’s where SVU works, because it’s simply more contained. I also believe that that will probably be why the upcoming Law & Order: Hate Crimes show will be successful or at least, I hope so.
In conclusion, I believe that Law & Order: LA should have been given another chance with a second season to at least be able to work out the growing pains. As I’m watching the only season on NBC, I’m finding myself disappointed that there aren’t more episodes. Marketing and structure were most likely this show’s biggest enemy and maybe if it was put out today, it would have been received better. A small part of me hopes that we could see these characters in SVU and Hate Crimes, as it’s a shame to see such characters like Dekker, Morales, and TJ go to waste. After all, we’ve seen plenty from the original Law & Order and even Criminal Intent in SVU, so why not?
Have you seen Law & Order: LA? What were your thoughts? Be sure to tune in every Thursday for a new SVU and keep an eye out for the upcoming Hate Crimes.
A girl with too many fandoms to count.