Monday, March 14, 2005

Never Judge a show by it’s Pilot: Law & Order: Trial by Jury

"In the Criminal Justice System, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, either by confession, plea bargain, or trial by jury. This is one of those trials"

I am a big fan of the "Law & Order" franchise. So when I heard that there was going to be another series, I was excited for two reasons. The first reason was that unlike the other spin-offs that focus on the point-of-view police detectives, "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" will focus on the judicial system told from the point-of-view of the prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and jurors. The second reason was that Jerry Orbach was going to be on the show playing Lennie Briscoe. Lennie Briscoe was my favorite part of the original series. CHILD OF TELEVISION: A case of life imitating art... NOT!

When I saw the pilot (The Abominable Showman), I was happy to see many familiar faces like Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), District Attorney Arthur Branch (Fred Dalton Thompson), Judge Amanda Anderlee (Candice Bergen) and Lennie Briscoe (the late Jerry Orbach). I also enjoyed the new characters Assistant District Attorney, Tracey Kibre (Bebe Neuwirth), Assistant District Attorney, Kelly Gaffney (Amy Carlson) and Briscoe’s partner, DA Investigator Hector Salazar (Kirk Acevedo). But I was also concerned for two reasons. First I could hear something that I hear others say when reading one of my scripts, "The people from Iowa want to see more action, not just see talking heads". Hey, I never saw it hurt "The West Wing". My other concern was that the Jerry Orbach fans might not stay with the show. Even though he was showing signs of his illness, Jerry Orbach was still Lennie. Overall I liked the show. It had brilliant writing and acting, something that I see less and less of on TV. The show exceeds my expectations for a Dick Wolf production, and as a fan I want to see it succeed, but I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

The second episode (Forty-One Shots) I thought was better than the pilot. I was glued to the screen. The best part was the reading of the verdict seen through the eyes of Lennie Briscoe (in what would be Orbach’s final scene) and his fellow officers. Again it had brilliant writing and acting, but I wanted to see an episode without Briscoe

The third episode (Vigilante) introduces a new character Detective Chris Ravell (Scott Cohen). Even though he did a great job, it was obvious that he was filling in a void left by Orbach, but I fully understand the circumstances. Sill the show exceeds my expectations for a Dick Wolf production. Fortunately Dick Wolf created a franchise with story based shows that allow for cast changes without hurting the quality of the show. I look forward to the next episode.

To quote Lennie Briscoe, "Cuff him. And if he tries to resist, shoot him!"

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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