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Five Ways to Reboot Law & Order: Criminal Intent

August 26, 2010

Earlier this month Jeff Goldblum announced he was leaving the exiled-to-USA-network Law & Order: Criminal Intent leaving the fate of the show in limbo. While everyone else rubs their hands raw with worry, here are some things that could reinvigorate the show.

Much has been made over the casting of Goldblum as Det. Zach Nichols and while I understand Bobby’s rabid fanbase felt betrayed by the departure of Goren and Ames, I actually enjoyed Goldblum’s tenure, though I don’t enjoy Saffron Burrows as his partner. Mary Elizabeth is shutting it down as the Captain and I didn’t want to like her because I loved Captain Jamey and Captain Eric! Throughout CI’s run I have liked most of the cast transitions, with a particular love for Annabella Sciorra who had fine chemistry with Chris Noth. I preferred their equitable partnership rather than the way Eames was often positioned as Goren’s babysitter, yes-man or ‘amen’ chorus. Besides, if the departure of Goren meant I didn’t have to see the incomparable Miss Rita Moreno’s talents wasted in what could have been a wonderful opportunity for razor sharp analysis of the ageing parent/child caregiver dynamic (through no fault of either Vincent who could barely contain the fanboy appreciation of Moreno or Moreno who is always awesome) then it was a sacrifice I was willing to endure. To be clear, I count myself as a Goren fangirl, though not at the level of La Mommie, who got me into CI with her recaps of the non crime solving antics and backstory of Bobby and also the highly entertaining ADA Carver updates. Coat-ney!!!

1. Stop telling us who the killer is!

Without Goren, the killer’s motivations and unmet childhood needs are of little interest to me. I liked the structure of CI is because it gave Vincent a platform for his wonderful talents. I didn’t care about the mystery or even the crimes most of the time. I just wanted to watch Bobby open his Rhodia Portfolio, extract damning childhood report cards or Dear John letters or compromising photos and then zip it closed once the killer spilled their guts and sobbed as they were handcuffed and dragged out of the interrogation room. I liked seeing a husky fellow not positioned as a “gentle giant” or a bully. Sure, Bobby could be a hot head, but that’s because he was so passionate, not because he was a jerk. Anyway, Bobby’s weekly mental chess games with the killers were the reason to endure endless red herrings, chow chow and scene filmed with wonky lenses in order to give the killer’s perspective. Without Goren, CI should strive for a quirkier take on the Mothership L&O, but with bigger, more scandalous cases.

2. ETHAN HAWKE

The article linked mentions the need for a real New York actor (uh, you know he’s from Texas, right?) and Hawke specifically. I wholeheartedly agree. I’m thinking something in the range of his character Jake Hoyt from Training Day cut with a bit of charming pragmatism of Det. Meldrick Lewis. I was actually surprised at how much more enjoyable Hawke tends to be as a supporting or ensemble player – did you catch his hilarious bit part in Search and Destroy – rather than a lead. Regardless of what Hawke does he tends to be underrated – yeah, his novels demonstrate a scrappy command of craft and voice, people – much of that due to his looks. Well he’s not as cute as he used to be – veering towards Skerritt circa Ice Castles – and it might be time to him to try his fortunes on television. If anyone can reinvent him, it’s Dick Wolf. Remember, he’s the dude who turned one Seventeen cover model and Baywatch Nights lead (Angie Harmon) and one Bond Girl and wife of Richard (Cary Lowell) into reasonably believable, but incredibly satisfying ADAs. I would pay cashmoney to see Hawke spar and quip with Leslie Hendrix (hi, you have the best job on the planet) and Captain Mary Elizabeth!

3. The Dr. George Huang/Dr. Emil Skoda factor

Is Dr. Elizabeth Olivet still practicing? This is the MAJOR CASE SQUAD, folks. Where’s the onsite shrink? Most of the suspects are framed as having serious (and usually untreated) mental illness, and arm chair diagnosis from the cops simply do not cut it. More often than not, the lack of a knowledgeable party, such as the academically rigorous Huang or the shoulder shrugging pragmatic Skoda means there’s way too much potential for ableism fail as it relates to mental conditions. Zach’s dad – played with cheek by F. Murray Abraham – spend more of his screen time trying to sort out family drama than effectively applying his much vaulted psychiatric expertise to the case at hand. While it was entirely appropriate to position Zach Nichols as a person under the supposition that living with a famous shrink is like being one himself, after about two episodes, they needed to give that shit a rest. Bring in April Grace, Joan Chen, Rosanna De Soto or Diahann Carroll.

4. Keep the existing elements that WORK.

Dr. Elizabeth Rogers (played by Leslie Hendrix) has been one of the best stabilizing elements on the show. There is little about the current incarnation of CI that feels familiar to long term fans of the Law & Order brand. The theme is weird and deliciously bombastic, there is not much mention or involvement of ADAs – a staple of the brand – and where’s the doink doink? It’s woefully underused! Bring back gratuitous use of the doink doink and that overwrought truth music played when either the cops/ADAs figure out the truth or the suspect they didn’t realize was a suspect starts spilling all the details of the crime while their sibling, partner, lover, boss or lawyer frantically bellow, “Keep your mouth shut!” Mary Elizabeth as the captain has been a refreshing addition. Though I should note, if the producers wanted La Mommie, they could have – you know – hired her. The absence of pearls has not fooled me! I see what you did there!

5. Realize LOCI’s the Banana Republic of the Franchise!

Less is more. SVU can be as flashy and hip as it wishes; it’s the Old Navy of the franchise! LOCI doesn’t need its shelves and racks crammed with the latest and greatest. It needs to stick with the elegant updates of the classics and for corn’s sake, NO PLASTIC HANGERS!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2010 12:34 pm

    Watching L&O:CI reminded me of how much I liked Goldblum in Raines. Although because of that show, I was always expecting Zach to become even more unhinged than he apparently was.

  2. August 26, 2010 12:56 pm

    I know this is not quite on topic, but I am finding Mr. Goldblum quite smolderingly handsome in that photo. I may have to tune into some LOCI reruns!

  3. August 26, 2010 12:58 pm

    Yeah, I really enjoyed Raines – great to see Malik Yoba – and Goldblum is fine on LOCI. His character is serviceable, but not especially memorable. That said, there’s nothing wrong with the way Goldblum plays the character. Capitalizing on Goldblum’s popular persona was the point of casting him. Not sure why that’s upsetting to his critics. That’s why Orbach was cast in his role as Briscoe.

  4. August 26, 2010 1:01 pm

    @chriso, that’s absolutely vital to the topic! Goldblum has rarely been positioned as “handsome” so it’s been nice to see producers find a role, which showcases that which many of us have long accepted – the hotness of Goldblum.

  5. evmaroon permalink
    August 26, 2010 4:09 pm

    I’ve felt for a long time now that the strictures around the storytelling on LOCI were too narrow, even as we got glimpses at the opening of each episode into the criminal back story. While The Closer takes the same tack of using clever manipulation to get killers to confess, the show holds back on the whodunit at least, keeping our motivation/interest higher. I was happy to see some flexibility in the storytelling on LOCI with the move to Noth/Sciorra and later to Goldblum. But you’re right, they need to follow your instructions! I would start watching this series more faithfully if they had even a little of the L&O magic in there. And with the end of L&O, isn’t there a glut of actors who can make some cameos or guest appearances? I want to see Mrs. Melnick!

  6. August 26, 2010 4:32 pm

    Danielle!!!

  7. evmaroon permalink
    August 26, 2010 5:11 pm

    I know, right? She’s kickass.

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