Law & Order Los Angeles Is Finally Interesting

Not for anything that’s happening on the show, mind you. The interesting part is that several cast members have been let go, including the lead, Skeet Ulrich. This is the fun side of Dick Wolf and his status as one of the oldest successful showrunners in U.S. television (well, he’s only 65 this year, but that’s old in the TV world, where 50 is considered over the hill for writers as well as viewers). You might, once in a while, get a very old-school way of shaking up a struggling show: no subtle changes, no fancy arcs to create a re-tool without making it look like one. Instead, three major characters just get kicked out in mid-season and the show keeps going, not even bothering to shut down production while it looks for new people.

This is a bit different from the many cast changes that transformed the original Law & Order into one of TV’s great franchises. For one thing, that show wasn’t in the same amount of trouble. For another thing, the show’s cast shakeups were mostly due to people quitting rather than being dumped, and when actors were fired it was after the show had been on for several seasons. (When the show outright fired people for the first time, at least the first time that’s been reported, it was because the network was demanding they be replaced with more female regulars — and that was a reasonable demand. Warren Littlefield improved the fortunes of at least two shows, L&O and Seinfeld, by demanding that at least one woman be added to the cast.) This is not what shows do when they’re tinkering or adjusting to unexpected reversals; this is what shows do when not much is working and they don’t midn mind admitting it.

But that’s the fun of watching one of these old-school shows operate: it doesn’t feel a need to pretend that it is working. It just lets everybody go and starts again. I hope they continue the old-school theme by letting the characters disappear without more than a line’s acknowledgement of their departure: audiences won’t care, since they have no reason to feel attached to any of these characters.

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