The other night I saw a rather different Law and Order episode.
Tracy Pollan, a familiar face, was the lead actress in this two-part show. She played a rape victim on SVU (the episode entitled ‘Closure’ from 2000), the special victims flavor, which focuses on sexual crimes.
Initially, the camera follows her by the hour as she’s interviewed, examined and probed. It was the first year of the show, when Mariska Hargitay had a different look (much more makeup around the eyes). Someone is fingered for the crime but there’s not enough evidence to hold him.
Part Two aired nearly a year later. More victims had surfaced in Philadelphia, and their testimonies are edited together. Stabler and Benson find enough evidence to take their suspect to court. The edited part was dramatic (tight focus on their faces) and it was a slight deviation from the usual formula.
It’s the formula, rather than the characters, that make Law and Order work – investigate crime, try the crime, and get the bad guy all within an hour, while encountering moral dilemmas along the way. The show is shot in a straightforward, realistic way that isn’t mannered and never becomes dated.
The formula has allowed Law and Order spawn offspring and a huge following since 1990. But the other night I felt a surprising relief to see something slightly different.
I usually catch the show by accident, and watch it with the same sense of security as visiting a chain restaurant, or eating directly from the box – I know what I’m going to get, which is good and bad. Good in that I’m not going to encounter any nasty surprises, bad in that I won't remember it the next day.
There are only a few Law and Order episodes like the ones I saw, that is to say, memorable. The ones intermingled with the Baltimore-based Homicide from years ago also stick in my mind, because two fictional shows were woven together in a way that made them both seem real. As far as all the other episodes go, well, I don’t recall.
Photo by Michael aka Hatman003. For more great images, click here.