Re: Clues


Sure, we get to peek into the lives and problems and entanglements of people whom we have only just met. Every procedural does that. What makes L&O different is the formula, and what makes the formula different is its relationship to the formulation of the American criminal justice system. In other words, everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, except for those people for whom we have carved out exceptions over the past 225 years for various cultural, historical, or political reasons. Every episode reflects exactly this tendency to hew to a formula except when there are extenuating circumstances. One thing L&O never does is the one thing the most outrageous criminal defense lawyers say they are going to do in the biggest cases: put the system on trial. Dick Wolf's shows put a great deal of faith in the system and relatively little faith in the imperfect humans tasked to administer it. (Maybe that's why the character of Serena Southerlyn bugged so many long-time fans: her idealism was completely out of place among the hardened souls who had been there already.) So peek all you want, and don't feel guilty: your reaction to a case is a proxy for your reaction to how we treat people in the system.

Posted by: diddy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-05 12:18 PM
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Good point, diddy. And also a good explanation of why the show is so good despite the cast turnover: it's not about the individuals.

And you and I might be making similar points about the system and having what we learn in the first half scrutinized in the second.

(And Serena's gone now, or soon will be, right?)

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-05 12:45 PM
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It's funny, back in the late 90s, when Law & Order ran only twice a day in reruns on A&E I spent a whole summer watching it just about every day and burned out on the show because of its formula. And by fomula I mean:

Opening: find a body, police make witty remark, credits

cut to commercial

Police work begins: asking questions, twist in investigation

cut to commercial

Narrowing down the suspects: arrest made

cut to commercial (usually right as the Miranda warning is being read)

End of "Law", beginning of "Order"

Lawyers take over: arraignment, motions, some kind of twist or setback

cut to commercial

Final Act: continued attempts at working out a plea;

if plea then:

arrived at after some confrontation among perpetrator/accused and accomplices/relatives/friends;

if trial then:

extraordinary effort made to get around suppression of key evidence, often involving additional police work or the addition of witnesses previously unwilling to testify;

in either case dramatic music plays as key information revealed;

case ends

clever remark made

cut to final credits

Probabaly 80% of the shows followed this formula. I say followed because TNT has done a clever thing: they cut to commercials at different times now, a change that has lent a dramatic quality to what had been ordinary fade-outs.

And, oddly enough, I've recently found myself becoming addicted to the show again (in re-runs) and as far as I can tell it's not because the plotting has changed so much (though I've always enjoyed the 20% episodes that don't follow the formula) but simply because the editing is different.

Posted by: aj | Link to this comment | 01- 3-05 2:28 PM
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