Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Last Law & Order Standing

This week, Amber West and I are flipping channels over to NBC and sharing our Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews of Harry’s Law and Law & Order: SVU.

For the past twenty plus years, Dick Wolf’s productions have dominated the NBC primetime slots.  He first created the original Law & Order, and then added spinoffs SVU and Criminal Intent, as well as the short-lived Trial by Jury and LA.    

The last of the franchise still standing today is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, currently in its thirteenth season.  Like the original, SVU has a great ensemble cast, and it showcases gut-wrenching storylines. 

The Special Victims Unit is a specialized department that focuses on assault and rape cases in New York City, often times inspired by today’s headlines.   

For the first twelve seasons, the SVU team depends on lead detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni).  Benson, the product of her mother’s rape, and Stabler, the father of five children, take the cases personally and sometimes take actions we as viewers wish we could see more of on television – in other words, they’re not always by the book, and therefore one of the partners is always in trouble. 

SVU’s cast, for the most part, has remained the same for all thirteen seasons, including: Captain Cragen (Dan Florek), and also detectives Tutuola (Ice-T) and Munch (Richard Belzer). 

The original Law & Order split the hour-long program into two parts – “the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.” [t1]  SVU doesn’t follow the exact same formula, but does of course involve the district attorney’s office in each episode (returning favorites in season 13 – Casey Novak played by Diane Neal, Alexandra Cabot played by Stephanie March, and Michael Cutter played by Linus Roache from L&O).   

This season, viewers will see a new cast of characters following Meloni’s departure from the show and Hargitay’s rumored request for a lighter workload.  Danny Pino (Cold Case) joins as Det. Nick Amaro from warrants and narcotics, and Kellie Giddish (Chase) transfers to NYC from Atlanta as Det. Amanda Rollins

In addition to SVU’s fictionalized accounts of current events, viewers can count on a large revolving door of guest stars.  So far in season thirteen, we’ve seen a familiar story line where a hotel maid accuses a foreign diplomat of rape.  In episode two, SVU landed guest stars Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years), Mehcad Brooks (Necessary Roughness), and real-life basketball greats Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.    

This week (tonight actually), Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks, Sex and the City) and Paige Turco (Damages) guest star as husband and wife in a fictionalized account of a particular politician’s scandal. 

Before rating, I must issue this warning – the writers don’t sugar-coat things.  If you don’t like watching bad things happen to children, don’t watch! 

The past few weeks, the GTV rating has been awarded left and right; but, not today.  While I do watch Law & Order: SVU religiously, I can only award the JFTV ratingSVU is like junk food, particularly like that bag of greasy potato chips – it’s not great for us, but we keep coming back for more. 

SVU is the last of the franchise airing new episodes.  I simply can’t imagine television today without hearing this:

Of course, I am worried that I will soon have to get my Law & Order fix watching reruns only (thank you, TNT!). 

What do you think? Do you prefer the original Law & Order, SVU, or Criminal Intent? Will SVU survive Meloni’s departure, or will this be the last of the L&O franchise?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and check out her review of Harry’s Law.  The GTV ratings came to an end over here; will Amber award another top review over on her site?   

Come back next week when Amber and I switch over to FOX and review two supernatural programs – the new hit, Terra Nova, and the returning favorite, Fringe.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on future Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday posts. 

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
 


 [t1]Opening narration spoken by Steven Zirnkilton

Tele-Tuesday – Down Memory Lane: 1986

The 1980s – the decade known for punk rock, heavy metal bands, the Rubik’s cube, the “perm” and “mullet” hair styles, shoulder pads, jean jackets, and leg-warmers.

Top entertainers in the ’80s included Michael J. Fox, Eddie Murphy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, and David Hasselhoff to just to name a few.  Some of the highest grossing films during the ’80s are considered classics now such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Beverly Hills Cop.

The “Brat Pack” also formed in the ’80s, and movie greats The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and St. Elmo’s Fire launched the careers of Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and Demi Moore – but I’ll save this for a future Friday FabOoolousness post.

Very important to the ’80s generation, MTV was born and music videos swept the nation.  Michael Jackson led the music industry, joined by Aerosmith, Billy Idol, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Metallica, Motley Crue, and many more.

Now shift specifically to 1986 – What do I remember about that year?

The Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated after take-off, televised live in classrooms across the United States, including mine.

What else?

Racing home on Friday nights after our high school football games to watch Miami Vice and Crime Story with my family.

Television crime dramas filled the networks with popular detective and private investigator shows in 1986, which is why I’ve marked this year as the beginning of my television addiction.

Magnum P.I. 1980-1988

Tom Selleck plays Thomas Sullivan Magnum living on the Robin’s Nest estate in Hawaii, the alleged home of author, Robin Masters.  “The Nest” is managed by Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman) and protected by two Doberman Pinschers: Zeus and Apollo.  A former SEAL, Magnum works as a private investigator, drives a Ferrari (just one of the many perks of living on the Masters’ estate), and enjoys a cold beer with his former Marine buddies: Rick and T.C.

There have always been rumors of a Magnum P.I. reunion movie, but where is it?

Cagney and Lacey 1981-1988

Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly star as New York City detectives Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey.  Despite their differing backgrounds (Cagney hailed from a wealthy family and Lacey was a hard working mother and wife), the two solved crime and built a lasting friendship in a man’s world.

Due to the series popularity, the ‘90s saw four Cagney and Lacey television movies which sometimes air today on Encore.

Remington Steele 1982-1987

Stephanie Zimbalist stars as Laura Holt, a private investigator, who after struggling to find enough clients for her agency hires a con man (Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele) to play the role of her boss.  The farce leads to many laughs and to an eventual romance between Laura and Remi.

After announcing cancellation, NBC aired six television movies in 1987 to wrap up the series, but who wouldn’t love to see a reunion show today?

Scarecrow and Mrs. King 1983-1987

Kate Jackson stars as Amanda King, a divorced housewife who goes to work for Lee Stetson (Bruce Boxleitner), a top agency operative with the codename, “Scarecrow.” Despite not having any professional training as an operative, Amanda travels the world with Scarecrow assisting him on cases and going undercover with her boss.  The relationship leads to a romance, but after Jackson battled breast cancer in real-life, the series reduced her role and eventually cancelled the show after the fourth season.

Hunter 1984-1991

Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer star as Sergeant Rick Hunter and Sergeant Dee Dee McCall, partners in the Los Angeles Police Department.  A popular theme on ‘80s television, the two partners dabble with a potential love story, but after six seasons Stepfanie Kramer left the show to pursue other career opportunities.  Hunter was partnered with a few other female detectives, but the series lost its flare and ended after season seven.

NBC aired a few reunion television movies in the ‘90s, and in 2002, Stepfanie Kramer returned for a special two-hour movie. With good ratings, the networks attempted to revive the series in 2003 with three one-hour episodes before cancelling again.

Miami Vice 1984-1990

Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas star as Miami police detectives Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs. Crockett lives a luxurious lifestyle driving fast and expensive cars while he sleeps on his sailboat with his pet alligator, Elvis.  Visiting from New York searching for the man who murdered his brother, Tubbs works alongside Crockett and eventually transfers to Miami were the two partner up permanently.

And, who can think Miami Vice without picturing Crockett’s pastel pant suits, and hearing the fabulous music of Phil Collins or Jan Hammer?

Moonlighting 1985-1989

One of the first successful television dramedies, Moonlighting stars Bruce Willis as David Addison, a private detective, and Cybill Shepherd as Maddie Hayes, a former model.  After David convinces Maddie to not sell the agency during tumultuous times, Maddie moves in to the office and forms a partnership with David and renames the business Blue Moon Investigations after one of her most famous modeling jobs and endorsements for Blue Moon shampoo.

The two form a lasting partnership, argue constantly, and eventually fall in love.  I have David and Maddie listed on my all-time great television duo list.

Crime Story 1986-1988

Dennis Farina stars as Lieutenant Mike Torello on the hunt for mobster Ray Luca (Anthony Denison).  Wanting to destroy Luca, Torello follows Luca from Chicago to Las Vegas.  Season one ended with one of the most talked about cliff hangers in television history – an A-Bomb explosion in the Nevada desert.

After the network moved the show to a different night, Crime Story lasted only two short seasons.  This began my frustrations with networks moving a series around from night to night and with writers ending a television season on a cliffhanger. We’ll never know if Luca or Torello survived the plane crash.

Are you a child of the ‘80s? What are some of the earliest shows your remember watching? Did you enjoy any of these 1986 greats? I’d love to hear from you!