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a substitute blogumn by Jersey Joe

Ryan’s still on hiatus, but he’ll be back for the season premiere next week!  Until then, we once again get to enjoy the rants of everyone’s favorite fill-in — Jersey Joe!


The Series Finale of Law and Order

Dun Dun!  Everybody knows what those two notes mean, while staring at the black screen with plain white Times New Roman text on the TV… you’re watching some version of Law and Order.

However, after 20 seasons and 450 episodes, last week NBC officially cancelled the show.  Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Law and Order: Criminal Intent will be back in the fall.  Joining them will be the new version Law and Order: Los Angeles.

The original Law and Order franchise began in 1990 at the height of New York’s crime wave.  Since then, through various state and local efforts, the city has become a much safer place.

I must admit, that I really hadn’t become a fan of the show until the last few years.  I had a former roommate who would watch marathons of it.  But, thanks to Netflix and the constant reruns on cable, I’ve been trying to catch up on the past 20 seasons.  For me, I find it almost like a time capsule of New York.  By watching the show, you can see the major changes that happened in the city season by season.  Looking back twenty years to the show’s first season, you get the dark gritty look at a Times Square covered in Peep Shows.  The police cars are the blue 80’s Ford Crown Victoria, long out of service by the NYPD.  The detectives would also have to pull over and use a pay phone or call it in on the good old CB radio.

One thing that I do appreciate about the series is the constant changing of main characters.  I feel that it accurately portrays what goes on in the real work environment.  In the show, most of the main characters are only around for a few years before being reassigned to other precincts (in actuality, it’s all about the actors and contracts being up.)  Does anybody remember the team of Greevey and Logan from the first season?

For me, the show seemed to hit its stride when Jerry Orbach signed on as Detective Lenny Briscoe starting nine episodes into season 3.  Orbach would remain on the flagship show until the end of season 14, before leaving for the spin-off Law and Order: Trial By Jury, but the actor would pass away after only shooting two episodes.

Actual news events have been the basis for many episodes of the original series as well as the spin-offs.  Many times, producers are quickly able to turn around topical stories that fit the flavor of what’s happening in the changing world.  From high profile rape cases, to nightclub fires, or even chaos in the government. To me it’s one of the elements that keep this franchise fresh and exciting year after year, in addition to the top-notch writing.  They haven’t had to take the cheesy road of the soaps or the predictable outcomes of sitcoms.  How do they get to the end of the case week after week?  It’s never just as simple as going from point A to point B.

The two spin-offs also continue the same style and dramatic flare as the original.  I am a bigger fan of Criminal Intent, as Special Victims Unit focuses mostly on rape crimes.

But has this franchise always turned out a winner?  Unfortunately, no.

Remember Law and Order: Trial By Jury?  You only had 13 chances to watch.  The series was canceled in the first season.  This one starred Bebe Neuworth as Assistant DA Tracey Kibre and focused more of the happenings in the courtroom, as opposed to the action on the streets.  The courtroom drama was great, but too many scenes were just defendants on the stand over and over again.  It was slow and boring.  It was also in the Friday night television death slot.  This show is available for rent on DVD from Netflix.  I doubt it’s available in stores.

There was another spin-off Crime and Punishment (sometimes referred to as Law and Order: Crime and Punishment) that aired for two seasons starting in 2002.  There was no regular star of this series and it focused on the prosecutor taking on each case.  This series is also available for rent on DVD.

There is also a version running in England known as Law and Order: UK.  It has the same dramatic feel as the US version, but the music and graphics are completely different (except for the dun, dun).  The cases are based off of the US version, but rewritten to be in line with British law.

So, now we are about to meet our newest addition to the Law and Order family; Law and Order: Los Angeles.  Set to premiere this fall on NBC, the franchise shifts to the west coast.  Will show work out west?  We’ll see.  My opinion is – not exactly.  It is a very New Yorkified show.  Los Angeles has a completely different flavor than NYC.  I understand that’s what producers and network brass want, but just hearing the name Law and Order, there is a certain set of rules that you have to follow.  If they make too many changes, this show is dead.  If they can keep it true to the original, while introducing fresh and compelling characters, and continue the tight storytelling, then it will have a chance.  I will give it a try this fall.

So, is the original Law and Order completely dead?  Not so fast.  While it has been canceled by NBC and the last original episode will air on Monday, May 24th.  Creator Dick Wolf told the New York Times this week that he is shopping the show to cable and is also considering a two hour TV movie.

“The patient is not dead,” he said in a statement to the New York Times.  “It is in a medically induced coma and we are hoping for a cure.”

Sounds like another idea for an episode to me!  But, whatever happens, I have a big TV night ahead of me on Monday — the two hour series finale of 24 and the series finale of Law and Order.  I can’t wait!



On paper this sounds like a good idea.  The Smurfs were a big part of my childhood in the 80s.  I remember the 90-minute marathon blocks every Saturday morning.  (Do they even have Saturday morning cartoons, anymore?)  But, knowing how Hollywood has basically blown it with remakes over the last few years, I don’t have high hopes.

First off, some footage has already been leaked to the internet.  What we will get is a CG world mixed in with live actors.  The film will star Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother, Sofia Vergara from Modern Family, Jayma Mays from Glee and Hank Azaria from The Simpsons as Gargamel.

Other big-name stars are also lending their voices to the film.  Legendary actor Jonathan Winters is back as the voice of Papa Smurf, his role from the original cartoon series.  Joining him are: Paul Rubens as Jokey, George Lopez as Grouchy, Keenan Thompson as Greedy, Fred Armisen as Brainy, Jeff Foxworthy as Handy, Katy Perry as Smurfette, Anton Yelchin as Clumsey, and Wolfgang Puck as the new Chef Smurf.

The film is currently being shot in New York City, with photos of Hank Azaria in the real world as Gargamel, leaked to TMZ.  The plot is top secret, so there’s no clue how the Smurf’s will interact with New York.  Hopefully, it will be in much better taste than the last Garfield movie or the really, really annoying Chipmunks flicks.  But it most certainly won’t be the next Avatar.

The Smurfs movie was originally set to be released in late summer of this year.  However, due to studio issues, the film is now pushed until August 2011.

One last piece of trivia… why was the original cartoon canceled by NBC in 1989?  To make room for a Saturday edition of Today.


My Own Blogumn!

Ryan is returning back to this column next week.  I’m sure his fans have missed him over the past few months.  I will continue to comment as always… but, I’m getting an assignment of my own!

Starting next week… look for my very own blogumn Kicking Back with Jersey Joe!  We’ll take a look at the world of pop culture, cool places to visit, great foods to try, and basically anything that is fun!  (I hope that’s a good enough tease!)  So, thanks for all your comments while I filled in for Ryan, I can’t wait to read lots more of them, and I’ll see you for my SERIES PREMIERE, next week!