Wednesday, May 23, 2007

30 Years of Law & Order: Part IV -Time to cut a deal!

The following is part 4 of a 51 part series on "Law & Order". Other parts can be seen here:

As we continue our assessment of the greatest drama ever to be created by Dick Wolf, we move slightly up the ladder to analyze the District Attorney of New York County.

That the word "Attorney" is included in the title of this occupation is somewhat misleading. Truth is, there's not a lot of attorneying going on. The DA doesn't really do much in the way of prosecuting criminals or sleeping with his hot Assistant DAs. The DA is more of a poli-ticker, guiding the ADA's prosecution based on how the outcome may affect public opinion of the DA office. In their defense (awesome pun), they can also provide sage advice from the decades of experience they have in prosecuting criminals and sleeping with their hot ADAs.

The role of DA in Law & Order has been played by 3 people:

When he retired in 2000, Adam Schiff (played by Steven Hill) was the longest-running current cast member at 11 years. That's a long time to run. Schiff, with a voice as dry and peaty as the single-malt in his right hand, can solve the ADA's dilemma in his sleep: "Your star witness, is a one-eyed, transvestite midget, and your victim is a 3-toed sloth out on parole for the armed robbery of a convent. MAKE A DEAL."

After Schiff left, Edward Scissorhands' mom jumped in for 3 seasons (2000-2002) to fill the role of Nora Lewin. She must have had a hard time seeing, because she squinted quite frequently. I think it was a metaphor for her determination to seek justice. Like David Duchovny always says, "The Truth Is Out There", and sometimes you just have to squint to see it.

Arthur Branch and his booming southern twang made their debut in 2003. It's kind of like a cowboy running the DA's office. He's got a quick trigger finger and ten gallons of don't-make-me-put-you-in-the- Texas-Toaster-boy! for anyone who gets in his way. Well, that's how I'd write it anyway.

Branch is known for his conservative approach, though, which has lead to many a clash with noted liberal hot-head Jack McCoy and his harem. For those who don't know, Fred Dalton Thompson was actually a US Senator (R-TN) before accepting the role of Branch. He's pondered a 2008 run for the Big One. He'll obviously win, so for those who care to know a little more about your next President:
  • Supports the right to bear arms (what cowboy wouldn't)
  • No clear stance on abortion (has wavered but believes it should not be government funded)
  • Supports free trade
  • Thinks Al Gore is a nut
  • Would like to continue to "secure our borders" from job-stealing foreigners

Coovo's take: Was that the only picture we could find of Diane Wiest? Thing is those specs are back in style now.

Chances are if you tune in to a TNT re-run, you are either going to get Schiff or Branch. If the life span of Law & Order were a day, Nora Lewin's tenure would be a quick lunch break. She did her best but in the end she couldn't escape the shadow of the Schiffster.

It always appeared, by his voice and slow motion movement, that Adam Schiff was annoyed with his job. Smiles were at a minimum and he probably holds a TV record for consecutive sighs. The thing I like about Schiff is he always backed up his ADA's even when they completely ignored his advice. And when he plopped on that fedora to take himself home for the evening, he reminded me of a that Greatest Generation of people who never stopped working for what they believed. Man I wish I had that hat.

Arthur Branch however made his money in the private sector and now wants to put people behind bars. He is as resounding as Schiff was subtle. I do like him as a DA. His character is strong and his southern wit always leaves me with a chuckle. But he is new age. He plays the political games. And, he has no hat.

To me, it is no contest. I cast my vote for Adam Schiff.

Roller's take: I never liked Nora Lewin that much. Nothing against the actress or the writers, but the character did nothing for me; she seemed weak. Ole' Tennessee Thompson isn't bad, but he's not the reason you hang around for McCoy's inevitable discussion with the DA.

That, my friends, is Adam Schiff. He's everything you want in a DA. He's old. He's crotchety. He wears those awesome old-man hats. His voice makes Joan Rivers sound like Judy Garland. His calm demeanor is the perfect balance to Jack McCoy's temper.

The show, in my opinion, was top shelf in throughout the '90's, although it started to degrade somewhat towards the end of the decade. That Schiff was still around kept the second half of the show strong, but his departure after the 1999-2000 season left a hole in the show for sure, no matter how small his role was.

In the next episode of The Loop and The Lou, Coovo will dissect perfect form in a jump shot, and I'll explain why bacon makes everything better... stay tuned!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Who are you? Who-who, who-who . . .

I was talking with my brother last night and he said that he enjoyed our last couple posts. I told him he should have left a comment. And he should have and so should you. Even if it is to tell us that reading this entry wasted 2 minutes of your life that you will never get back. We'd love to know that people are reading, but we also want to hear what people think about the law and order characters. Our friend Ryan Seacrest (the last name has been changed to protect him from his baby's mama) has been diligent in leaving us his thoughts and for that we could not be more appreciative. Of course you will need a Google account, which is kind of like saying you need be alive.

To encourage some comments, I ask the following questions:

Does anyone want to start a petition to increase Paris Hilton's jail sentence? more info

How many of you will watch another horse race before next year's Kentucky Derby?

For those in the Lou, do you need to start sandbagging? Let's hope not.

For those in the Loop, should the Bulls play with a book in their shorts to soften the blow of the spanking the're taking from the Pistons?

Lastly, it looks like our beloved Law & Order might be in some trouble. It looks to be headed to TNT for it's 18th season. Good or bad thing? Discuss.

Tune in soon. Things get dicey, as we now have to choose from the three people who upheld the law in New York County. The crotchety Adam Schiff, the mercurial Nora Lewin, or the staunch Arthur Branch.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

30 Years of Law & Order: Part III - Aye Cap'n

The following is part 3 of a 51 part series on "Law & Order". Other parts can be seen here:
What makes a good police captain? Historically, television (a.k.a. The Truth) has taught us that there are a few traits that a police captain must have:
  1. The ability to go on a tirade, spawned by a general disdain for a rogue, hot-shot detective.
  2. Some sort of medical condition, preferably an ulcer or a heart-condition. This should be treated by handfuls of non-descript pills washed down with Scotch.
  3. Either a multiple divorcee, or an Irish Catholic devoted father of 7.
  4. Without question, the captain is male. Chicks don't get ulcers.
We are pleased to say that Law & Order bucks the trend in this category. The role of Police Captain probably has the least impact of the 6 major characters on the show, but at times is called upon for a one-liner to close a scene, or to advance the story line when the detectives seem out of options.

Comparing Donn Florek (Capt. Donald Cragen) and S. Epatha Merkerson (Lt. Anita Van Buren) is similar to the Stone-McCoy issue; Florek was only on the show for the first 3 seasons, and Sepatha has become the longest-running active cast member. If possible, look past the pictures for our takes on each character.

Coovo's take:
It shocks me to know that Cragen was only on the show for three years. Upon further review, it was four years (1990-1993), but still a short time. It always seems like the originals were there longer than they were.

It took me a while to warm up to Cragen. Dan Florek's previous TV character was some whiny dude from LA Law. I hated that guy and it ruined my interpretation of Cragen. Cragen. I love the way it rolls off my tongue. Nice and Irish.

Van Buren is all balls, well, except for the obvious. She took the police to court after she thought she was passed over for the promotion. She always stands up to the males who try to put her in her place. However, except for a few shows, she just seems to have few lines. They're all something like, "That's strange, why don't you go back to the neighbor's alley and canvas it."

The question is, are we allowed to judge Cragen on his work in the SVU, where in my opinion, he is one badass captain and is making the world safe from pedophiles and rapists. If the answer is yes, I go with Cragen. If the answer is no, I go with Van Buren, because I just can't get that LA law dude out of my head.

Roller's take: Halle Berry is hot. They should do a Law & Order spinoff called like... "Law & Order: Halle Berry Swimsuit Edition". Every episode would have to have some horrible pun title like "The Court of Sex Appeals" or "Behind Bras". Florek has this look on his face like, "She gets her picture with Halle Berry, and I'm in suspenders?"

Anyway, Capt. Cragen was great because he was always stressed. Not so over-the-top as outlined in the intro to this column, but he always had a furrowed brow, and always answered the phone "WHAT?!?". I can't say the show skipped a beat when his character was replaced by Van Buren, but he was good; what you expected out of an NYC police captain.

I was never felt strongly one way or another on Anita Van Buren. She lacked the fire that I thought a police lieutenant would have, although in some scenes that quality has actually scored points with me. I've seen a few episodes where she gets some one-on-one time with the accused, a racist or a psycho, and her moral high ground approach was refreshing.

In the end I gotta go with Van Buren. It's kind of like having Nel Carter run the Detectives Unit, and in a fight Cragen wouldn't last 2 rounds against Nel.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mea Culpae

If you are reading this Magistra, is that how you say "We're sorry?" You'd think four years of Latin could help me, but all I remember is that fili mi pinus, means "My son the pine tree".

Things have been quite busy for both myself and Roller and we are definitely sorry for all those "blogamaniacs" who have been looking forward to our next Law & Order installment. The good news is that it is on the way. Cragen v. Van Buren. No, not a civil case over Lenny Briscoe's police gear, but a Loop and the Lou dissection of the two people to run the 27th Precinct.

In a rare serious LATL moment, The Loop would like to send it's best to the Lou with regards to the recent death of Cardinals pitcher John Hancock. We rant and rave over these games and players like they have a great affect on our lives. But it is a moment like this that that has the greatest affect and should remind us to enjoy the game of baseball one pitch at a time.