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July 23, 2014

I'm liking the leaner, meaner Law & Order: SVU

by Richard Keller, posted Oct 3rd 2008 1:04PM

Something was amiss during the last three seasons of Law & Order: SVU. With Mariska Hargitay's pregnancy leave, changes in Christopher Meloni's character, the introduction and departure of some cast members, and the demotion of Detective Munch to a desk, the show seemed to have lost its way. It was tough to watch as more melodrama seeped into the show and pushed away the criminal procedurals that have made this Law & Order franchise so popular.

However, change may be on the horizon. With the first two episodes of the tenth season now under their belt, there's a feeling of normalcy that has returned to the show. A sense that the producers may be done tinkering with the program for the time being, despite the introduction of Michaela McManus as new A.D.A Kim Greylek. Some melodrama is still there - they are human beings after all - but the cases are first and foremost for the show.

What's making the show run more smoothly is the return of the four-detective precinct. Last season, the dichotomy of the SVU teams were disrupted by the introduction of Charles Lake (Adam Beach) as Fin's new partner. This made Munch a literal fifth-wheel to the group. With Lake now gone Fin has reunited with Munch. And, with Munch back on the beat the show has taken on the feeling that it had before Hargitay's pregnancy.

Munch has always been a good counter balance for the rest of the detectives. In an environment dripping with pain and tension, Munch has been the bright spotlight that has broken the darkness...be it his smart-alecky quips or his conspiracy theories. A good example of this took place during the season premiere. After a long dry spell, Munch brought up the subject of the bar that he used to own in Baltimore. This became a running joke throughout the episode. At one point, when A.D.A. Greylek said they should celebrate the closing of a case, Much said that they could if they owned a bar.

The other item that is making the show work is the elimination, right now, of the drawn-out court scenes. For many seasons SVU resembled the original Law & Order where the case would be investigated by the detectives in the first half, then move to the courtroom for the last half of the program. Sometimes, a courtroom confession would result in a return to the police department. Usually, though, an episode would end with a courtroom verdict. While the trial was interesting it should have only been a small part of the program rather than taking up half of the program.

Whether this will remain the status quo for the rest of the season remains to be seen. Until then, if you were a bit disappointed about the last few season, enjoy the leaner, meaner SVU.

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mackenna

I'm growing more disgusted by the minute with this show. The most recent episode in which they air the tortured screams of a pedophile teenager being viciously murdered is beyond the pale. Is this what they think the viewing audience needs to hear to tune in? Call me turned off and tuning out. The only L&O show I like anymore is Criminal Intent. SVU has become another sensationalized show that thrives on shocking it's audience as much as possible.

October 05 2008 at 5:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
reverenddebby

Small point - Lake's first name is Chester, not Charles! Also would love weekly recaps of this show, NCIS, and Bones!!!!

October 04 2008 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rachel

I completely disagree. This season has started out to be less drama, more PSA. And I find it to be completely annoying.

I did love Munch's shout-out to "Homicide: Life on the Street", by the mentions of his bar and also the list of his previous partners. I miss that show...

October 04 2008 at 3:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tracey

And if you like it, let's review it! Didn't tvsquad used to have reviews of SVU? I remember waking up on Wednesday mornings and going to read them. Anyway, SVU is my favorite show because I think the whole cast is amazing, Mariska and Chris especially. I love watching them on screen together and yes, the Elliot/Olivia dynamic was what got me watching in the first place, somewhere around season 5. (Talk about complexity! That relationship has more layers than an onion.)

One thing I will disagree with one poster - I really like the part that deals with Elliot and Olivia's "personal demons." In fact, that is why I set my watch by this L&O version, but rarely watch the others. It's not that the original version and CI are bad - in fact, eps there are often quite well done - but I *love* the personal stuff. I want to see how this gruesome, tiring, difficult job affects people. I want to see how a person shifts and changes under these conditions, how it breaks some relationships (Kathy... and I'm still not convinced that marriage is going to work) and builds others (partners are like blood, people).

I'm excited about season 10 - I've heard great things!

October 03 2008 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mel

Can someone remind me of what took place last season that is creating the tension between Elliot & Fin?

Thanks so much.

October 03 2008 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Mel's comment
Lora

In the season finale, when Lake (Adam Beach) disappeared while he was being investigated (long story, not very interesting, the point is, he's gone now), Elliot thought that Fin (being Lake's partner) might be in touch with him and instead of just asking him straight out, he had the tech people get into his phone records. Fin was ticked off that Elliot went behind his back and didn't trust him, and I don't blame him.

And I agree that Lake threw the whole dynamic of the show off last season. Was it because Richard Belzer wanted a smaller part last year? Adam Beach is a perfectly fine actor and the character of Chester Lake wasn't bad in an of itself, but the partnership of Munch and Fin was and is pure gold. I'm glad they're back on the beat together.

October 03 2008 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CJH

When Lake went missing while they were investigating him for a shooting, Elliot searched Fin's phone records to try and find Lake. Fin wasn't too happy about it.

October 03 2008 at 6:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
StillBash

I don't get this post.

I didn't notice any difference at all. The show's been the same. Basing this on two episodes is a little bit thin, but I wonder how you came to this realization that the show has changed.

It might very well be that the next melodramatic courtroomcentric episode is right around the corner. This is something you maybe could write up after half a season but not right at the beginning. There's just not enough basis to that opinion for the lack of knowing what is in store. This all seems more like guesswork...

October 03 2008 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

I think the show has always been top-notch -- even the last few years -- but it's nice to see it being written about on TV Squad!

My only criticism of the show this season is that Cragen is too much of a caricature. When he put Elliot on unpaid leave last week, he over-acted, even by his own standards.

If you want evidence of a great episode from last season, look no further than the one where Olivia was in a car wreck with Elliot's pregnant wife. Classic.

October 03 2008 at 3:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BC McKinney

Although this seems to be the most watched of the L&O franchise--no doubt because it's the most lurid--it has always been my least favorite, including the short-lived shows that were cancelled. I still record it to watch later, but I can't say I watch every episode, or enjoy it--the Olivia undercover in womens' prison episode I just couldn't sit through, although I am glad they are showing that she is suffering aftereffects of the experience.

I can't say that I detect a much difference between this season and the last couple yet, except that I hate the new ADA; but then, no one can replace Alex Cabot in my heart. I always thought Diane Neal was an odd choice to play Casey Novak since she played a perp several seasons previous to becoming the ADA.

October 03 2008 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eugene

I'd really appreciate if they drop the the melodrama altogether and stop making every other episode a blatant attempt to get an emmy for one of the leads.

October 03 2008 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Eugene's comment
Max

I agree. I always liked this one better because it was more of a cop show and now a Perry Mason courtroom drama.

I am also sick of the drama of Benson & Stabler's "personal demons". I just want them to do good police work. Why must every procedural these days start turning into a soap?

October 03 2008 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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