'Law & Order' lays down some L.A. law

"Law & Order: Los Angeles"

"Law & Order: Los Angeles" (Credit: NBC Photo)

THE SHOW "Law & Order: Los Angeles"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 10 on NBC/4

REASON TO WATCH The newest version.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT With "LOLA," NBC has loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly - Hills, that is. (Movie stars, swimming pools . . . ) Also, Hollywood, Echo Park, Palos Verdes, Sylmar . . . To establish that this big move - which effectively spelled the end of a 20-year-old classic based in New York - was not some slick way to save bucks by shooting the new series out of a Universal soundstage, "LOLA" has hit the freeway. The network promises that Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and his partner Tomas "TJ" Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll), LAPD detectives in the Robbery Homicide Division, will solve crimes wherever they occur in the L.A. basin (tonight, it's Hollywood). Deputy District Attorneys Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina) and Jonah "Joe" Dekker (Terrence Howard) will prosecute, on alternating weeks. ("LOLA" split 'em up to accommodate movie schedules.)

The premiere episode has a story line about a mother and her exploited starlet daughter.

MY SAY You don't get to the age of 20 in prime time by being a dummy, and there are few shrewder prime-time players than Dick Wolf, the guy who created the "Law & Order" franchise. He lost a bid for a 21st season of "L&O," but watch "LOLA" and decide for yourself: Maybe Wolf got his 21st, after all.

"LOLA" is "Law & Order," just a sunnier version, although there are differences. The stars are new, and cases are L.A.-specific (starlets, a Manson murder-like story line next week). But the formula, style, pace and structure all jumped in the moving van and headed west. So did Rene Balcer, longtime showrunner. The new detectives seem so young, eager and fresh-faced that you almost think the Hardy Boys are on the case. Molina's Morales has a bit of that nice New York edge; Howard's Dekker (in next week's episode) is a little stuffier, duller; he'd probably be better suited to "Law & Order: D.C."

BOTTOM LINE Same show, different city.

GRADE B+

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