Here are my first impressions of “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” which airs at 9 p.m. Central Wednesdays on NBC.
1. “LOLA” is “Law & Order” on the cheap. The original version, which was canceled last spring after 20 seasons, had six cast members and was filmed in New York. This version has something like four-and-a-half cast members (Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard trade off as the lead prosecutor, like Vincent D’Onofrio and Chris Noth used to trade off as detectives on “L&O: Criminal Intent”).
2. Whereas the previous four American “L&Os” have taken place in the Big Apple, this one takes place in Tinseltown, and the pilot episode pounds that point home. There’s a crime spree in mansions owned by the rich. The mastermind turns out to be the mom of a Hollywood starlet. And with mansions checked off the list of locales we associate with LA, next week’s episode takes place at the beach.
3. I liked Skeet Ulrich a lot in “Miracles,” one of many one-and-done sci-fi investigative shows between “X-Files” and “Fringe.” I didn’t care for “Jericho,” but I’m glad he’s back in a lead role here. I don’t know anything about Corey Stoll, but so far he and Ulrich seem to make a fine duo. Molina fits right in as the primary ADA (Howard will get his turn in episode two), but Regina Hall didn’t have much to do as the sidekick ADA in the first episode.
4. “LOLA” is not as good as the original version, and probably never will be, but I’m going to try to not hold that against it. Dick Wolf never intended for “LOLA” to replace the New York original; he intended for both to be on the air. “LOLA” is cheaper and easier to make, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. The compelling personalities aren’t there yet (but they’ve only had one episode), but the stories will be. LA isn’t NYC, but that doesn’t mean it’s a worse location; it just means it’s a different location. And although there are a lot of shows set in LA, “LOLA” has the potential to dig past the glossy surface and get at the reality of the city.
5. One of the highlights of classic “L&O” was Lenny Briscoe arresting people in awkward situations. In honor of Lenny, “LOLA” should have a scene at some point where the detectives arrest an actor on a movie set.
Verdict: “LOLA” will never have the cast chemistry or banter of the original “L&O,” but the backbone of the franchise is issue-oriented and headline-ripped storytelling, and this version will be just fine in that department. But with all the “L&O” cutbacks lately (“Criminal Intent” is embarking on its final season), I have a funny feeling this version will be canceled after one season and we’ll just be left with “SVU” (plus “L&O: UK,” for you completists out there). I’ll stick with “LOLA,” though, just as I did with “Trial By Jury.”