Law and Order:
Criminal Intent Season 3

Law And Order

While most television is bland, predictable and written for second graders Law and Order: Criminal Intent Season 3 is the thinking man’s crime show

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Law and Order: Criminal Intent Season 3

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Over the years spin offs of popular television series has become a standard way of providing new television programming. Unfortunately of us, the viewers, most are, well let’s just say awful. It is rare for a popular series to spawn a successful second series. It is almost unheard of for two popular series to be created. Maude and the Jeffersons from All in the Family where the previous exceptions. Now, Dick Wolf has hit a hat trick with the introduction of Law & Order: Criminal Investigations. Instead of trying to repeat the same formula that made the first series a big hit for NBC Wolf strikes out in a different direction, one that provides a far more cerebral look at the major crimes perpetrated here in New York City. Sure the show takes place in the same Wolf universe as the other two, there are occasion guest appearances from familiar faces, but the look and feel is unique. This DVD box set of the third season is a fantastic way to become familiar with this series if you have missed it on the tube. The focus of the show is the Major Case Squad, the detectives assigned to the biggest, highest profile cases the New York police department is called upon to solve.

The two main detectives in this elite squad are Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe). The most obvious observation about this crime fighting duo is they are modeled after the famous Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. The thing about Holmes and Watson is the formula is perhaps the most successful in the annals of mystery. In the very early days of cinema it was easy to start the Holmes franchise in the 19th century and effortlessly move Holmes to fighting Nazis a couple of films later. It’s this timeless quality that now works so well for Law and Order: Criminal Intent Season 3.

In this third season Erbe was pregnant with her second child and rather than take the usual studio ridiculous strategy of hiding the growing tummy with file folders, briefcases and sitting behind a desk, Wolf and his producers made the wise decision to write the pregnancy into the story. Rather than tempt the current more conservative atmosphere they had Detective James become a surrogate for her sister. This required the addition, for this Law and Order season, of a new partner for Goren, Detective Bishop (Samantha Buck). This way a greater realistic reflection of the modern work place was achieved. She only lasted a few episodes in Law and Order: Criminal Intent Season 3 and then Eames was back in the swing of things again.

The Law and Order stories range far and wide here. In one episode of Law and Order, the suspect is a schizophrenic obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, another focuses on a group of Santeria cultists. One Law and Order episode takes on the darkest side of films like Mean Girls. A popular girl emotionally controls her clique and brings them to the point of murder. Instead of the ripped from the headlines approach of the first Law & Order or the extremely heinous side of Special Victims unit, Criminal Intent is usually concerned with facing some of the social issues we face today. Even spyware, something we all face on an almost daily basis gets a chance to drive the plot. Every Law and Order story is a cat and mouse game between the murderer and Goren, even when you know the outcome the fun is watching Goren piece it together.

When it was noted that this Law and Order production is a modern Sherlock Holmes incarnation it should be noted that I mean it is closer to the literary Holmes rather than the classic films from the forties. In those films Watson was a bubbling sidekick, but in the novels and stories Watson was an active participant in the investigation. This is how the character of Eames is treated.

While Goren is the brilliant mind that consumes facts at an amazing pace, Eames is the steadfast partner, a sounding board and trusted associate. D'Onofrio and Erbe represent some of the best casting around. Vincent D'Onofrio has made a career in film as one of the most inventive and ubiquitous character actors ever. From his Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket to his over the top serial killer in the otherwise lamentable The Cell, D'Onofrio gets under the skin of the characters he plays. He wears personas like a favorite old pair of jeans. In this Law and Order third season he has had a couple of years to really flesh out Goren into a realistic character.

Erbe is yet another alumnus of Oz that has come over to the Law & Order family. She is an under recognized yet extremely talented actress that adds a lot to this show. While D'Onofrio gets center stage most of the time Erbe manages to hold her own and contribute more than any typical ‘sidekick’ roles and creates an independent, intelligent woman. Two other notable actors fill out the cast of Law and Order. Courtney B. Vance plays ADA Ron Carver while Jamey Sheridan hands in a good performance on Law and Order as the squad Captain James Deakins. Vance is one of those actors that pops up in the most unlikely films. He first came to my attention in the incredible black comedy Last Supper. He adds to the intelligence of the Law and Order series and while his character is no Jack McCoy, he plays Carver as a resourceful lawyer determined to get justice. Sheridan is perhaps best known to many as the evil villain in the Stand. In Law and Order, he is unfortunately relegated to a very secondary capacity and not really given a chance to let his talent shin through.

As with other Universal television season sets Law and Order: Criminal Intent Season 3 is extremely well done, Universal not only provides excellent audio and video but they provide better than the usual extras for a current series. Executive Producer Fred Berner and Kathryn Erbe takes us on a tour of the Law and Order set and explain some of the behind the scenes actions. There are profiles of Vance and Sheridan highlighting these talented actors. Finally there is a featurette concerned with Detective Goren, a little biography of this very realistic character. In a bold move Universal has released the last seasons of all three Law & Order series so those just returning from the bottom of the sea can become familiar with these series. While most television is bland, predictable and written for second graders Law and Order is the thinking man’s crime show.

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