The 'Law & Order' era ends tonight: Good night, Goren, good night, Eames

When Law & Order: Criminal Intent brings the gavel down one final time tonight, an era will have ended: the entire Law & Order franchise will essentially be finished. Oh, sure, Special Victims Unit will come back this fall, but without Christopher Meloni and only a limited number of Mariska Hargitay appearances. The creepiest of the L&O spin-offs (all those pervs; all those children and women in jeopardy plots!), SVU exists primarily as manipulative Emmy-bait and tarnishes the Law & Order legacy. No, it’s Criminal Intent‘s departure on Sunday night that signals a singular TV institution’s end.

Once upon a time, the original Law & Order existed as a clever throwback to TV’s earliest, just-the-facts-ma’am days of terse realism (its format was Dragnet wedded to The Defenders). Then producer Dick Wolf started churning out spin-offs and moving cast members around like a man with his own rotisserie baseball league staffed with cops and lawyers. You have your favorite mix ‘n’ match Law & Order teams (perhaps you’re most fond of Jerry Orbach and Jesse L. Martin among the gumshoes, and Linus Roache and Carey Lowell of the prosecutors?), and I have mine: give me Chris Noth and Orbach, and Sam Waterston and Angie Harmon any rerun. (I also freely confess to a long-standing crush on Carolyn McCormick’s crisp police psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Olivet.)

When it premiered ten years ago, Criminal Intent broke with the formula in a significant way: It was essentially a vehicle for one actor, rather than the ensemble piece that all the others were forced by Wolf to be. That’s because the outsize personality of Vincent D’Onofrio over-shadowed any actor with the temerity to squeeze into the TV screen with him. As I wrote at the time, “D’Onofrio does some of the most flamboyant detective work since David Suchet twirled mustache wax as PBS’ Hercule Poirot. As a ‘special case squad’ solver, his Goren reveals the workings of his character’s mind by physicalizing everything. He doesn’t just interrogate someone, he bends his long, wide, Gumby body around a suspect, who becomes additionally unnerved when D’Onofrio waggles a frankfurter-long finger in his face and asks cutting yet smiley-faced questions.”

Left on her tippy-toes, peering over the D’Onofrio bulk, has been co-star Kathryn Erbe. I’ve conducted a mathematical investigation to find that her Eames must have 75 percent less dialogue per episode than Bobby Goren does. While this jibes with the subtle range Erbe showed on HBO’s Oz and proves her professional generosity, it has always left me feeling badly for her, since she is so obviously superior an actress than, for example, Elizabeth Rohm, who spent a few seasons on L&O twirling her pearls as a prosecutor with a blank face and robotic line-readings.

The L&O brand has become weaker by the year, marred by bad decisions on the part of both Wolf and NBC. There was no good reason for the network to cancel what used to be referred to as “the mothership,” the original Law & Order, just as it had reached Wolf’s long-cherished goal of beating Gunsmoke as the longest-running TV drama in history. The cancellation was especially cruel given the fact that the newest iteration of the show was Law & Order: LA, which somehow managed to make Los Angeles — a mecca to colorful, weird, goofy crime — look drab, and cast as its stars a mopey Method-actor wannabe (Skeet Ulrich) and a good actor with no star charisma and a head that looked like a thumb (Corey Stoll).

L&O:CI is certainly going out on a high note. Last week’s superbly typical yet nutty hour was a classic L&O ripped-from-the-headlines entry, a satire of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark complete with a delightful cameo by rock-poet-memoirist Patti Smith, and Cynthia Nixon soaring higher than any super-hero as a hightened version of director Julie Taymor (“Spectacular! Brighter! Dazzle me!”).

As I said, you’ll still be able to get a fresh, if impure, stepped-on L&O fix with SVU in the fall, and heaven knows we’ll be able to watch all forms of the franchise in reruns until this rock called Earth disintegrates to a pebble. But to me, once Goren asks his final interrogation question, the whole history of Law & Order will pretty much come to a jail-cell-clang close.

Good night, Goren, good night, Eames, good night Wolf, and pleasant dreams.

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (275 total) Add your comment
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  • Conrad

    Who gives a sh!t.

    • Mitch was the killer

      the people who chose to read this article, clearly.

      My favorite actor from the entire series was Linus Roache – he was a convincing attorney. But I will always think of him as Thomas Wayne.

      SVU is/was trash, CI was the best

      • DOUG

        Your thoughts I agree on. The others I pee upon.

      • Jennifer The TruthTeller

        SVU is “Emmy bait” but it “tarnishes” the L&O legacy?
        What a an absulutely moronic leap in logic.

      • Jax

        Um…”Emmy bait” is not a complement just so you know.

      • Carmen

        Clearly agree. CI was definitely the best, and another thing: I’ve never understood people to read an article and make a lame comment, ‘who gives a sh*t?’ If you don’t like/watch the program; why bother to read the article? I’m just sayn??

      • Just Someone

        I think a lot of people don’t even read the articles they just go straight to the comments so they can write stuff they beleive will get everyone up in arms. Clearly they need to get lives.

    • Kathryn

      Apparently not you, so… why are you here? And why are you unable to follow up your question with the correct punctuation?

      • Jer

        I think Conrad is saying that Matt Smith is concerned about this topic.

    • BLT

      I do. I will miss this show, which just returned to form with a handful of new episodes. D’onofrio is so compelling as the focus of the show, that it suffered greatly due to his absence. I had hoped L&O CI would earn a reprieve and stave off cancellation. NBC seems to be run by a bunch of idiots. I’m sure the L&O CI ratings are better than most of their offerings.

      • NoChance

        Does NBC even have any real shows anymore?
        I gave up on the network when they canceled the original “L&O” so that it wouldn’t surpass “Gunsmoke” in years on the air.
        I’ve heard the network referred to as the Nothing But Crap network and it seems pretty accurate.

    • maggie

      @Conrad, the millions of people with enough good sense to watch L&O:CI with Goren & Eames.

    • deedeedragons

      Oh shut up! The final episode was great & it was all a bout the little things for example he actually called her ‘Alex’.

      • Vicki

        Thank the gods they didn’t have them kiss. I was worried for a second.

      • Daniel

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    • stickittotheman

      Dumbest. Comment. Ever.

      • Risette

        Birhen kaau ang bulak kay puti man, hehehe! Thanks sa blateed birthday greetings, Kat. Appreciate it.Hugs!

    • Rob

      You, apparently, since you rushed your @$$ to post first.

    • KimiB

      Great shows!! Going to miss them all!

  • DON’T SPEAK

    love the last line, bittersweet

    • gazmo

      Time to RELAUNCH the Mothership!!

      As far as I know that’s a move that has NEVER been made before in the history of TV – cancel a show and bring it back 2 seasons later!!
      Reassemble the cast!!
      Bring it back for season 1,000,001.

      • theduck

        Both Family Guy and Futurama have come back from cancellation with new episodes, just to let you know. And I for one am eager to see the end of all forms of L&O – it’s been played out for years, IMHO.

      • maggie

        NBC really needs to bring back the original L&O. It’s still better than most of the stuff they have on.

      • JR

        The Brady Bunch came back several times after cancellation. It’s A Living had a gap of several years between seasons. WKRP in Cincinnati. Sliders. Dragnet. Red Dwarf. There are several examples of shows which have come back after being canceled.

  • Dean

    If it’s the end, then why is Erbe making the rounds telling fans to push USA to renew for an 11th season?

  • Lisa

    Law and Order: UK is my favorite. I’m looking forward to the next season of that one.

    • vicky

      Absolutely agree. Between a revamped SVU & Law &Order:UK, I’ll take L&O:UK any day.

      • Suzq

        I agree, the Brts do good tv.

    • maggie

      Yes, it’s very good. Much better than the LA version.

      • Pedroh

        GOD, how good it felt to see ALEXANDRA CABOT in that corotruom !!! That corotruom is nothing without Alex Cabot. That woman is an unstoppable force of justice. Really happy happy to see her back, Finally. Of course, Olivia Benson is very very happy to see Alex, too. Stephanie March didn’t aged a bit .. still gorgeous !!!

    • cregis

      But they are just recycling the original Law and Order scripts? I like a lot of British series but don’t want to watch the same scripts.

      • WayneInNYC

        Even though they do recycle US scripts, the conclusions sometimes end up changing to reflect the laws as applicable in The U.K.

    • nella

      the UK version is not truly Law and order. this show is american and is apart of our pride. no anglo saxon version would ever be superior

  • Brett

    For once, I agree with you, Ken Tucker (about everything except your admiration for one-note actress Angie Harmon; Richard Brooks was the best co-prosecutor, followed by Carey Lowell).

    • NoChance

      You do know that Angie Harmon is one of the 2 stars of “Rizzoli & Isles” on TNT don’t you?
      It had a great 1st season and season 2 is about to kick off in a couple of weeks. She’s definitely not a one note.

  • Kevin Klawitter

    “manipulative Emmy bait”? Seriously?

    I’ve been mourning the distinegration of the L&O franchise as much as any fan, but I’m not the type who automatically goes “CHANGE BAD!” I enjoyed LOLA quite a bit (especially after the retool… NBC didn’t give it enough of a chance, methinks) and SVU has been quite consistent and is also impressive in how it deals with social and political issues without deviating too far from the police procedural genre.

    Still, the loss of CI will be devestating. It was probably my favorite of the franchise for the last few years.

    • Amit

      Agree with you about LOLA, I think it needed more time to click with the viewers. And I still love SVU (hope to like it without Chris – but that will be hard)

      • Law&Order Fan

        I was looking forward to Jennifer Love Hewitt joing the cast, (one of the few new castings i was ok with) but now i hear she’s not joining. I really don’t want to see anyone else after i got my hopes up on JLH. I really don’t think there should be a replacement for Meloni unless if it is William Petersen or Chris Noth.

  • tnsmoke

    I am hoping NBC will change their mind again and bring back Goren and Eames. I don’t think this is the only L & O spin-off that was worth watching, and still is popular in reruns on 2 different local channels here. I liked the revamped L & O Los Angeles but hated Terrance Howard’s role. Actually I like L & O the best, not only for the fine D’Onofrio and Erbe but because I hated the whole “now switch to the law part of the story”. They didn’t do that on Criminal Intent. Thank you Vincent and Kathryn for all your great work!

  • Mincha

    I always felt sorry for Erbe too, and often felt claustrophic watching D’Onofrio on the small screen. It was a good show, but I never enjoyed this version quite as much because they revealed whodunit at the beginning. That kind of spoiled it for me (no pun intended). It had some powerful, absolutely riveting moments, though. RIP, L&O:CI.

    • Mincha

      *claustrophobic. Oops.

    • Maculae

      Well the point of LO:CI was to figure out the why-dunnit as opposed to the who-dunnit. Occasionally it would be both a who/why-dunnit with twists. For the most part it wanted us to go past the superficial and to find the underlying purpose of the crime.

      • Mincha

        Understood, but I enjoy trying to figure out both the who and the why. I’m only speaking for myself, of course.

      • GuRock

        To be honest i like the new chtarcaers, and really don’t care if Christopher and Mariska leaves. I mean it doesn’t bother me, and glad that the 2 new chtarcaers are people who i like. Another note, Ice-T needs to grow his hair back and get back in shape. I do like Mariska and Christopher and enjoy their time on the show. Good luck to them.And by the way, BRING BACK THE ORIGINAL LAW ORDER.

      • Adisak

        Honestly i am in two minds on whether to take stand for or asagnit. you are simply sharing your own point,i appreciate it. For some it will ring true for others it may not resemble their experience at all. I’m simply encouraging dialogue in the hope others will get the support they need.

  • jfms777

    Although this mini-season of “CI” was disappointing, I am glad they allowed the series to “wrap up.”
    To its credit, Julia Ormond has been great this season. Among the other L&O series, the original is still my favorite. But isn’t it ironic? Peter “Columbo” Falk dies the same weekend as “CI” leaves? Let’s face it. The “Goren” character was basically an updated “Columbo.”

    • Barry

      No, his character was an updated Sherlock Holmes with Erbe serving as his Dr. Watson to some degree.

      • Maculae

        But they’re all basically cut from the same cloth of detective aren’t they? Mildly eccentric. Highly intelligent.

      • Aishatu

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    • maggie

      Updated Sherlock Holmes, not Columbo. BTW, the updated Sherlock on Masterpiece Theater is wonderful. (And yes, I’m going to keep calling it Masterpiece Theater)

      • Carla Houston

        @Maggie: agree 100% about the updated Sherlock. Loved the first series, can’t wait for the next.

        As far as which L&O pairs are favorites, mine will always be Jerry Orbach and Jesse L. Martin. I also love Noth, but for some reason I like the chemistry between Orbach and Martin better. On the Law side, Linus Roache was the best of the bunch, with Sam Waterston a close second for me.

  • Crystal

    Goren and Eames are my fav L & O partership along with Green & Briscoe.

    KE indeed has less dialogue, but her non-verbal reactions to Goren’s character have always been amazing. They were a great acting partnership!

    • Vigs

      Yes indeed! Best and most-telling line:
      “Maybe that’s because you were watching the wrong detective.”

      • LDSK

        HA! Yes, that was a great line from a great episode. I’m miss Erbe the most.

      • IMJatika

        Another great episode? When Eames gets kidnapped. Now that’s a tough broad! Bravo KE! Somebody give that woman her own show!!

    • marilyn

      I agree Crystal. They are my favorite Law and Order team. I hope that USA Network brings it back in the fall for at least 8 more episodes. The ending left it opened for more. There is a website that someone started to bring them back for more episodes. I always thought Goren should have been nominated for an Emmy for his performance in the episode when his nephew (or cousin) was in prison. Excellent acting! Will miss Law and Order!!

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  • Rusty

    The original Law and Order was the only one worth watching. I miss it.

    • gkugelman

      Will miss ci with Goren & Eames, Watch them all (law & order) but ci was my favoite.

  • Kevin

    SVU stand alone for the L&O franchise until the show face off against CSI on Wednesdays.

  • Monica

    I agree with you Ken (except your description of Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll). I’m going to miss Goren and Eames, two of my favorite detectives and CI-my favorite L&O show. I really hope the “tv gods” will bring this one back…again.

    • Dee

      I just arrived back in UAE and the same eecnriexpe happened to me.wala signal SUN dito!!! i should have known! i should have used Globe or Smart. Sun should have telecom connections in the middle east, especially since there are millions of Filipinos here! i cannot understand the reason bakit di nila inuna na magkaroon ng service dito. hay.

    • Nikolas

      Glad to have you back! There is a really good cmmounity on the WotC forums. We also have a story-driven Dark Sun organized play campaign called Ashes of Athas (for which I am an admin). Adventures premiere at DDXP, Origins, and Gen Con. We also release them for free for home play during brief windows (Chapter 2 can be ordered now and through December 15th). My WotC blog may be of help in running an Athasian campaign. Finally, DDI has released a lot of additional Dark Sun content I highly recommend it.

  • Maculae

    Besides the writing in seasons parts of 7; 8&9 LOCI hasn’t really let me down. Though it was D’Onofrio’s vehicle and he did a great job with it, his level of acting brought up the acting from everyone that came on the show. Rarely did I think that a guest actor was phoning it in. I too felt bad for Erbe, but her subtleness and reactions to D’Onofrio were well done. Hopefully one day she’ll get a show of her own or equal stature in another show. The Goren and Eames partnership is among my top 5 in the L&O franchise and LOCI by far had the best acting. It’s sad that it’s come to an end, but at least it’s going out on a high and also knowing that it was ending allowing itself proper closure that it deserves. (I know, terrible constructed sentence.)
    I can’t wait to see Mr. D’Onofrio and Ms. Erbe’s future projects.
    SVU has been unwatchable for at least 5 or 6 years. Perhaps the exit of Meloni and the reduced status of Hargitay along with the addition of showrunner Warren Leight is a new breath of fresh air that the show needs.

    The mothership definitely weakened over the years but never reached the WTH?Emmybait! that is SVU. It was sad that it was ended just to bring LOLA. They should have ended mothership the next year and spent that extra year developing LOLA.

    LOLA itself wasn’t too bad, but it felt that production was rushed and then taking it away just to revamp it ruined the flow. They could have just as easily aired the unaired eps whilst revamping. That way the character death would have had more of an impact. Instead people just stopped caring very early on. Terrible decision on NBC’s part. Though this line “mopey Method-actor wannabe (Skeet Ulrich) and a good actor with no star charisma and a head that looked like a thumb (Corey Stoll).” really had me cracking up. Stoll and Molina were the best actors on that show, but neither one of them had a presence on screen. When guests and extras seem more important on screen, you have a problem.

    • Maculae

      But like everyone says, these shows will be in syndication until the end of time.

    • suea46

      I agree with Maculae 1000 %…the best TV duo ever! I shall miss the best of the L&O’s! I would love an occasional movie with the characters..just to see where Goren goes…

  • Cathy

    No more Sniffy McSnifferson? There’s always reruns.

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