September 22, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Until now, LAW & ORDER:  SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT has been unique to the franchise in not having undergone a periodic reshuffling of its cast.  For 12 seasons, SVU had been the only one of the series to be star-driven, anchored by the team of Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay.  But Meloni and NBC were unable to agree on a new deal this year, so in its 13th season, the last remaining member of the Law & Order dynasty is introducing 2 new characters in his place. 

In truth, the season premiere wasn’t much of a transition episode, producer Dick Wolf not being one to make much of such changes.  One of the new actors, Danny Pino, won’t even arrive till next week, and the other, Kelli Giddish (recently star of NBC’s flop Chase) stayed mostly in the background, except for a silly scene where she–probably illegally–engaged in “small talk” with a suspect who had legal representation.  Hargitay got an emotional moment at the very end when her character found out that Meloni’s, under investigation by Internal Affairs, had decided to retire, and that was it.
Beyond that, even by Law & Order standards, the episode was a just-barely veiled “ripped from the headlines” version of the NY Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape case, the fictionalization mostly limited to making the DSK character Italian instead of French, and allowing the case to proceed to an (inconclusive) trial, with no major twists in the story itself to speak of.   The L&O formula, unapologetically old-fashioned in this era of fast-paced, high-tech crime dramas, will attempt to do battle with the newly revitalized CSI and ABC’s fun soap Revenge; we’ll find out with tomorrow’s ratings how much kick the old jalopy’s still got.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."