April 2, 2021

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Law & Order: Organized Crime”




Long before Marvel had a Cinematic Universe, there was Law & Order.  Dick Wolf’s behemoth kicked off in 1990, and it was joined 9 years later by SVU.  At peak franchise in the mid-2000s, there were four Law & Orders on the air, interlocked via crossovers with each other and even with the technically unrelated Homicide: Life On the Street. After that, the components of the franchise started tailing off, but in an entertainment era that has embraced the idea of Universes with ferocity, it was inevitable that the unkillable SVU (now in its 22nd season!) would get some company. That time has come with the arrival of LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME.

Organized Crime, which boasts a particularly complex origination credit (“created by” Wolf, The L Word‘s Ilene Chaiken as showrunner and the originally designated and now departed showrunner Matt Olmstead, “developed by” SVU showrunners Warren Leight and Julie Martin), is a mix of hallowed Law & Order tradition with newer wrinkles.  The pedigree comes from the starring presence of Christopher Meloni, back in his role of Elliot Stabler after a decade away.

Naturally enough, Organized Crime was introduced via a crossover with SVU, and Stabler’s return was addressed in that preliminary hour, written by Leight and Martin and directed by Juan Campanella.  It turned out that he and his family had been living in Rome, where he’d continued crimefighting, eventually joining an NYPD task force that tracked down international criminals.  Elliot came to town for a case and a visit, but before he even had a chance to show up for a ceremony honoring his one-time and now estranged work wife Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), his actual wife was blown up in what initially appeared to be a random attack but of course wasn’t.  Elliot and Olivia had left a lot between them unsaid, and although Hargitay briefly appeared in the official first episode of Organized Crime, so far it’s remained unsaid.

Organized Crime itself will differ from SVU and other Law & Order installments because although Elliot quickly decides to stay in New York and instantly finds a place in a local squad that will likely solve crimes of the week, the series will have an overarching serialized story.  While he and we know by midway in the episode (written by Chaiken from a story with Wolf and Olmstead, directed by Fred Berner) that his wife’s murder traces to the wealthy Wheatley family, which includes Richard (Dylan McDermott) and Angela (Tamara Taylor), no one has been arrested by the end of the hour, and both actors are series regulars, so no doubt we’re in for some extended cat and mouse.  Despite that structural difference, though, the pace and exposition-heavy dialogue are largely what the Law & Order audience expects.

The premiere spent almost all of its time with Elliot and the villains, so it remains to be seen whether the other members of his new team like hacker Jet (Ainsley Seiger) and Sergeant Bell (Danielle Mone Truitt) will be developed into more than “the one who types really fast while she talks” and “the one who warns Stabler never to try doing again what he’s just done” respectively.  The appeal of Law & Order shows, though, have never been based on their incisive characterizations.  Organized Crime has the charisma of Meloni to buoy it, still edgy after all these years, and if McDermott seems to think he’s on one of the over the top Ryan Murphy shows he’s been doing recently, that brings a little zing to proceedings that can be somewhat dry.  Of course, no one knows more about shooting in New York than the Wolf team, and the first episode featured an effective climax on the Coney Island Wonder Wheel.

Organized Crime will be airing back-to-back with SVU, and while its audience will likely be dominated by those excited by the idea of a 60-year old actor returning to his signature role, that defines a hefty part of the broadcast TV audience these days.  It seems like that thing most beloved by network executives:  a safe bet.



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."