TV Mini-Review: Law & Order: Organized Crime 1.1 “What Happens In Puglia”

I used to watch Law & Order: SVU religiously. I thought Benson and Stabler were obviously in love, though I also knew that there was no way that Stabler would ever cheat on his wife. I enjoyed listening to Munch’s conspiracy theories and his weird little trivia factoids. I loved Finn’s way with a quip and even boring old Captain Cragen didn’t bother me too much. I enjoyed the show, even if I did occasionally call it Law & Order: SUV by accident. Eventually, though, the show’s relentlessly grim atmosphere and subject matter started to get to me and, a few years ago, I stopped regularly watching.

However, I did make it a point to watch this week’s episode of SVU because Elliott Stabler (Chris Meloni) was returning for the first time since both the character and the actor left the show at the end of its 12th season. Stabler returned in order to investigate who was responsible for the explosion that killed his wife. He not only reunited with Benson (and it was nice to see that Meloni and Mariska Hargitay still had their old chemistry) but he also attempted to redeem himself and his reputation. Stabler previously left the NYPD under a cloud of suspicion. Having committed six shootings in the line of duty, he could either submit himself to a full psychological analysis and take an anger management class or he could quit. He chose to quit. Anyone who thinks that it’s extreme to quit your job rather than learn to control your anger obviously never saw Elliott Stabler in action. Stabler was basically fueled by nonstop anger.

When Stabler was on Law & Order: SVU, he was the epitome of the cop who took every case personally. On the one hand, you liked him because Meloni gave a good performance and you could tell that he was trying to control his demons. On the other hand, you always knew that there was a decent chance that he was going to end up beating a suspect to death during an interrogation. It sometimes made him a bit frightening. At times, Stabler’s eyes would narrow and he would get that look on his face and you knew that anyone who cut him off in traffic was probably going to get intentionally rear-ended. He was a road rage incident waiting to happen. Tonight, when Stabler returned to SVU, it quickly became apparent that years of retirement hadn’t done much to calm him down. Admittedly, he had every reason to take this particular case personally but you still got the feeling that, even if his wife hadn’t been murdered, Stabler would still have been looking for an excuse to shoot someone.

I imagine he’ll probably get that excuse soon enough because Thursday’s episode of SVU served as a crossover with the first episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime. Organized Crime is the sixth entry in the Law & Order franchise (the seventh if you count that strange True Crime show) and it’s the first new one since Law and Order: Los Angeles came and went in 2010. This latest entry follows Stabler, who is now once again a detective with the NYPD and who is working with the Organized Crime task force. The first episode found Stabler launching an investigation into Richard Wheatley, a mob heir-turned-businessman who was played by Dylan McDermott. Since McDermott was listed in the opening credits, I assume the entire first season is going to be about Stabler investigating him and trying to take him down.

The first episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime was flawed but watchable. The scenes with Stabler, whether he was comforting his children or investigating a crime or trying to convince his boss that he wasn’t a loose cannon, were all strong. From the minute Meloni showed up, I was reminded of how compelling he was on SVU. Meloni brings a tough authenticity to even the most clichéd of dialogue and, even though he’s obviously quite a bit older now than he was a regular on SVU, Meloni hasn’t lost a step when it comes to portraying Elliott Stabler. The show acknowledged that Stabler, with his “I am the law” attitude, is a bit out-of-place in today’s culture. Stabler, like the Law & Order franchise itself, is going to have to figure out how to adjust to the times.

I was a bit less enthusiastic about both the character of Richard Wheatley and Dylan McDermott’s performance in the role. If Wheatley’s going to be a season-long villain, he’s going to need to develop a few more quirks and nuances beyond loving his children and killing his father. McDermott seemed almost bored with the role, suggesting none of the charisma that one would expect from someone who can convince that world that he’s a legitimate businessman while, at the same time, controlling the New York drug trade. Whealtey seemed like just a generic bad guy and he’s going to have to be more than that if he’s going to be a truly worthy opponent for Elliott Stabler. Hopefully, Wheatley will become more interesting as the show progresses.

That said, the first episode worked well-enough. It was well-directed by Fred Berner and it had more visual flair than I was expecting from a Law & Order spin-off. The scene where Stabler goes to a deserted amusement park to meet with an informant was especially well-done and atmospheric, with the lights of the boardwalk providing a perfectly spooky compliment to what Stabler discovered.

I’ll set the DVR. The first episode wasn’t perfect but I’m still intrigued enough by Meloni’s return to see where this 6-episode series goes.

The Set Decorator Society of America Honors Promising Young Woman, Mank, Tenet, and The Prom!

Yesterday, the Set Decorator Society of America (SDSA) announced their picks for the best set designs of 2020!  The winners were Promising Young Woman, Mank, Tenet, and The Prom.  Out of those four, only Mank and Tenet were also nominated for the Best Production Design Oscar.

As far as the Oscar goes, I think Mank probably has the edge over Tenet, if just because the Academy seems to really, really like Mank.

Here are the SDSA nominees and winners:

Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Contemporary Feature Film
Da 5 Bloods
Set Decoration by Jeanette Scott
with Production Design by Wynn Thomas
Hillbilly Elegy
Set Decoration by Merissa Lombardo SDSA
with Production Design by Molly Hughes
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Set Decoration by Mattie Siegal
with Production Design by Molly Hughes
Promising Young Woman
Set Decoration by Rae Deslich SDSA
with Production Design by Michael T. Perry

Sound of Metal
Set Decoration by Tara Pavoni
with Production Design by Jeremy Woodward

Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Period Feature Film
Set Decoration by Stella Fox
with Production Design by Kave Quinn
Set Decoration by Jan Pascale SDSA
with Production Design by Donald Graham Burt

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Set Decoration by Karen O’Hara SDSA, Diana Stoughton
with Production Design by Mark Ricker
News of the World
Set Decoration by Elizabeth Keenan SDSA
with Production Design by David Crank
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Set Decoration by Andrew Baseman SDSA
with Production Design by Shane Valentino

Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Science Fiction or Fantasy Feature Film
The Midnight Sky
Set Decoration by John Bush
with Production Design by Jim Bissell
Palm Springs
Set Decoration by Kelsi Ephraim
with Production Design byJason Kisvarday
Roald Dahl’s The Witches
Set Decoration by Rafaella Giovannetti SDSA
with Production Design by Gary Freeman
Set Decoration by Kathy Lucas
with Production Design by Nathan Crowley

Wonder Woman 1984
Set Decoration by Anna Lynch-Robinson SDSA
with Production Design by Aline Bonetto

Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Comedy or Musical Feature Film
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime For Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Set Decoration by Alina Pentac (Romania Unit)
with Production Design by David Saenz de Maturana
Set Decoration by Lee Sandales
with Production Design by Dominic Watkins
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Set Decoration by Naomi Moore
with Production Design by Paul Inglis
The King of Staten Island
Set Decoration by David Schlesinger SDSA
with Production Design by Kevin Thompson
The Prom
Set Decoration by Gene Serdena SDSA
with Production Design by Jamie Walker McCal

Happy April Fools Day!

Hi, everyone!

So, just like last year, I was originally planning on writing a lengthy post about why you shouldn’t play any April Fools jokes on anyone today and I was going to come up with a list of really important reasons why it’s just not a good idea to do this sort of thing when everyone’s already on edge.

At the very least, I was going to suggest that you keep your jokes simple and short. I had a friend who used to come up with elaborate pranks for April 1st but she never knew when to stop. So, you’d laugh and then she’d just keep going and going until people weren’t laughing anymore and then she’d still keep going until people actually felt ashamed and resentful for laughing in the first place. She was like the human equivalent of a Seth MacFarlane show.

But then I thought about it and I realized that the main reason why I wanted to tell everyone not to play an April Fools Day joke is because I always end up falling for them and feeling foolish afterwards. I’m the one who always ends up wishing people a happy birthday on April 1st, even though I can plainly remember celebrating their birthday on June 16th. I’m the one who gets all excited and teary-eyed when someone tells me that they ran off to Vegas and got married. I’m the one who believes every pronouncement of death. I’m the one who always falls for these tricks and it’s left me totally bitter and angry….

April Fools! I never fall for your jokes! Ha!

Okay, see how annoying that was?

Seriously, I hope that if any of you played an April Fools joke today, it was better than that. I hope you gave some thought to it. I hope you put some effort into making it believable. I hope that your friends and your family eventually forgive you.

Anyway, April Fools is the most annoying day of the year but if you want to take part in it, go ahead! Don’t let anyone else tell you what to do! If you want to pretend to get married, do it! If you want to fake your own death to get out of paying taxes, do it! Do whatever the Hell you want and stop taking advice from people online who are just trying to hit a certain word count.

Finally, if you need something to do today that doesn’t involve personally playing any pranks on anyone, might I suggest one of the best slasher films of the 80s? The 1986 film, April Fool’s Day, is currently on Prime and that’s no joke.

Happy April Fools Day everyone!

Artwork of the Day: The Red Couch (by Erin Nicole)

by Erin Nicole

Always be ready and prepared.  I just happened to be outside when our neighbor brought out his red couch and left on the curb and so I was able to get this picture of a discarded piece of someone’s life.  I’m not sure why he threw out the couch.  It was old but it still looked like it was in perfectly good condition.  Of course, I didn’t sit on it or anything like that.  I’m not that brave.

The next morning, the couch was gone.  Someone came and got it and since I wasn’t woken up by the sound of municipal trucks rumbling down the street that morning, I can be sure that it was saved from going to a landfill.  It’s probably sitting in someone else’s house now.

Whatever happened to it, I’m glad I was able to get this picture before it went away.

Music Video of the Day: Cheri, Cheri Lady by Modern Talking (1985, directed by Volker Hannwacker)

Today’s music video of the day is the atmospheric video for Cheri, Cheri Lady by Modern Talking.  This song was the only single to come off of Modern Talking’s second album and it was also their third straight single to reach number one in Germany.

This video was directed by Volker Hannwacker, who has also been credited with directing videos from Haddaway, Culture Beat, and Paradise Lost.