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Doum-Doum of Our Lives, and why it really ought to be better

Page history last edited by Min Fitzgerald 10 years, 12 months ago

You may have noticed that I am incapable of referring to Law and Order in any way other than Doum-Doum. This is partly a verbal tic which has transferred to my writing (because these...essays?...are basically just an excuse for me to chat at the world at large), but partly a deliberate attempt to lower the tone, because in all its incarnations, Doum-Doum takes itself way too seriously.

 

Doum-Doum The Mother Ship (Law and Order) is thing of unusual beauty in some ways, and I certainly spent most of the summer after The Ordeal watching old reruns of the late ‘90s, early 00’s seasons and eating pretzels. It is a very simple premise, but often well-executed, and the writing is consistently of a very high quality. The casting was often inspired. It has flaws, mainly to do with being breathtakingly inaccurate in a whole host of ways , but I didn’t really care. I was sad to see The Mother Ship go, if I’m honest – I liked the consistency of the thing, the way that my whole life, I knew that there would be more Doum-Doum, and it would basically be pretty damn excellent.

 

My second favourite Doum-Doum was the short-lived Doum-Doum by Jury (these are family nicknames. They do not claim to be witty), which had one of my all-time favourite actresses, Bebe Neuwirth, playing one of my all-time favourite characters, Tracey Kibre. Yes, the rest of the show was patchy, and the death of Lenny Briscoe did pretty much seal an already grim-looking fate, but I really did love Tracey Kibre. She was the kind of lawyer I wanted to be when I grew up; smart, hot, a touch in love with her co-counsel, and snarky as hell. I have to say, my figuring out that I wanted to be a lawyer was due as much to the various Doum-Doums as it was anything else, and I’m thus pretty grateful to Dick Wolf for that.

 

Arguably the best in the ‘artistic’ sense of the word is Mind-Screw Doum-Doum (Law and Order: Criminal Intent), named for its once and future hero, Robert Goren. As characters, I actually think I preferred snarky Alex Eames to Goren’s brand of idiosyncratic crazy, but my God, Goren was fun. The reason D’Onofrio stopped working dull-time was because the guy gets exhausted and can’t work the ridiculous network hours, which I thought was cute reasonable, and I actually think I watched more of the show because I never did know if it would have Goren and Eames or the decidedly Div II Logan/Barek/Wheeler/Nichols/Stevens partnership. (For one thing, they clearly couldn’t keep their actors – five characters came and went while Goren and Eames steadily ploughed their way through all sorts of shit). Goren was such a good character – a little insane, yes, but also kind and sweet, surprisingly violent, and very much in love with Eames. I talk about them in the past tense, because they actually did leave the show last year, much to my horror, although their parting scene and Eames’ subsequent resignation made me cry. But the faithful internets tell me that they are coming back to finish the show off. To which I say, ‘Fucking woo, but what’s with all the cancellations? Mother Ship died last year, Mind-Screw this year, you’ll be left with just Doum-Doum of Our Lives and Doum-Doum Goes to Hollywood. What gives?’

 

Which does lead us to Doum-Doum of Our Lives (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), as much as I wish it didn’t. Look, I have watched a lot of this show; probably most of the episodes, and certainly all of the ones with Stephanie March in them, which is a fair few. I know this show pretty well. But I do not have a high opinion of it. Sometimes, you can love something and know that it’s crap at the same time. Hell, it even works with people – I certainly loved my first girlfriend, but I also knew that was evil to the core, even as I loved her. That is what this show is like. It is charmingly awful. And getting worse.

 

It used to be OK. It never was quite as good as The Mother Ship in terms of quality, although I think that has as much to do with the tricky subject matter as it does any lack of ability on the writers’ parts, but it was pretty decent television. I did like it a lot, and, more importantly, so did Mama, and so we watched a lot of it while I was home. And I liked Olivia, because she was amusingly hardcore and pretty gay-looking, actually, and had the most incredible sexual tension with Alex (played by Stephanie March. Who is gorgeous, and the reason I wear rectangular glasses). Mama calls her ‘St Olivia’, which is a pretty good description. She always does the right thing, or the most right thing possible. She genuinely gives a damn about the victims. She suffers, and we see it. But St Olivia is still a really good character. I also liked the relationship between Olivia and Elliot (still do, actually), because it was devoid of sexual tension and was genuinely just two people who loved each other platonically a whole lot. Elliot was a bit of a rat bastard on occasion and the plots were silly, but I let it slide because it’s television and my disbelief was already suspended, so why quibble?

 

Then Alex left, and I honestly believe that was the turning point for the show. I liked Casey, a good deal, and she had the most hilariously awesome approach to a court of law that I have ever seen outside of Boston Legal, but she never did get to play in the A-Grade seasons of this show. The plotlines, which always were silly, got sillier, culminating in the line, “The monkey’s in the basketball!”. Because...y’all, I know this show is created by humans, not by infallible network-television robots, but who in the hell thought “The monkey’s in the basketball!” was appropriate for a police procedural? Or, more accurately, who thought any plotline which could lead to that line was even vaguely appropriate for a show about sex crimes?

 

But my real problem with it was the soap-opera tone the show developed in its later season. The writers started hinting (PRETTY UNSUBTLY) that there was sexual tension between Olivia and Elliot, which kyboshed all sorts of things, including Elliot’s marriage, and took up time and energy which could have been used to make the crimes a damn sight more believable. We had that whole ‘Fin’s gay son’ crapstorm, we had Teen Scene Kathleen being a fruit loop, and don’t get me started on Olivia’s expedition into the Badlands of Backstory. I like a good backstory, y’all, particularly as  I do think that wanting to become a cop is the sort of thing which you are likely to have a reason for. I do think that the likelihood of cops being fucked up in some way, shape or form probably is higher than in almost any other profession. I get that. But for God’s sake...take a lesson from Castle, Doum-Doum. Castle’s Beckett has a less screwed-up past than Olivia, true, but she also deals with it a whole lot better. And for serious, I get why they put a tangentially-rape-related character in there, because, you know, show about sex crimes, got to find a way to make it personal sometimes, yadda-yadda executive meddling, but BE MORE SUBTLE, DOUM-DOUM. Of all the subjects which need to be treated with careful respect, sex crimes are way up the list.

 

So the flaws are getting more obvious, and I shouldn’t even touch on the levels of crap that the lesbian episode had going on (but I’m going to. Seriously, what the fuck? [I need a Robin Tunney macro here, because she is the queen of the ‘seriously, what the fuck?’ face]. That whole ‘lesbians turn on the bisexual’ thing was made of pure shit. No lesbian is going to be that pissed off about a friend of theirs being bisexual; I mean, these things happen sometimes. The gay community in general gets that people are complicated. And even if intolerant lesbians are out there, why the fuck are they the ones you are putting on your prime-time television show, you total and utter bastards?) There is nothing that Doum-Doum of Our Lives could possibly do which would make it a great show without starting again from scratch. This thing is screwed.

 

And yet I still watch it.

 

Look, y’all, I have lived through this shit. I have been where the victims sit every week, and it is bloody terrifying. And after The Ordeal, I watched a metric shitload of this show. I wanted to see justice be served. I wanted to see rapists get the shit beaten out of them by Elliot UnStabler. If I’m honest, I wished that St Olivia had been the cop I dealt with. This show is really bad, but it probably does a fair bit of good in the world, and I think that pretty much makes up for the vast majority of its sins. I wish with all my heart that it was better, because what it is talking about and what it is influencing is so important. But even as it is, I am glad it exists. Like ice-cream, my favourite novels, and my family, it made my life the summer after The Ordeal a little bit easier. And for that, I am pretty damn grateful.     

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