The ”L&O” spinoff ”Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” has never found the right tone for its central hook, the investigation of sex related crimes. Week after week, rape and child abuse case files plop onto the desks of cop partners Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, who’ve apparently been instructed to muster ceaseless reservoirs of righteous indignation. Yes, the crimes are appalling, but it’s hard to believe these pros wouldn’t either burn out or take a more businesslike approach to their work.
”SVU” is airing a couple of sweeps episodes with guest stars — ”Oz”’s B.D. Wong as a serial killer catcher, Richard Thomas as a suspect, Karen Allen as Thomas’ wife — but the show still seems like seedy exploitation of our ”L&O” loyalty. The best new character the show has introduced is Stephanie March’s hardboiled Asst. DA Cabot, and the ”SVU” writers should take a lesson from the ”Steve Martini” TV movie and realize that the minimal emotion methods of its stars Chris Noth and Edward James Olmos — to say nothing of ”SVU”’s own excellent, underused Ice-T — are more effective than forcing Meloni and Hargitay to look as if every nasty crime is going to drive them to tears.